JOHANNESBURG - The desire of a tenth title far outweighed the dream of a maiden one, so said Pitso Mosimane as he celebrated Al Ahly’s 3-0 defeat of Kaizer Chiefs in Saturday night’s CAF Champions League final.
Mosimane’s Red Devils of Egypt proved far too superior to cup final rookies Amakhosi who were reduced to ten men at the stroke of halftime when Happy Mashiane got sent off for a dangerous tackle on Akram Tawfik.
A wry smile of contentment flickered across Mosimane’s face as he sat at the table for the virtual post-match media conference, a South African flag wrapped on his shoulders.
While expressing delight at having delivered the El Ashra (tenth title) to the African Club of the Century, he was open about the discomfort of having had to do it against the club he grew up supporting.
“I feel conflicted (to have won) against a team from my country. I have my history with Chiefs. I supported them when I was young. My uncle (the late Gabriel Tikkie Khoza) played for Chiefs. Doctor’s (Khumalo) dad (the late Elkim Pro Khumalo) used to take us to the stadium in his car. I lived in the same street as Kaizer (Motaung, the Chiefs chairman) and used to stop him on the road when I was young,” Mosimane explained.
Forever grateful 🙏![CDATA]>🏾 https://t.co/ItobsUntcJ— Pitso Mosimane (@TheRealPitso) July 18, 2021
But he is with Al Ahly now and his allegiance as a coach is always with his employers. And last night he masterminded the relatively easy victory to see Ahly now add a tenth star to the top of their club’s crest on their jersey.
“We really needed this trophy,” he explained “ I know the team from my country also wanted their first star, but we wanted it more than them. The tenth (star) is important. It is good for history, good for archives and how better to do it with three goals.”
While acknowledging that Mashiane's sending off on the stroke of half-time was a game changer of sorts, Mosimane was not going to allow that factor to take away from his club’s shine. Mashiane was shown a red card after the referee consulted the VAR having initially merely booked the youngster for a potentially ankle-breaking challenge on Akram Tawfik.
“I understand there was a red card (for Chiefs). But a red card is part of football. You should not be reckless or emotional, especially in the final.”
Though the game was goalless at half-time, Ahly were the dominant side and it was always a matter of time before they made their dominance count. The sending off simply made their job all the more easier and the defending champions scored three fantastic goals via Mohamed Sherif (53 minutes), Mohamed Magdy (64) and Amr al Solaya (74) to make a mockery of the solid defensive side Chiefs had been en route to the final.
Mosimane had said prior to the match that his team always had a goal in them. And he felt they were worthy of the victory last night.
"We deserve it (the win). We’ve been scoring goals, in the semis and all the way from the start. Ahly deserved the chance to take this trophy.”
And there would be no one denying that he deserved to win his third Champions League title, having previously won with Mamelodi Sundowns back in 2016 and last year with Ahly, to become the second most successful coach in the competition after Jose Manuel who has four.