Home Sport CAF wonderkids Gallants must beware of blind spot

CAF wonderkids Gallants must beware of blind spot

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Letsie Koapeng of Marumo Gallants celebrates goal with teammates during the DStv Premiership 2021/22 match against Royal AM at Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane, on October 19. Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Marumo Gallants caretaker coach Mpho Maleka should realise just how eerily similar his club’s current situation is to the one Jomo Cosmos found themselves in nearly 30 years ago.

Matshelane Mamabolo, in JOHANNESBURG – Marumo Gallants supporters, the handful of them, delighted by their club’s progression to the next stage of the CAF Confederation Cup, better look to 1993 before they get too carried away.

A bit too far back to ask the fans of the Limpopo outfit to reflect on that, given that the club is not even a year old. The players themselves, too, will probably not be aware of the significance of that year as most of them were babies then.

But their caretaker coach Mpho Maleka should know.

He would have been 15 back then and no doubt will realise just how eerily similar his club’s current situation is to the one Jomo Cosmos found themselves in nearly 30 years ago.

Winless in the domestic league after six matches, Gallants are doing well on the continent and are just a tie away from getting into the money-making group stage of the second tier continental club competition.

Next up for Gallants is a home and away clash with one of the teams that will be knocked out of the CAF Champions League.

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Succeed there and the club previously known as Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila has a spot in the group stages where they will get to enjoy some financial rewards for their efforts.

It is a fascinating tale that even they would not have imagined when they won the Nedbank Cup last season to thus qualify for the Confederation Cup.

But it would appear Limpopo sides doing well in this competition are joined at the hip. Remember how Black Leopards nearly reached the group stages of the same competition back in 2012?

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It is Cosmos’ splendid run of 1993 though that came to mind after Gallants drew 1-1 away at the Democratic Republic of Congo’s AS Vita Club on Friday to win the tie 3-2 on aggregate.

Like Gallants, Jomo Sono’s team could seemingly do no wrong on the continent as they marched all the way to the semi-finals of the then CAF Cup Winners Cup – the competition that has since been changed to the Confederation Cup.

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But while they took on all comers and succeeded in Africa, Ezenkosi’s domestic form was pretty pathetic and they ended up being relegated at the end of that season.

It is a little too early in the current campaign to begin foreseeing Gallants getting the chop. But the sooner they translate their continental form to the domestic league the better their chances of avoiding suffering a Cosmos.

Gallants are winless after six league matches and have a mere three points in their kitty to find themselves in the play-off 15th spot on the 16-team DStv Premiership table.

It is a precarious position to be in and while it is great they are shining on the continent, Gallants will do well to remember that it is the domestic league that provides them with their bread and butter. They better start picking up victories locally like they are doing on the international front.

It was via a late goal that they secured that draw which saw them get the better of Vita on aggregate. Incredibly, while they scored a crucial late goal in African competition, here at home their biggest failing has been to let in late goals.

They should have registered their maiden win on Tuesday when they hosted Royal AM in the league, but they let slip a 2-0 lead and allowed the side from Durban an equaliser during time added on for stoppages.

It was not the first time they lost points in such fashion, for they also let in a late goal against Maritzburg United after the 90 minutes of regulation time to lose 1-0.

Remedy that clear failure to concentrate late in the matches and they should start improving their standing on the local league table for that will go a long way towards helping them avoid that unfortunate feat suffered by Cosmos back in 1993.

BIG UP TO BAROKA

The news that Baroka FC have been given the go-ahead to host Diski Challenge matches at their village in Lebowakgomo was one of the good tidings this week.

Club owner Khurishi Mphahlele is doing a remarkable job of showing the other club owners that one does not need to have the long-standing history and stature of a Kaizer Chiefs to have a proper home.

Instead of relying on the municipality structures, Mokgaga dipped into his own pocket to create a wonderful home that he will have full control over.

The village is fast taking shape and in time will see the players spending a full day there instead of gallivanting in the townships or towns in between training sessions as many of the PSL players do.

It is the norm the world over for clubs to have their own facilities and to see a club as young as Baroka not wasting time in going that route speaks to the owner’s great vision.

Granted they generally just manage to retain their elite league status, but the building of the village talks to Mphahlele’s firm belief that his club is in the Premiership to stay. And don’t they say that if you can dream it, you can have it?

I was at the village in the pre-season when Baroka hosted a four-team tournament that went very well and the pitch managed to stay in good condition throughout the three matches.

That they will now be hosting Diski matches will help inspire youngsters from Lebowakgomo and Ga-Mphahlele to dream of professional careers in the game.

Now that he has shown his intentions, surely it is the time of the local Lepelle-Nkumpi Municipality to meet him halfway by renovating the local stadium and get it into the kind of shape that it will be able to host Premier Soccer League matches.

There can be no denying that Baroka would easily play in front of big crowds if they were to play their matches in Lebowakgomo as this will mean that their fans would not have to spend the extra costs of transport as they currently do to go to the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

Matshelane Mamabolo

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