Pirates relaxed ahead of Al Ahly clash despite security concerns

2013-07-31 11:55

Orlando Pirates have no concerns ahead of their trip to Egypt to take on Al Ahly in a CAF Champions League group A clash on Sunday, said the soccer team’s captain Lucky Lekgwathi.

Despite security concerns around the ongoing political violence, and the fact that Al Ahly had yet to secure a venue for the clash, Lekgwathi said the Soweto outfit would leave tomorrow and were looking to claim maximum points.

“When it comes to Champions League, we must forget about all the other things,” Lekgwathi said yesterday.

“We’re not sure about the venue, but our focus is inside the field and making sure we represent South Africa well.”

Egypt’s military refused to allow the Cairo giants to take on the Buccaneers in either Alexandria or Cairo, Reuters reported today.

The match had originally been scheduled for Sunday night at Cairo’s Air Force Stadium.

Earlier this week, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) turned down Al Ahly’s application to have the fixture postponed.

The governing body reportedly told the South Africans to travel to Cairo by Friday, in the hope a solution would be found.

“I’m happy because we have prepared for Al Ahly, so it’s good that the game is going to go ahead,” Lekgwathi said.

Soccer in the north African country has suffered massive setbacks since the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, with the local league suspended because of violence.

Added to Al Ahly’s woes, the match was scheduled during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.

Al Ahly did not want to compete in the heat of the day while their players were still fasting, and the only venues with adequate floodlights were in the major cities where officials had banned all sport.

Lekgwathi remained optimistic and believed Pirates would have the mental strength to put all these issues aside.

“The squad is mentally and physically ready,” he said.

“This team has played against teams with thousands of supporters before, so it won’t be the first time we’re playing against a big team in their own back yard.

“The senior players, like myself and Collins Mbesuma, will sit down with the youngsters, motivate them and make sure they aren’t scared.”

Group A remained wide open after Pirates drew with AC Leopards and Al Ahly and fellow Egyptian rivals Zamalek also played to a draw, leaving all four teams on one point.

“Most of the guys watched Al Ahly’s game against Zamalek on TV and they did very well, but at Pirates we have plenty of youngsters who have a lot of energy. So they must go there and do our nation proud,” said Lekgwathi.

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