When Orlando Pirates got over the line to qualify for the African Champions League semi-finals I was absolutely delighted. Here’s why.
Our brave Bucs had been through the wringer when it comes to this competition. Do you remember the questionable treatment Bucs recieved at the hands of TP Mazembe? It appeared that the TV coverage for South Africa was pulled. Some of the referee’s decisions were questionable and at times I wondered if Bucs were being blatantly burgled!
Only Senzo Meyiwa’s heroics at saving the seemingly cheap penalties awarded got Pirates through what appeared to be some of the most shameless exploits that I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. Did Caf do anything about it afterwards? Nope, perhaps there is too much at stake financially.
What about the poor state of the pitch against AC Leopards, which looked as if cows had grazed on it? That was a disgrace. In the advanced stages of the Uefa Champions League, you wouldn’t expect a Bayern Munich or a Barcelona to have to play in a weed-riddled sandbox on their travels.
Surely by international standards that pitch was unnaceptable?
On top of that, you’d expect, at the very least, that Leopards would give Bucs decent accommodation. Nope, Bucs had to scrounge around to get clean blankets and bedding at the rundown hotel they were apparently forced to stay at.
Caf, it’s an absolute disgrace! This is a league for champions. The standards should be sky high. Any hint of impropriety should be met with severe sanctions – surely the result of a football match cannot be bought by the highest bidder?
At least our Egyptian friends acted with grace when they hosted Pirates. I rejoiced when I heard Leopards were getting pummelled 4-1 against Zamalek, because it opened the door for Bucs to go through.
Put Bucs on a proper pitch that has grass on it, against a good football side – the rest takes care of itself. That’s how it should be. It should be about a football contest between two sides on a good pitch, with not a hint of impropriety within a hundred miles of the place.
At least, against Al Ahly and Zamalek, football really was the winner.
That is what you’d expect in an elite continental club competition. Caf obviously have their own ideas. For me, I see money tills ringing - ching, ching!
Nonetheless, the positives I take out of Bucs going through are the valuable lessons we are learning from some of the best teams in Africa, like Al Ahly.
The football has been of an incredibly high standard in the two games in which Bucs faced them. Pirates showed that they could boss possession against an elite team. The movement and third man running was exceptional.
Some of Lennox Bacela’s number nine play was outstanding in the way he came off into space to receive the ball. Al Ahly also showed their pedigree – they showed that football doesn’t have to be all about the aggressive high pressure we see a lot of (maybe too much?) in the PSL.
They showed that if you sit nicely in your shape and draw teams on to you, you can create space to hit back at them when the ball is turned over.
There was a real tempo and rhythm to the passing that we saw and even the service into the box from Bucs' wide men was really good at times.
I’m not a Bucs fan. I’m writing this as a South African who is proud of what they’ve achieved for local football. They endured the hardships, fought the good fight and now Tunisian giants, Esperance, await in the final four.
From now on anything is possible and winning that second star is in reach.
From there, the World Club Championship and the possibility of facing the best in the world. Imagine Bucs v Bayern Munich – I believe they can do it!
Go Bucs go – you make Mzansi glow with pride.
Give it to me, I'm in space!