SA clubs go on African safari

2015-02-01 15:00

The harsh realities of juggling the domestic programme and Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League commitments will set in for Mamelodi Sundowns when they kick off their continental campaign on February 14.

The Absa Premiership’s defending champions have a Valentine’s Day date with St Michel United of the Seychelles on the Indian Ocean island.

Sundowns will jet off to the Seychelles barely 24 hours after their league game against Moroka Swallows in Pretoria on February 10.

“It won’t be an easy trip [to get to the Seychelles] because the only direct flight available before our CAF game is on a Tuesday, which is on the same day we play Swallows,” said Sundowns director of football Mike Ntombela after a four-day inspection of the facilities in the Seychelles.

“We are now forced to get a connecting flight in Nairobi (Kenya) to get to our destination.”

According to Ntombela, the islanders will host Sundowns at the Stade Linité. The stadium, which features an artificial turf, also stages most of the Seychelles national team’s home matches.

“Otherwise, everything is near perfect – from our accommodation to training facilities and the weather, which is a little bit hotter. The whole town knows about this game because their team is a big club that wins something every year,” he said, adding the preliminary-round match would be played during the day.

The Seychelles champions will visit South Africa on February 28 for the return leg at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria.

The winner of the two-legged contest will meet Democratic Republic of Congo giants TP Mazembe in the last 16 next month and will be made to endure the rigours of playing in the central African nation.

Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs are the country’s representatives in the premier continental club championship, while Orlando Pirates and Bidvest Wits have entered the CAF Confederation Cup, which kicks off on February 13.

Chiefs will face Botswana champions Township Rollers at FNB Stadium on February 14; the second-leg encounter will take place at Gaborone National Stadium on February 28.

Amakhosi manager of football Bobby Motaung said they had already concluded logistical arrangements with Rollers, who sent a delegation to Chiefs’ Naturena base a week ago.

Gaborone is just under an hour’s flight from Johannesburg.

“We have been to Botswana many times in recent years and know the environment and the clubs very well,” said Motaung, adding that Chiefs would be taking the game against Rollers seriously.

“It’s nonsense when people criticise us for not taking CAF competitions seriously. Our brand would be tainted if we showed disrespect towards the tournament.”

The winner will face Raja Casablanca of Morocco or Diables Noirs of Congo-Brazzaville in the last 16.

In the Confederation Cup, Bidvest Wits will host Swazi Royal Leopards at Bidvest Stadium in Johannesburg at 6pm.

Wits general manager George Mogotsi said the club was not too concerned about doing an inspection in Swaziland, as playing in the landlocked kingdom was “as good as being at home”. He said the venue for the second leg had not been confirmed, but the game was set for February 28.

»?Pirates received a bye in the Confederation Cup preliminary stage and will only know who their opponents are at the end of the month.

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