Will the supporters’ wishes be granted? This is the question on everyone’s lips ahead of Friday’s CAF Champions League draw in Cairo, Egypt.
Three South African teams – Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates – will learn their fate in the CAF inter-club competition at 3pm on Friday.
Sundowns and Chiefs are in the last eight of the Champions League while Pirates are flying the flag solo in the Confederation Cup.
The big prize, which everyone is hoping and praying for, is a draw pitting Sundowns against Al Ahly, which would be a dream tie for South African and Egyptian fans.
Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly had to settle for second-best in their group after Simba SC of Tanzania came out tops, and this means they will play one of the seeded sides, except for Simba.
Since they can’t have Al Ahly versus Chiefs – they are both unseeded – this is what supporters are calling for, arguing that they want to see “something”.
This will see former Sundowns coach Mosimane face his old club and, should this happen, it will surely be a cracker of a game. Mosimane sensationally left Chloorkop for Cairo at the start of the season to become the first black coach of the Misri giants.
His departure was unexpected as he had earlier signed a four-year contract extension with Downs.
The new players at Sundowns, who were recruited by Mosimane include Kermit Erasmus, Peter Shalulile, Aubrey Modiba and Gift Motupa. The ex-Bafana Bafana coach would in essence be going up against a team he helped build.
In Egypt, the 56-year-old has had incredible success at the club, winning the Champions League, the domestic league and the Egyptian Cup.
The clubs have had a few battles over the years, but the one that stands out was in 2018, when Mosimane famously led Downs to a 5-0 hammering of the north Africans.
In a recent press conference, Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena talked up the prospect of a draw against Mosimane’s charges.
“Coach Pitso is right, who wants to play the defending champions except for Mamelodi Sundowns? We welcome that [nobody wants to face Al Ahly] because that’s the competition. Once you get to the last eight and to the last four‚ you get to play anybody and you get to play against the best teams. But if coach Pitso is really honest‚ I don’t think he wants to play against Sundowns.”
If this draw doesn’t happen, a “South African tie” featuring Sundowns and Chiefs is another possibility, as teams that finished top of their groups will be pitted against those who finished second.
However, Chiefs cannot face the winners of their own group – Wydad Athletic and Sundowns cannot be drawn against CR Belouizdad of Algeria.
That leaves just three possible quarterfinal opponents for Amakhosi – Simba SC, Tunisia’s Espérance Sportive de Tunis and Sundowns.
Chiefs surprised many and silenced their detractors by marching into the next phase of the competition despite their struggles on the domestic front.
Ironically, Gavin Hunt has made it out of the group stages of the competition as coach with his weakest team. His attempts with the Premiership-winning Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United were undoubtedly with stronger teams.
Sundowns, on the other hand, cruised to the last eight during their unstoppable run of 29 consecutive unbeaten games in all competitions.
But they lost their last group match 2-0 to CR Belouizdad.
Meanwhile, in the Confederation Cup Pirates finished second in Group A following their 1-0 loss to Enyimba in Nigeria on Wednesday.
Pirates will face one of the three group winners – JS Kabylie (Algeria), CS Sfaxien (Tunisia) or Raja Casablanca (Morocco).