Just a few months ago, TS Galaxy attacking midfielder Sanele Barns was plying his trade in the ABC Motsepe League while on a season-long loan to Casric FC.
During that period, Barns watched from a distance as his parent club Galaxy shocked Kaizer Chiefs in the Nedbank Cup final.
He was overcome with mixed emotions. Barns didn’t imagine that he would be enjoying the benefits of that historic triumph, which earned Galaxy participation in the CAF Confederation Cup.
The 22-year-old, who is from Tweefontein near Kwamhlanga in Mpumalanga, has been a revelation in Galaxy’s fairytale run in the second-tier continental club competition.
“I never really thought things would happen so quickly for me. But it’s every player’s dream to play at the highest level and I am grateful for this opportunity,” Barns told City Press.
Galaxy head coach Dan “Dance” Malesela said he had to send Barns out on loan for him to get regular game time so he would be ready for a run in the team.
Now Malesela can take heart in that Barns is on a hot streak, effectively filling the void left by Nedbank Cup hero Zakhele Lepasa, who has been recalled by his club Orlando Pirates following a loan spell.
Barns, who has started in all Confederation Cup fixtures so far, scored three goals over two legs against CNaPS Sport of Madagascar in the previous round. He bagged a brace in the return leg last month, having netted the solitary strike that settled the first leg of the first-round eliminator in Mbombela against the Indian Ocean islanders.
Courtesy of the 3-1 win in Antananarivo, with another goal by Samkelo Shangase, Galaxy progressed to the play-off round 4-1 on aggregate. “I saw potential in him, but I felt he needed some game time elsewhere, hence we loaned him out,” said the coach.
“He’s very coachable. He is supposed to be a winger, but our system gives him freedom of movement. That’s why he’s able to be in scoring positions. He has got good technique as well.”
Malesela and his ambitious side aim to make it into the group stage.
But Galaxy will only know who their opponents are in the play-off round when CAF conducts the draw in Cairo, Egypt, on Wednesday. In the play-off round, the Mpumalanga-based team and Bidvest Wits will be among the 32 teams in the hat, which is made up of the 16 winners of the Confederation Cup first round and the 16 losers of the Champions League first round.
The 16 winners of the play-off round will then advance to the group stage.
Malesela said it didn’t really matter who they were pitted against.
“We’ll take any opponent. With us, it’s no panic, no pressure. But we still want to get to the group stage and, obviously, we can’t just be satisfied to be there.
“At the back of our minds, we always remind ourselves that we are representing the country, irrespective of the league we play in.
“You see from what we achieved at home, the fact that we can compete against PSL teams. It showed we are capable. Everybody must be proud of this team.”
Galaxy’s African safari started with their elimination of Saint Louis in the preliminary round.
Malesela and Barns pointed out the importance of balancing their continental and domestic objectives as Galaxy still harbour ambitions of being promoted to the premier division next season.