The story is so good it feels like it was scripted. Mamelodi Sundowns will renew their rivalry with Al Ahly. If only the supporters were allowed into the stadiums, this would make for an amazing reunion.
The story gets better with each season and, this time, the subplots make for fascinating reading.
The South African and Egyptian giants Sundowns and Al Ahly were pitted against each other in the CAF Champions League quarterfinal draw on Friday.
The first leg will be played on the weekend of May 15 in Cairo, with the second leg scheduled to take place a week later in Pretoria. Son of the soil Pitso Mosimane is coming home. The mentor, born in Kagiso on the West Rand, will face his former team Sundowns, seven months after abruptly leaving them.
The 56-year-old will be in an interesting tactical battle against a very familiar technical team. For the first time, his former assistants Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena will be on opposing benches.
Mosimane will also be going up against a squad that he helped to build.
Themba Zwane and Gaston Sirino continue to be central to the team’s attack.
Last year’s signings Peter Shalulile, Kermit Erasmus and Aubrey Modiba, among other players, were recruited by Mosimane, but he left before he could manage them.
“The permutations were there from the beginning that we would either have a trip to Algeria or Egypt. It was clear that we would not face CR Belouizdad. So, of the runners-up, we had three possibilities [Al Ahly, MC Algers, Kaizer Chiefs],” Mokwena said in reaction to the draw.
“All of the teams in the last eight are very good with good coaches, and Al Ahly are the same. They are the defending champions and they have the pressure to win and get into the semifinals.”
Mokwena and Mngqithi, who were recruited by Mosimane to Chloorkop as his trusted right-hand men, acknowledged the role the former Bafana Bafana mentor played in their coaching careers.
“We consider it a competitive draw against a good side that has a very good coach. He is someone I have a lot of respect for because of the role he played in my career as a coach and a leader. We are looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
“Al Ahly are the defending champions, they have the pressure to get to the semifinals and the pressure to win the trophy.”
The teams have played each other eight times, drawing three matches. Al Ahly have four wins and Sundowns have won once.
That win came in emphatic fashion in 2019, when Downs handed Al Ahly their biggest defeat in history – a 5-0 hammering.
Kaizer Chiefs were drawn against Tanzanian giants Simba SC.
Chiefs surprised many by qualifying for the knockout stage of the competition despite their struggles domestically.
Gavin Hunt’s men just can’t get it right in the Premiership games and have made the CAF competition their unlikely sanctuary.
This is the first time they have made it this far in the competition after years of underperformances.
In reaction to the draw, Hunt said: “Any team we draw would be a tough draw. Simba were good in the group stages. They beat Al Ahly and certainly cannot be taken lightly. It will be a tough fixture for us either way. All we’re trying to do is to concentrate on the next game and we’ll take it from there.”
Chiefs marketing director Jessica Motaung added: “This is a historic moment for the club. We have just celebrated our 50th anniversary and we are happy with the draw.
“All the clubs here are formidable and each has what it takes to get to the final. As a club, we are very ambitious and it has been our vision to get to the final, win and make history.”
Meanwhile, Orlando Pirates will face Moroccan giants Raja Casablanca in the last eight of the Confederation Cup.
The Buccaneers have to be clinical when they host the first leg before the away fixture in north Africa. Bucs coach Josef Zinnbauer will be looking to take the team as far as possible in the competition.
For those who progress, the semis will be on June 18 and 19, and June 25 and 26. Then the final of the Confederation Cup will be played on July 10, with the Champions League final on July 17.