It seems a fitting tribute that Mpho Makola has been the match day captain for Orlando Pirates during their CAF Champions League journey so far – after all he is one of two surviving members of the 2013 squad that nearly went all the way.
As the Buccaneers look to progress to the group stages of Africa’s premier club competition, Makola – who along with Thabo Matlaba had to deal with the disappointment of losing to Al Ahly in the final five years ago – told the Siya crew how big a deal this tournament was.
Pirates need to beat African Stars tomorrow afternoon in Windhoek, or at least manage a score draw, to reach the group stages for the first time since that anti-climax five years ago. The first leg last weekend ended in a goalless draw.
“I know the feeling well,” said Makola.
“It has been our target to get that far, we did not say we want to win. We said we want to get to the group stages because we have a new crop of players that aren’t usually used to this. It will be a great feeling overall.”
Selfishly, victory over Stars will also mean more game time for Makola, who has been on the fringes this season and only really got a chance to play when the Champions League campaign began.
“Going through obviously means the coach (Micho Sredojevic) has to rotate the team once in a while for some of us to get game time. So it’s really important to reach the next stage of the competition,” he added.