Al Ahly game nice and early for Downs fans

Mamelodi Sundowns midfielders Sibusiso Vilakazi and Themba Zwane. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Mamelodi Sundowns midfielders Sibusiso Vilakazi and Themba Zwane. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns have spared their fans the torture of CAF’s absurd 9pm kick-off time for the team’s next Champions League match.

The continental football governing body has granted the Brazilians an afternoon kick-off for their quarterfinal first-leg clash against Al Ahly of Egypt at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday.

Sundowns acting general manager Yogesh Singh said he had to fight to knock some sense into CAF.

“We fought for what we believe was a reasonable kick-off time for our supporters, especially for a game that will be played in Atteridgeville,” Singh told City Press on Friday.

“We are expecting a big crowd and, with challenges like load shedding, it was always going to be a concern, especially the safety of our supporters. So, for a game that starts at 3pm, everyone will go back home nice and early.”

The standardised late-night kick-off times came into effect last year after a resolution made by the CAF’s executive committee, which set out that Champions League games are reserved for Friday and Saturday only, while midweek games may only be scheduled on a Tuesday.

CAF had initially pencilled in the Sundowns versus Al Ahly game for Friday at 6pm (9pm South African time).

The Egyptian champions also weren’t happy the fixture as they asked for it to be moved to a day later, arguing that they would arrive only on Thursday – two days after their league game against Al Ittihad of Alexandria.

Singh said they were not aware of Al Ahly’s proposal to CAF until they received a terse notice about the change of fixtures.

“The correspondence from CAF didn’t say why, but it read: ‘CAF has decided to move all the games to Saturday.’”

There is a long-held belief on the continent that the Cairo-based controlling body always bend backwards for north African teams.

In contrast, Sundowns approached the PSL to reshuffle their domestic league programme to avoid a clash of dates with the CAF fixtures.

Singh said that, although the team’s rejigged programme was “still tight”, the changes were in line with the contents of their proposal to the league.

“We want to thank the league and the clubs, especially those who had to move their home fixtures.”

The Al Ahly game would have been closer to Sundowns’ derby against rivals SuperSport United.

The fixture reshuffle was one of the changes confirmed by the PSL this week, including Sundowns’ epic clash against Orlando Pirates in Soweto tomorrow.

Coach Pitso Mosimane on Friday said his technical team had not done any analysis on Al Ahly, but promised that they would do some homework on the eight-time African club champions.

The two sides will meet for the first time since their last confrontation in the second round of the premier continental competition in 2007.

The Cairo-based powerhouse prevailed 4-2 on aggregate after they held the Brazilians 2-2 in the first leg in Pretoria and won the reverse fixture 2-0.

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