JOHANNESBURG – For a country that rates its league as being one of the best on the continent, South Africa has to do one thing to justify that lofty rating.
The day two SA clubs contest a Caf Champions League final is when PSL boss Irvin Khoza, who is also chairman of Orlando Pirates, will be content that he is in charge of Africa’s number one league.
"My dream is to see Pirates, or any other two teams from South Africa, playing in the final of the Champions League,” Khoza said.
It is an ideal the Iron Duke has had for a while and this year it appeared as if he would have his wishes fulfilled when the Buccaneers and Mamelodi Sundowns reached the group stages of the continent’s premier club knockout competition - the first time two SA teams have done this in the same season.
But Pirates crashed out in the group stage, finishing third - behind the reigning African champions Esperance and Horoya of Guinea.
Sundowns had no such difficulties. They finished second in Group A, behind 2017 winners Wydad Casablanca and ahead of Lobi Stars and Asec Mimosas. They then demolished Al Ahly 5-0 last Saturday at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in the first leg of the quarter-finals, handing the Egyptian giants their biggest defeat in the Champions League.
The Brazilians are in Alexandria this weekend looking to wrap up the tie to advance to the last four.
“The PSL brand is growing from strength to strength,” Khoza said at the PSL’s headquarters.
“Sundowns is one of the teams that’s making sure that we consolidate our position of having four teams to represent South Africa in Caf football. That’s why we are working very hard as Pirates to be in the final of the competition.
“It is important that we give teams support. That’s why as a league we did everything we can in terms of administration to make sure that they (Sundowns) are given support, they go there strong, ready to compete and go to the final of the Champions League to win it.
"It would be so nice because Pitso (Mosimane) is proud of the star he brought to Sundowns, it would be the second star he would have brought to the team. So we are rooting for Sundowns, especially for the PSL brand.”
The Brazilians have been SA’s flag bearer in the Champions League since winning the competition in 2016. They have qualified for the tournament for five successive seasons, reaching the knockout on three occasions. No other SA team has ever done that.
“It is very important to recognise that playing in the Champions League is for those who are tried and tested,” Khoza said.
“For Sundowns to cushion themselves (with a 5-0 lead) it is a great result, but it’s not over yet. It is not easy to beat teams from north (Africa) in their own environment because they’ve got supporters that cause you nerves and trepidation. That cushion shouldn’t make players of Mamelodi Sundowns complacent because if they are complacent, they could get surprises.”
Khoza also reflected on his team’s performance in the Champions League. The Buccaneers had an underwhelming return to the tournament in their first participation since going all the way to the final and losing to Al Ahly in 2013.
“The competition isn’t easy,” Khoza said. “If you don’t take your chances, you won’t go far. Remember we played two draws against the Zimbabwean team (FC Platinum). That disadvantaged us. If we had won those two games, we would have been sitting pretty right now. Horoya won those two games, one at home and the one in Zimbabwe, and that gave them the advantage.
If we had won those games, it would have been a different story all together. In football, you win some and you lose some.”