Pirates trip down memory lane

Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Well done Orlando Pirates for reaching the final of the CAF Champions League. This is no mean feat at all.

It is quite a difficult task and travelling through the continent is not easy at all.

Pirates’ performance and achievement as they now stand 180 minutes away from winning a second star, following their first in 1995, should act as positive catalyst for South African football.

This should lead to a chant similar to President Barrack Obama’s war cry when he campaigned for White House - Yes we can!

South African footballers should start believing in themselves that they can.

As Pirates’ players celebrated victory in Tunis, memories of 1995 came back to me as my mind cascaded down memory lane.

I remembered the hardships we encountered with the group of players as we criss-crossed the continent to fulfill fixtures.

I remembered us being accosted by police in Lagos who wanted to arrest coach Mike Makaab but let then team manager Lawrence Ngubane and myself go just because he was a “white man”.

We put our foot down saying if they arrested him; they would have to take all three of us in and even refused to pay a bribe as we had committed no crime.

I remembered striker Marks Maponyane complaining of not sleeping due to an army of mosquitoes in his hotel room and how difficult he said it had been to wash and brush his teeth “with brown water”.

Makaab having the team warm-up on the hotel lawn at a Makudi hotel as kick-off time against BCC Lions approached, only to be told that the match had been postponed to the next day, a Sunday as “the First Lady is delivering a speech at the stadium where the match is supposed to be played”.

The excitement we had when Bruce Ramokadi - wherever he is - scored the winner was unbelievable.

However, the shifting of the game to a Sunday led to us missing our connecting flight to Ethiopia from where we would have travelled back to South Africa.

The delay meant that the Bafana Bafana players in the Pirates team such as Helman Mkhalele, Mark Fish and Edward Motale would not be able to join the national on the Tuesday as per the original plan.

Bafana were preparing for an important match at the time.

We ended up arriving back home late on Thursday after a round trip that saw us spend two nights in London.

But if Pirates’ victory over Nigeria’s BCC Lions was sweet, nothing could compare to what they did in the final in Abidjan.

Faced with a formidable Asec Mimosa side that had not lost in over a decade at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the Buccaneers did the unthinkable.

Jerry Sikhosana scored the solitary goal that brought the proverbial bacon home.

To date, and I think I will take this to my grave, I have never seen anything similar to what happened at the stadium.

We could not believe our eyes as not only Mimosa players but journalists including radio and television commentators broke down and wept as the final whistle was blown.

We saw grown up man wrap up their reports with tears unashamedly running down their cheeks.

To them, this was national duty.

And thus Pirates became the only club from Southern Africa to win this coveted title. They still remain the only one to have achieved the feat.

As they march to a two-legged final against defending and seven-time winners Al-Ahly of Egypt, we wish them all of the best to keep hoisting the South African flag high.

Hola Buccaneer Hola!

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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