Sunday, 5 May 2013

The greatest game we never saw: Orlando Pirates survive a black-out, two penalties and a red card to reach the African Champions League group stages (also features translation of TP Mazembe's French match report)

Big Noise: president of TP Mazembe and
the governor of Katanga Province

HAS there ever been a more stirring football drama than the one we couldn’t see at TP Mazembe on Sunday?

Orlando Pirates somehow survived despite Lucky Lekgwathi’s sending-off, two penalty saves from goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa and a television and radio black-out.

Their 1-0 defeat resulted in a 3-2 aggregate win which puts the Buccaneers through to the lucrative group stages of the CAF African Champions League, which offers a first prize of R15m.

But those simple sentences hardly tell the tale of intrigue, political machinations and simple cheating that went on in Lubumbashi over the weekend.

Trouble stirred when we heard an SABC journalist had been detained and had his simcard confiscated. I’m told that man was Veli Mbuli, though, like so many other factors in this story, there is no official confirmation. Veli was in touch by twitter on Sunday morning but has since gone silent.

Then as the minutes ticked towards the 3.30pm kick-off time on SABC1, Thomas Mlambo and his Democratic Republic of the Congo guest Chris Bongo began looking uncomfortable.

Then it emerged the SABC had been kicked-out of the stadium. That even their radio journalists weren’t allowed to broadcast. When Orlando Pirates won the first leg 3-1, the SABC “did all in their power” to assure good coverage in the DRC. But that was not to be reciprocated.

The social networks were awash with speculation as the game kicked-off in front of an estimated 15,000 packed house in Lubumbashi, part of the Katanga province governed by the TP Mazembe’s owner Mo├»se Katumbi Chapwe.

Moise, as he is known, clearly didn’t want the game seen by objective eyes. In the SABC studio, the talented Mr Mlambo got hold of Orlando Pirates administrative team manager Senzo Mazingiza. He admitted: “I’m sitting in a box, I am not allowed out, I have no access to the dressing rooms or anywhere else. But I’ll try to keep you up do date.”

But while twitter reported phantom goals and disallowed efforts, Mazingiza confirmed only: “Our captain Lucky Lekgwathi has been sent off.”

Unlucky: Lekgwathi gets his marching orders
Half-time came and went. Still 0-0. Mlambo and crew did all they could to keep us updated. More rumours. Still nothing official. Then: Senzo Meyiwa has saved a penalty. At around 70 minutes, we were told: TP Mazemba have scored. They need ONE MORE GOAL to put Orlando Pirates out on away goals after their first leg 3-1 defeat.

As the minutes ticked down, a booking for Pirates, then ANOTHER PENALTY. And in the same breath: ANOTHER SENZO SAVE.

Chris Bongo told us: “A DR Congo journalist has told me the cards against Pirates were disputable. The two penalties were harsh. But the goal TP Mazembe scored was good.

“I can also tell you nobody has received a TP Mazembe team list.”

And then the final whistle. Pirates through. Senzo the hero. Cue general celebration. The morning had been spent dealing with Kaizer Chiefs fans questioning the need to enjoy an Orlando Pirates triumph in Africa. By the final whistle, the nation had joined together to cheer a victory which will surely go down as one of the unseen greats among football fans.

Senzo said afterwards: “It wasn’t a game, it was a war. We knew after a few minutes we were in for it. A lot of decisions were going against us but we were prepared for that.

“For the start of the second half we all just told ourselves that, we are going back there to fight. This was no longer a Pirates match, it was more a match to uphold the pride of the nation,”

Quite what happens now, who knows? The SABC apparently stumped up R2m to screen the game live. They sent a crew to Lubumbashi at great cost. They had advertisers lined up for the match. All gone, money wasted, a man arrested.

With the two groups of eight due to be drawn on May 15, Mlambo assured us:  “Television coverage of the final stages (six games) now reverts to CAF. I promise you we will be able to show those games live on SABC.”

1. Orlando Pirates (South Africa)
2. Recreativo Libolob (Angola)
3. AC Leopard (Congo)
4. Esperance (Tunisia)
5. Sewe Sport (Ivory Coast)
6. Coton Sport de Garoua (Cameroon)
7. Zamalek (Egypt)
8. Al Ahly (Egypt)

But let’s not count our chickens. In a real world, CAF and their controversial president Issa Hayatou would now slap a huge fine and suspension on Mazembe, who have won the CAF Champions League four times and clearly consider themselves above the law.

In a real world, we would question the appointment – announced on Friday – of four Seychellois officials and a match adjudicator from Gabon. Both French-speaking nations, like Hayatou’s Cameroon and Mazembe’s DR Congo.

But I doubt any action will be taken. Hayatou and Moise have never enjoyed seeing Southern African sides progress too far in the continent’s biggest club competition.

Roger de Sa and his team, still in with a slight chance of PSL glory back home, must now prepare for a long hard series of six group matches, with a possible two-legged semi-final and final through the South African winter.

What we didn't see: the Pirates bench on Sunday
And I wouldn’t be against further shenanigans later in the competition. I got Roger De Sa’s backing to travel with the team as an observer to assure some kind of airing of grievances. I also spoke to SAFA President Kirsten Nematandani, who said he’d look in to sending me with one of his observers.

But Orlando Pirates never came back to me. A British passport and visa difficulties meant I couldn’t go under my own steam.  I hope, next time, I get to see this kind of cheating – yes, that’s what it is when you don’t provide a team-sheet – for myself.

Until then, we can only throw our hands up in the air – and celebrate a MASSIVE triumph for the South African champions in a very foreign land.

This will be my Neal and Pray column in on Tuesday. Follow me at


Direct translation, anything I've added is in capital italics

The year 2013 will not be a great year in the history book of TP Mazembe.

In the Champions League, the adventure ends in 8th finals, as the Ravens, who won 1-0, have not been able to beat a second time the South African goalkeeper MEYIWA which stopped two penalties ... Upgraded (OUTCLASSED), tossed, the Pirates held a miracle. And TPM will sin by mistake, precipitation and lack of composure.

"It's make or break". This was the slogan of the Ravens kick off in a hot arena (WHICH WAS) filled to the brim. For it to pass, we had to capture the ball, put the Pirates (UNDER) pressure twice and find a hole in their ship.

The Almighty: Meyiwa denies TP Mazembe. Again.
The Ravens are not employed without waiting for a second. Had they (EVER) been as dominating in the first half? Rarely.

It was a constant onslaught on the South African goal. A seat (THRONE). So much so that a good fifteen numbered offensive (SHOTS) which lacked only the conclusion.

Orlando came out miraculously, mainly because of its stops keeper! But also because of the awkwardness of the premises where the powder was visibly wet (DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND BUT I THINK I GET IT).

Samatta four times during the first 6 minutes, then Kasusula (10th), MPUTU (17th), Singuluma (19th), KABANGU (22) missed the target or stumbled on the visitors goal.

Kidiaba? Output foot (27th) and especially a rescue (SAVE FROM) Mbesuma (42nd). For the rest, the great ROBERT saw MPUTU, ASANTE, FRIMPONG, KABANGU swirl without result. Yet they were helped when the referee pulled out the straight red Captain Lekgwathi for mowing MPUTU to 16m as the last defender (38th). But many free-kicks and corners were in vain. At rest (HALF-TIME), all had to be done.

Incredible: two penalties missed!

In the second half, it was a new shelling purpose (ASSAULT ON) Pirates in which the guardian MEYIWA multiplied miracles. To believe that he was the Almighty!

Lamine Ndiaye was replaced by FRIMPONG KALABA (46th), followed by KABANGU bokanga (55) playing with a three-man defense to put everything on the offensive.

But this Sunday was really a cursed day for CROWS.

In the 56th minute, MEYIWA stopped a penalty kick awarded for a bokanga and mowing the untenable Solomon Asante. And he bowed a shot of Kasusula (72nd), he turned another penalty this time drawn MPUTU (88th).

Mazembe could only blame itself because at this level you can not miss two penalties without being punished. The punishment is that the TPM will not play the quarterfinals of the Champions League in 2013.


  1. Pirates deserved to win,they went there with their heads held high and determination.It wanst a walk in a path for them but gredit must be given to them.As for SABC i hope they learnt from that and make sure things like that dont happen in the future.

  2. Its an episode of "Against all Odds". Dumi

    1. That`s the kind of reception you get while playing in a foreign country but when they come here they expect to be treated with kid gloves. Same as the fucken zimbabweans they want us to be nice to them while they`re busy taking our jobs

  3. Proud of The Bucaneers, SA is proud of you. As for Katumbi and his cronies at Caf (Hayatou et al) to you I say, that's why African football is not going anywhere, horrible referring,match fixing, bribery. It can only be because we have a former basketball player in charge of continental body. What a bloody Sunday in Lubumbashi. Thnx Pirates for making it worthwhile.

  4. sabc should learn that, a favor is not a contract, ths is africa

  5. Should your petty mocking of the translation not be aimed at Google? It's clearly been put through Google Translate. The French version reads perfectly well. Upgrade yourself dear fellow, and learn French.

  6. Waal biased refreeing in Lubumbashi.But thnx Pirates managed to hold to TP Mazembe and bastard refree onslaught.Issa Hayatou is juss a puppet leader.

    Shame on African football.Bow out TP Mazembe.God punished u bastards.

  7. Africa at its best. We now those responsible for the Lumbumbashi shananigans will go unpunished. Orlando Pirates we proud of you. You lifted the flag high.

  8. Exactly the reason why African football will not grow because people dont embrace the sport but would rather act like barbarians so secure wins. I know its not the whole of Congo thats responsible but their admin needs some morals. this is not the first timea south african outfit has had this kinda treatment there. Well done to Pirates. Very well done.