JOHANNESBURG - Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza has expressed his delight at the great strides South African clubs are making on the continent.
“I’m happy to see our clubs doing well in Africa because in the past, people were complaining about our clubs’’ attitude towards Caf competitions,“ Khoza, who is also chairman of former African champions Orlando Pirates said.
His excitement comes as a direct result of SuperSport United reaching their maiden continental final at the weekend, thanks to their 4-2 aggregate defeat of Tunisia’s Club Africain in the Caf Confederation Cup semifinal. They face holders TP Mazembe in the final.
While he has previously declared the PSL as the top league on the continent given their commercial value, Khoza has acknowledged that the only way they will be deemed Africa's best is through conquering on the field.
“We can’t say we are the best league in Africa and yet our teams are not doing well in Caf competitions. We have to conquer Africa by winning Caf competitions and only then can we regard ourselves as the best league,” Khoza explained.
Having seen his own Pirates grow as a brand from the 1995 Caf Champions Cup triumph as well as through reaching the finals of both the Champions League and the Confederation Cup, Khoza knows better than most the benefits of continental success.
“It is important to do well in Africa. The one thing it does is that it helps to improve the brand of the club. So (playing in Caf competitions) is not just about money but about enhancing the brand. If we want our league to be dominant like the English Premier League then (competing in) Africa is the way to go. You always find people wearing the soccer jerseys of these (English) clubs around the globe and we also want that. We want to enhance our reputation.”
He did acknowledge, however, that participating in the continental competition does take its toll on the clubs: “It is not easy to play in Africa. It takes a lot of strain. There’s a lot of travelling. Sometimes we even have to go via Europe (for a match on the African continent). The other challenge is the Caf calendar which clashes with our calendar.
"We hope that the resolutions that were taken at the Caf Symposium recently will be implemented because the new Caf calendar that was proposed can suite us. For now rotation is vital if you compete in Caf competitions. It is difficult to recover after doing well. It happened to Pirates,” Khoza lamented.
And it is currently happening to Champions League champs Mamelodi Sundowns who are having a rough time of it in the local league.
Khoza though does nurse hopes of one day seeing local clubs dominate Africa: “My dream is to see our teams contesting the final of the Champions League and the Confederation Cup against each other.”