Pitso Mosimane ‘Jingles all the way’ with African club of the century
JOHANNESBURG - “It was not easy, let’s be honest. It’s tough but you feel good. Al Ahly trusted me that I could deliver the trophy, and the trophy is delivered,” a modest Pitso “Jingles” Mosimane said in the bowels of Cairo International Stadium on Friday night.
It may seem he was almost speaking in stark contrast compared to his boastful self, but Mosimane is right – it was not (going to be) easy – considering he wasn’t tasked to deliver just any other trophy but the coveted CAF Champions League crown.
Granted, the 56-year-old coach may have taken over the reins with the team already in the semi-finals, led by his predecessor René Weiler. But, that he had to finish the job against fierce rivals Wydad Casablanca and Zamalek would take some doing.
In the end, it was evident one can bet on Mosimane to do his job when called upon. The Red Devils trounced Moroccan giants Wydad 5-1 on aggregate in the two-legged semi-finals to book an all Egyptian final against rivals the White Knights.
Mosimane’s men had the perfect start in the crowdless final in Cairo, Amr El-Sulya’s header giving the visitors the lead. But the hosts flipped the script, and chased for the equaliser. Their efforts paid dividends from a sumptuous strike from captain Shikabala.
Both sides returning from half-time still level, Al Ahly had the first chance to go ahead, only for Hussein El-Shahat to rattle the crossbar from close range. Zamalek should have punished Al Ahly but Ahmed Sayed Zizo’s wonder strike bounced off the post.
With barely five minutes to regulation time, Mohamed Magdy Afsha scored a historic goal for Al Ahly in his debut season for the club with a long-range volley into the net to earn his side their ninth Champions League title.
“They have a good team and they played well. They really gave us a big scare and they made us play better in the second half. They were stronger in the first half. They played like us because that’s the way that we play,” Mosimane said.
That the Red Devils didn’t run out of steam in the second half is due to the sterling work done by fitness trainer Kabelo Rangoaga and performance analyst Musi Matlaba, who’ve been with Mosimane since his illustrious stint at Mamelodi Sundowns.
"They played better than us in the first half. But in the second half, we were more industrious, stronger – physically and mentally," Mosimane said. "We won the game. It was a beautiful goal from Zamalek's Shikabala and Afsha, an unbelievable goal."
Already a Champions League winning coach with Sundowns in 2016, Mosimane has joined the elite club of coaches who won the Pan-African title with two different clubs.
By winning, Mosimane said the current crop of players have a chance to write their own history, following the path set by some of the Red Devils greats, such as Mohamed Aboutrika.
“It’s historical. Al Ahly waited seven years to win it again. I was telling the players, ‘let's write a new history. There’s already the history of the Aboutrikas and Wael Gomaas'," Mosimane said.
“I think it’s only the beginning. And why can't we think that we can still defend it next year?” gushed Mosimane. “Of course, it’s an unbelievable feeling and an amazing feeling. Not everybody can win the Champions League."