Saturday Star

Myeni: I can help Wits loot Africa


SIFISO Myeni’s face lights up and his eyes sparkle when he talks about continenta­l football even though the best two runs he was involved in in Africa ended in tears.

Myeni was part of the Orlando Pirates generation that lost in the finals of the 2013 CAF Champions League and the 2015 CAF Confederat­ion Cup. He might have received the silver medals from those competitio­ns, but the experience the 28-year-old gained, he reckons, has been worth gold.

He will share that experience with his Bidvest Wits teammates as they start their Champions League journey tonight in Reunion against Saint-Louisienne in the first leg of the preliminar­y round.

Myeni struggles to name just one moment he will never forget about the Buccaneers’ run in 2013 and 2015. “The first that comes to mind is when the late Senzo (Meyiwa) saved two penalties in Lubumbashi against TP Mazembe,” he says.

“That’s something I will never forget. In the same Champions League we played Al-Ahly in the final, with the second leg in Cairo. It was so packed you couldn’t see a single empty seat in the stadium.

“The other moment that I will never forget is playing in the final against Etoile du Sahel in the Confederat­ion Cup in Tunisia. I know a thing or two about playing on the continent. I will share that experience with the players who haven’t played at this level. You have to be mentally strong to play and succeed at continenta­l level.”

A familiar foe for Myeni lies in wait in the first round should the Clever Boys get past the 16-time Reunion champions. That foe is the mighty Al-Ahly – CAF’s Team of the Century, eight-time African champions and 38-time Egyptian league winners.

Those achievemen­ts would scare any opponent. But Al-Ahly doesn’t faze Myeni; he relishes the opportunit­y to come up against them for the seventh time after he faced them four times in the Champions League and twice in the Confederat­ion Cup.

“It’s something every player dreams of, playing against the continent’s best. For me, it will be another special meeting with them having played against them so many times. It will bring back memories. Hopefully they still remember me. If they don’t, I will remind them.”

If Al-Ahly don’t remember Myeni – who scored in Pirates’ 3-0 win over them in the group stage in El Gouna in 2013, the first time the Red Devils had been beaten at home in the Champions League in over a decade – they certainly remember Pirates.

The last time the Egyptians giants took on the Buccaneers, Pirates humbled them. They beat Al-Ahly in both legs in the semi-final. The most memorable of those victories was the 4-3 win in Suez.

“No one expected us to come back with a win but we managed to do that,” Myeni said. “It was a good victory. We were 2-0 down and came back to score four goals. We had a Pirates team then that would fight until the end. I am with another team now, and I will tell them what to expect.

“When you play against a team like Al-Ahly, you shouldn’t respect them. You must run them ragged and they will be stunned. We have to get past the team from Reunion first though.”

Gavin Hunt is likely to field a different team to the one that thrashed Ajax Cape Town 5-0 in Milpark on Tuesday. But the Clever Boys have enough depth to overcome Saint-Louisienne.

“We have the quality,” Myeni boasts. “There is quality on the field, the bench and even in the stands. That’s what the coach wants, to have a headache as to who to play. We have been working hard.

“Winning 5-0, it’s a sign of what’s to come because we did that in our first game after a long break. Imagine what we will do once we have picked up momentum.”

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