Africa, here we come

Ajax have pulled out, so it’s only Sun­downs, Chiefs and Wits who will go on sa­fari to hold the SA flag high

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

The with­drawal of Ajax Cape Town from the Con­fed­er­a­tion of African Foot­ball (CAF) Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup proves how in­tense con­ti­nen­tal foot­ball can be. On Fri­day, the Western Cape side an­nounced it was pulling out of the com­pe­ti­tion, cit­ing lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems for their trip to An­gola.

Ajax were due to face Sagrada Esper­ança in Dundo on Satur­day, but had re­ceived no word from their hosts on what their travel ar­range­ments would be to get to the venue, some 1 200km away from the cap­i­tal, Luanda.

Apart from a $5 000 (R80 000) fine, Ajax will also face a two-year ban from all CAF in­ter­club com­pe­ti­tions ( see box).

How­ever, this could be a bless­ing in dis­guise, as they will now be able to con­cen­trate on their league pro­gramme. The Ur­ban War­riors have been strug­gling on the do­mes­tic front and find them­selves at the wrong end of the ta­ble. Roger De Sá’s men are fight­ing for sur­vival.

The re­main­ing three South African clubs will be de­ter­mined to make their pres­ence felt by all and sundry when they em­bark on their African sa­fari next week­end.

Mamelodi Sun­downs and Kaizer Chiefs will be en­gaged in their se­cond suc­ces­sive con­ti­nen­tal ex­cur­sions in the pres­ti­gious CAF Cham­pi­ons League, while Bid­vest Wits will em­bark on a cam­paign in the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup.

All three will be hop­ing not only to em­u­late Or­lando Pi­rates but to sur­pass the Buc­ca­neers, who reached the fi­nals of both com­pe­ti­tions but failed at the last hur­dle each time. Pi­rates lost to Al Ahly in the fi­nal of the Cham­pi­ons League and last year suf­fered the same fate at the hands of Tu­nisian gi­ants Étoile du Sa­hel in the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup.

The South African sides are play­ing away from home in the first leg at the week­end.

Sun­downs coach Pitso Mosi­mane is un­der­tak­ing his se­cond African sa­fari, and is de­ter­mined to make amends for last year’s loss to TP Mazembe in the se­cond round.

Downs are pit­ted against Zim­bab­wean League cham­pi­ons Chicken Inn and the Brazil­ians should fancy their chances of pro­gress­ing to the next round.

Mosi­mane’s chief con­cern though, will be the congested Absa Premier­ship pro­gramme, as they will be faced with three games in seven days.

They travel to Free State Stars this af­ter­noon be­fore vis­it­ing Pi­rates on Wed­nes­day; they then travel to Zim­babwe.

Downs are cur­rently bask­ing in the glory of a 17-game un­beaten run in all com­pe­ti­tions. They last tasted de­feat at the end of Septem­ber when they went down to Golden Ar­rows in a league game.

It is an open se­cret that Downs pres­i­dent Pa­trice Mot­sepe wants to con­quer the con­ti­nent, and Mosi­mane is well aware of his boss’ am­bi­tions.

Chiefs will travel to the Co­moro Is­lands to play Cham­pi­ons League rook­ies Vol­can Club de Moroni.

This will be Steve Kom­phela’s de­but in con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tion as a coach and he will be ea­ger to make a last­ing im­pres­sion, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the club failed to make it to the se­cond round last year un­der his pre­de­ces­sor, Stu­art Bax­ter.

Amakhosi should also fancy their chances against the lesser-known foes, even though their do­mes­tic form has not been con­vinc­ing lately.

Af­ter com­ing un­der at­tack for not tak­ing con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tions se­ri­ously, the spot­light will once again fall on Gavin Hunt’s men when they tackle Light Stars of Seychelles.

Last year Wits went down to Royal Leop­ards of Swazi­land in the first round. With their league per­for­mances not en­tirely con­vinc­ing, the Clever Boys have lots to do.

Hunt has brought in ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers who have played con­ti­nen­tal foot­ball be­fore and he will rely on the likes of Daine Klate, Elias Pelembe and Bon­gani Khu­malo to beat Light Stars.

That’s if Wits takes this tour­na­ment se­ri­ously at all – they may de­cide to use fringe play­ers to give them some ex­pe­ri­ence.

PHOTO: LEFTY SHIVAMBU / GALLO IM­AGES

ON A MIS­SION of Sun­downs

Pitso Mosi­mane

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

EA­GER ... MAYBE Bid­vest Wits coach Gavin Hunt

PHOTO: MUZI NTOMBELA / BACKPAGEPIX

READY Steve Kom­phela of Kaizer Chiefs

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