|Flare: Al Ahly fans with their fireworks|
For Orlando Pirates, just getting to the final was unthinkable six short months ago, as the former double-treble champions stumbled home third behind arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the domestic title race.
To take Al Ahly, now eight times champions, to the very limit in the final was never on the schedule. Proof? Irvin Khoza and his PSL are in a shambles. Even the club and league chairman didn’t expect to get past the notorious TP Mazembe, run by one of the good Doctor’s dodgier pals.
But they did. The Comores, Zambia, DRC… then in the group stages two Egyptian giants and the Congo champions. Incredibly, they squeezed past Tunisia’s Esperance in the semi-finals too.
But to beat reigning champions Al Ahly proved half a step too far for Roger de Sa’s men. A bunch of experienced thirtysomething internationals with more stars than most galaxies was simply too much.
With Happy Jele and Andile Jali suspended for the second leg after a mediocre 1-1 draw in Orlando, it fell to the fast and furious Tlou Segolela to miss the chance of the night. Sadly, the Gautrain’s head can’t keep up with his feet. We knew that. He fluffed his header off Daine Klate’s perfect first-half cross.
|Pyramid scheme: Wael Gomaa lifts the trophy|
Roger said he’d “have a go for sure” but even with the Egyptians down to ten for the dying minutes amid those annoying – and illegal – lasers, there was to be no consolation, just a grim 2-0 defeat, 3-1 on aggregate.
Within minutes, the more ridiculous members of our deeply confused football community were calling for Roger’s head. And 1995 match-winner Jerry Sikhosana told us, with a sad nod to beaten 2002 finalist Simba Maruma: “Nobody remembers the side finishing second.”
He’s right of course. But the sharper analysts will have seen how, in six short months, Pirates learned a lot from their African crusade. They play better, shorter football. They possess the ball jealously, like top European sides. And in Oupa Manyisa, they have a player who showed endless quality in the middle of the park with Vieira Masalesa ready to step up behind him.
If Pirates – bottom of the table after three games - were to win all their six or seven games in hand, they’d go five clear of current leaders Mamelodi Sundowns. It might happen.
But whatever happens, to go from ROGERTHAT to ROGEROUT is as ridiculous as calling for the head of Kaizer Chiefs boss Stuart Baxter after his epic 2-1 win over serious challengers Bidvest Wits on Saturday night.
Calm people. Pirates did the nation proud. Double-winning Chiefs take on Africa next year. They need our support, not hysterical derision.
PS: Will CAF do anything about those bloody lasers?
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