Leopards vow to go for broke

2012-03-10 15:45

No one would have betted their last cent on Black Leopards progressing beyond the first round of the CAF Confederations Cup.

Firstly, Leopards qualified for the tournament by default while playing in the National First Division by virtue of being runners-up in the Nedbank Cup. Only the winners of the competition qualify for the continent’s second-tier tournament, but because champions Orlando Pirates had already booked a place in the CAF Champions League, Leopards had to represent the country.
 
Secondly, and most importantly, Leopards’ position on the Absa Premiership log did not inspire confidence that they could even stand a chance on the continent.

They have been languishing at the bottom of the table since the beginning of the season and that made supporters believe they were just in the tournament to add numbers.

Instead, everyone put their money on league champions Pirates, not just to do well, but to lift the trophy. After all, the Buccaneers had already bagged two trophies this season and had bolstered their team specifically to conquer Africa.

But as it turned out, this was not to be as Pirates failed at the first hurdle while Leopards are in the second round.

Leopards’ next assignment is against DRC’s St Eloi Lupopo.

Still, detractors believe it is suicidal for Leopards to venture into the continent when they are still not sure of their Absa Premiership status. They argue that it would be better for the Limpopo side to channel its energies into survival.

However, Leopards’ boss David Thidiela would hear nothing of that. He has vowed to compete on three fronts, including the Nedbank Cup, which they missed by a whisker last season.

They were due to host Blackburn Rovers yesterday in the last 16.

Thidiela said opportunities like these were rare for his club, adding that they wanted to seize the moment.

“It’s our time and I believe God wants this for us and we should not and cannot question Him,” said a defiant Thidiela.

He dismissed those with other ideas that they might take their eyes off the ball and go on a wild goose chase instead of focusing on one goal.

Thidiela believes their win over Zimbabwean side Motor Action was their turning point of the season, if their performance is anything to go by.

He had forgotten that Zimbabwean football is going through turmoil. And Leopards were brought back to Mother Earth with a thud, losing 4-2 to Golden Arrows in a league game on Wednesday night.

But the Leopards’ boss is still adamant they will do well.

“We are not looking back and the experience we are going to gain in this tournament will not only help our team but the country too. As the sole representative of the country, we have a duty to fly South Africa’s flag very high.”

He acknowledged the daunting task facing his team, having to juggle between different competitions, but said they would treat the matches equally as they are all important to the club.

Thidiela said they would exercise their rights of playing their games at their alternative venue in Giyani so as to take Leopards to all Limpopo people. He believes this might be what they have been missing as Peter Mokaba in Polokwane did not seem to be their happy hunting ground.

Clubs used to fear visiting Leopards at their home turf in Venda as it was deemed unfriendly to the visitors, and a move to Giyani Stadium might change Leopards’ fortunes for good.

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