JOHANNESBURG - A trip that looked like just a formality for SuperSport United before they bowed out of the Caf Confederation Cup against a team that was unbeaten at home in the tournament, convinced Tefu Mashamaite that they can go all the way.
“Our trip to Zambia made me realise that maybe we can win this cup,” Mashamaite said from Phokeng at the club’s temporary base as they prepare for the biggest match in their history.
“A lot of people didn’t give us a chance when we were going up against a team (Zesco United in the quarterfinals) that was unbeaten at home. A lot of people wrote us off after the 0-0 draw at Lucas Moripe Stadium," Mashamaite remembers.
"But we used that to our advantage, we fought until the end and we advanced to the semifinals. When Thuso Phala scored that goal in optional time (to tie the match at 2-2 in Ndola), I thought that maybe we can go all the way."
They got further prove that this could be pre-ordained as their year in the next round.
"The same happened in Tunisia. When we went there to face Club Africain, no one gave us a chance after we drew 1-1 at home against a team that was unbeaten in their backyard. But we thrashed them.”
Matsatsantsa a Pitori’s commanding 3-1 win over Club Africain booked them a place in the Confederation Cup final against the holders TP Mazembe.
The Democratic Republic of Congo giants host the first leg on Sunday at 3.30pm South African time.
Mashamaite will start in central defence in place of the suspended Morgan Gould. But that’s nothing new to the veteran defender.
SuperSport used this tournament to help Mashamaite regain fitness from a knee injury in the qualifying rounds that included trips to Madagascar, Sudan and Liberia in the play-offs.
The club’s chief executive Stanley Mathews admitted that the mandate at first was to test the club’s depth by fielding a B-team in the Confederation Cup with the A-team still fighting for the local league title that they lost out on last season. The “B -team” exceeded expectations and now SuperSport are on the brink of making club history.
“It’s all about the mind-set, SuperSport and almost every South African football club thrives in situations where the country isn’t expecting much from them,” Mashamaite said. “It’s about making the most of that energy.
"Bafana Bafana always does well in matches when the country doesn’t expect much from them, which was the case against Nigeria and Burkina Faso. We can be world beaters with the right mind-set.
"That’s how we won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996. We were new to the international scene. No one expected much from us. But we had the right mind-set and motivation which is how we conquered the continent.”
SuperSport have spent the better part of this week in Rustenburg to prepare for their trip to Lubumbashi - using the artificial pitch in Phokeng and training in the heat to prepare for what they will face on Sunday. That camp in Rustenburg gave the technical team some degree of preparation for the biggest match in the club’s history with Clayton Daniels, Ronwen Williams, Bradley Grobler, Dean Furman and Jeremy Brockie to meet up with their team a bit later due to their country commitments.
A year ago Mamelodi Sundowns conquered the continent in the Caf Champions League with little hope. Thus it makes this to be something of a golden moment for South African football - the first time that the country has teams in the finals of continental competitions back-to-back.
“I don’t think that we can call ourselves the golden generation, that’s up to you guys (the media) and history. The golden generation of South African sport, football and rugby, was from 1995-1998. But people only realised that later. Maybe the same will happen with Sundowns and us. People will realise later the significance of what we have done.”