JOHANNESBURG – If it was up to Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, the Brazilians would host Wydad Casablanca at 3pm on Saturday at the Lucas Moripe Stadium instead of the scheduled 9pm kickoff.
Last year, Caf introduced a standardised fixture procedure with three kickoff times (3pm, 6pm and 9pm) and different days for the Caf Champions League and the Caf Confederation Cup.
Caf set Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays for Champions League football, while Wednesdays and Sundays were designated to the Confederation Cup.
The standardised times meant that games on Fridays start either at 6pm or 9pm, while on other days, kickoff was scheduled for 3pm, 6pm or 9pm.
This partially removed the power from clubs to choose their kickoff times, like Sundowns did in 2016 by choosing a 3pm start for their Champions League final against Zamalek – taking advantage of the punishing Pretoria heat against a team used to playing at night.
Caf looks at a number of factors before choosing kickoff times, but the primary factor is TV, with the availability of floodlights also taken into consideration.
“TV decides. They decide the time we want to play. It doesn’t matter what you put there (in the circular to choose your ideal time from the three available),” Mosimane said.
“I always like to play (latest) at 6pm on Saturday. It’s a brilliant time. Funny enough with Caf, (TP) Mazembe never play at 9pm. They play at 3pm, same with Zesco United and AS Vita, while Esperance and Al Ahly play at 9pm.
“What do you call that? They’re saying that TV checks who watches and what time. They put the commercial side (first).”
The Brazilians are likely to play in front of a paltry crowd against the Moroccans in the second match of their group stage Champions League campaign, with an awkward kickoff time at a far-flung stadium in Atteridgeville.
It doesn’t help that South Africans haven’t fully embraced continental football like the rest of Africa does, packing stadiums to the rafters.
Despite that minor inconvenience, Sundowns need to collect three points against Wydad after losing their opening match to Nigeria’s Lobi Stars last week.
Wydad have been a thorn in the flesh for Sundowns.
They eliminated them in the quarter-finals of the 2017 Champions League, and last year, the Brazilians only got one point from their two meetings with the Moroccans in the group stage.
“We are buddies (now),” Mosimane said. “Every year we play this team. They know how to win a match. They know how to get a result.
“They stole a point from us here last year, but in 2017, we beat them here. They are smart. I am in Morocco all the time (doing my Caf Pro Licence), and I am with the coaches all the time.
“They aren’t going to come here and show us that they can beat us. No!
“They know that if they get a point, it’s done because when we get there, we will be playing in front of a capacity stadium. It’s a sea of red. They put pressure on us and on the referee. It becomes difficult.
“But we also make it difficult for them. If they beat us, it will be 1-0, like we beat them here. You’ll see them on set-pieces, they are superior.
“They aren’t going to be all over the place because they know we have an interplay that they can’t deal with. They are smarter than us, they know how to manage the game – and we cry and complain.”