JOHANNESBURG – Black Leopards coach Dylan Kerr is hoping that fellow PSL side Orlando Pirates will avenge the treatment that his former club Gor Mahia endured from Esperance supporters in the return leg of the Caf Champions League group stage qualifiers in Tunisia last season.
English coach Kerr and his former troops had to seek refuge from rowdy Esperance supporters, who threw missiles on to the pitch at Stade Olympique de Radès.
It was a game in which the Kenyan side needed at least a score draw to advance to the next round, but they were deprived of that after a solitary goal from the home side.
“It was a disgrace to the game and the officials,” said Kerr as he went down memory lane to that experience.
“The police came down to protect the technical bench from the missiles, but out of nowhere they (started) battering the hell out of my substitutes – it was very intimidating.”
The Tunisian outfit went on to win the Champions League, while Kerr’s Mahia finished in the group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup.
The behaviour of Esperance’s supporters didn’t go unnoticed though, as the team were sanctioned by Caf to play two homes games in the group stage behind closed doors this season.
That ban commenced against FC Platinum on January 18, while it will be followed by the clash against Group B table-toppers Pirates on February 12.
The Sea Robbers make the trip to Tunisia in two weeks’ time, but they’ll first host the reigning African champions at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night (9pm).
This should give the South Africans the luxury of taking a healthy lead into the return leg.
“I hope that Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns proceed to the next round,” said Kerr.
“But they (Pirates) have to win at home first; it’s as simple as that. They’ve got to get as many goals as possible, and go there (with an advantage), because it will be tough,” he added.
Although the removal of one of Esperance’s biggest threats – their intimidating home crowd, which is filled with supporters wielding lasers to blind their team’s opponents – in the return leg was meant to give the Buccaneers a big boost, Kerr has urged the Sea Robbers to be at their best on foreign soil.
“The supporters might still be banned from the stadium, but the intimidation will still be there as soon as they land in Tunisia – it’s mind games,” he said.
“It’s horrible (playing in front of empty stands). When their supporters are there, you’ve got to go there and in the first 20 minutes make sure they don’t play as well as they should, and the fans will get on their bike – and that will put pressure on them.”
Kerr became the latest domestic coach to accuse the North Africans of being unruly in their backyard, after Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane recently shared the same sentiments about the hospitality that they get whenever they make the trip up north.
“The atmosphere and the intimidation aspect of football there is something that I had never experienced in my football career, even after I had played in front of 110 000 supporters from Soweto – I never felt intimidated like I did when in Esperance,” Kerr said.
“It was a shame that it was a good stadium, and the players were great.”@Mihlalibaleka