Cape Town – South African football quietly expanded its continental footprint over the weekend when SA coaches performed giant-killing acts against insurmountable odds in hostile Tanzania and DR Congo in the top two tiers of Confederation of African Football (CAF) club competitions.
In stark contrast to its continental fortunes over past decades, SA football teams enjoyed a full house of CAF wins in the Champions League and Confederation Cup over the weekend. In the wake of these results, for the first time no less than four SA coaches will be plying their trade in the upcoming elite CAF Champions League.
In the past, it has always been a matter of SA teams competing against conditions in African countries rather than African teams. There was also the ever-present gamesmanship that hamstrung South African teams' efforts to conquer opponents, and often in a hostile environment.
Marumo Gallants' interim coach Mpho Maleka, a former Baroka FC centre forward, started the weekend on a high note at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa, Congo, on Friday night. Gallants were up against the DRC giants AS Vita, former CAF Champions League in a CAF Confederation Cup second leg preliminary round clash.
In a pre-match presser, Maleka warned that "AS Vita are going to bully and rough us” in Kinshasa. As it turned out, debutants Gallants drew 1-1 with AS Vita, the 14-time DRC League winners. Since Gallants won the first leg 2-1 the aggregate was 3-2, and with that, the mighty AS Vita ended up on the also-rans' scrapheap.
It was a phenomenal achievement by Maleka because he was given control of the squad a week before the match after Gallants dismissed head coach Frenchman Sebastien Minge.
The next SA coach in the spotlight was little-known Morena Ramoreboli, who guided Bafana Bafana to Cosafa Cup triumph in July after the national team's head honchos were laid low by several factors.
After this conquest, several fans enquired about Ramoreboli since some claimed he "came from nowhere" which others asked "who the hell is he" on social media platforms.
Straight after Cosafa, Ramoreboli joined Botswana Premier League club Jwaneng Galaxy and over the weekend he guided the team to qualify for the Caf Champions League. Galaxy caused a major upset by eliminating Simba SC side from Tanzania, after securing a 3-3 aggregate but proceeded on the away goal rule.
In the first leg, Simba won 2-0 in Botswana but then went down 3-1 on Sunday in Dar es Salaam.
It was an incredible achievement considering Simba have participated in the CAF Champions League many times. They are the giants of East Africa football, having won the regional CECAFA Club Championship six times.
Coach Benni McCarthy, the former Bafana Bafana goalmouth poacher, was next in the continental spotlight when he guided Champions League debutants AmaZulu to the group stage. In the process, they eliminated TP Mazembe, the five-time CAF Champions League.
AmaZulu secured qualification with a 1-1 draw with TP Mazembe at the Lubumbashi fortress on Saturday.
Sundowns' advance to the Champions League has already been well documented and their coaching triumvirate of Manqoba Mnqgithi, Steve Komphela and Rulani Mokwena will be joined by fellow South Africans McCarthy, Ramoreboli and Al Ahly's Pitso Mosimane in the group stage of Africa's blue riband club competition.