Pitso Mosimane is delighted by Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates’ historic milestone in the Caf Champions League because of patriotic and personal reasons.
For the first time in the country’s history, South Africa will have two teams in the group stage of the continent’s premier club competition.
Sundowns reached this stage by beating Al-Ahly Benghazi 4-0 at Loftus Versfeld after playing to a goalless draw in the first leg in Cairo.
The Buccaneers, at Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek, defeated African Stars 1-0 on the same day to make up for the goalless draw they played in the first leg at Orlando Stadium.
It’s quite fitting that that the two teams to achieve this feat are the only South Africans clubs with a star on top of their badge as an ode to conquering the continent – which Pirates did in 1995 and Sundowns in 2016.
Pirates and Sundowns fought for the Absa Premiership title last season.
The Brazilians eventually claimed the title, with the Sea Robbers finishing second. Mosimane threw shots at Pirates throughout that race, saying they can’t compare themselves with his team as Sundowns also did battle in the Champions League, while the Soweto giants only had the league to worry about.
“The Champions League is big league football,” Mosimane said. “That’s what we need (two clubs in the group stage).
“That’s the marathon I have been talking about. If you want to compare, you must compare apples with apples.
“Let’s run the same race. If I run 90km, from Maritzburg to Durban, don’t do 45km and then say you’re better than me. Do 90km also, and let’s see.”
Last year SuperSport United and Platinum Stars became the first pair of South African teams to play in the group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup in the same year.
While Dikwena crashed out of the group stage, and went on to get relegated, Matsatsantsa a Pitori reached the final, which they lost to TP Mazembe.
South African football has made huge strides in continental club football in the last five years. The spark was the Buccaneers’ run to the 2013 Champions League final.
Pirates and Sundowns will discover their opponents in the group stage on Friday in the draw that will be held in Cairo.
“This is what we need,” Mosimane said. “Look at the North Africans: they always have two teams in the group stage, sometimes in the same group.
“I think that it’s possible that we could be in the same group as Pirates.
“I don’t think that we will be in the same pot. We’ll probably be in Pot B, and they can’t be ahead of us in terms of points.
“They can’t be in the same pot as us, so if we aren’t in the same pot, there’s a possibility that we could be in the same group.”
Should the Buccaneers and Sundowns meet each other in the group stage or even in the knockout stage, that would be another piece of history as no South African teams have faced each other in this competition.
Mosimane would be a happy man should that happen as he has preached the gospel of taking Champions League football seriously, arguing that with the resources and financial muscle in the country, SA teams ought to be doing better than they have done.
“It’s going to be tough because we’ve now added six games into our programmes,” Mosimane said.
“And you have to travel. That’s why I always tip Wits to be at the forefront of the league race, because they are a well-rested team.”