JOHANNESBURG - The Ideal scoreline that Eric Tinkler wanted to return with from Lubumbashi in the first leg of the Caf Confederation Cup final against TP Mazembe, if he couldn’t get a win or draw with goals, was a 2-1 loss.
The minimum target for SuperSport United was to get an away goal, which they did through the rocket Sipho Mbule fired past Ley Matambi. That goal ensured that Matsatsantsa a Pitori returned home confident of becoming continental champions for the first time in the club’s history.
That would see Lucas Moripe Stadium house continental champions back-to-back as Mamelodi Sundowns put one hand on the Caf Champions League at the same venue last year before finishing the job in Alexandria. In a space of four years, South Africa has had four finalists in continental competitions with Orlando Pirates losing in the final of the 2013 Champions League and 2015 Confederation Cup.
“I think that we are making progress,” Tinkler said. “Slowly but surely a lot of clubs are taking playing in the continent a lot more seriously. We’ve been saying as coaches for many years that if we want Bafana Bafana to succeed, clubs need to start taking the African continent seriously. We’re starting to see that happen.
Tinkler continued: “People don’t truly appreciate the sacrifice that clubs make to play in this competition. It’s expensive. Yes, the prize money is R17.8 million or whatever it is, but you can’t forget what it has cost this club already to get this far. What I think that people also need to understand is that getting into a final of this nature is no easy task. It’s a massive, massive task.
"The players, the club and all South Africans should already be proud of what these boys have achieved, what Sundowns achieved last season and what Pirates achieved even though they lost in the finals.
"It’s not an easy task. For me, it’s much, much harder than trying to win the Absa Premiership if I must be honest when you look at everything that you have to go through.”
SuperSport have gone through a lot to get here. Three men have sat on the bench, Stuart Baxter in the preliminary rounds, Kaitano Tembo in the group stage and Tinkler in the knockout stage. But the spirit has been phenomenal. It helped them get past a tricky match in Madagascar; stomach a hot afternoon in Sudan; endure flying for two hours while unable to land in Liberia; as well as face strong opponents in Zesco United, Club Africain and the Mazembe.
The slight disadvantage they have going into the final after losing the first leg is nothing new. It’s a challenge they will relish. Their biggest wins in this tournament, beating Al-Ahly Shendi 4-0 and Barrack Young Controllers 5-0 in Atteridgeville, came after disappointing first leg clashes away.
SuperSport also bounced back from draws at home to get over Zesco and Africain, while they won the MTN8 after playing with 10 men for more than half-an-hour. Adversity brings out the best of SuperSport which is why they could make history on Saturday.