Durban — Orlando Pirates' goalkeeper Richard Ofori is set to make his debut in a continental final this Friday, but he’s fully aware that the masses will remember the champions, not the other finalists.
After sustaining an injury while on national duty with Ghana against South Africa at the FNB Stadium during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers early in September, Ofori spent the rest of the year in the medical room.
Without their No. 1, Pirates blew hot and cold in domestic football albeit managing to navigate their way with ease in the CAF Confederation Cup under the auspices of stand-in goalie Siyabonga Mpontshane.
Upon his return midway through the group stage, Ofori inspired the Bucs to the knockout stage of the continental showpiece as they reached the final after beating Al Ahli Tripoli 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-final.
Ofori’s best performance between the sticks for the Bucs was in the second leg of quarter-final where he saved and scored a spot-kick during the shootouts after the tie against Simba ended 1-all over the two legs.
Pirates might have reached the promised land, the final of the African showpiece, but they know that they are underdogs against the 2020 champions RS Berkane. And that’s why they can't afford to get carried away.
“We always talk about this cup because we’ve come a long way. It wasn’t easy,” Ofori said. “We are not talking about just being part of the final. We need to go out there and actually win the tournament.
“No one remembers finalists. The only time people remember is next year when they are showing the cup final and the only thing they remember is that ‘this is the Pirates team we played in the final’.”
“The only time people will remember you is when you’ve made history, which is to win the trophy. And we all know about that and as players we all talk about it,” the Ghanian shot-stopper added.
Pirates might still be remembered for winning the continental crown in 1995, and that they were the Champions League and Confederation Cup finalists back in 2013 and 2015 respectively notwithstanding.
But with the third time said to be a lucky charm, they'll be eager to come out victorious at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, Nigeria on Friday night against RS Berkane.
That, however, is easier said than done, given that this is also the first continental final for most of the players in the squad, except captain Happy Jele and vice Ntsikelelo Nyauza.
Ofori, though, is banking on his loved ones to make the short trip from Ghana to Nigeria to back him and the team.
“It was a tough journey, but the feeling is so good at the moment. Some of my family members and friends want to come because from Ghana to Nigeria is about a 30-45 minutes flight,” Ofori said.
“They want to come and experience the final. It’s also my first time playing in a CAF final, so everyone wants to come and experience it. Those years (of misfortune) are gone now, we are in a new era.”
Ofori’s job will be to keep out the ball from entering his net in Uyo. But his defensive structure has to be on alert mode as well, given how furious he was after conceding late against Tripoli.
“The disappointment in our previous match was maybe a blessing in disguise, we made the final by losing 1-0. We came into the changeroom and there were mixed emotions,” co-coach Fadlu Davids said.
“Ofori wanted to hit someone or all of our players at that moment and we had to calm him down because we conceded a goal. And goalkeepers, as crazy as they are, don’t want to concede.”