No South African club has ever defeated Al Ahly in a cup final, but a one-off game at a neutral venue gives Kaizer Chiefs a fighting chance.
FOR NEARLY two decades since their last meeting with Al Ahly in the CAF Super Cup final, Kaizer Chiefs have been on spectator mode in continental competitions.
They’ve been watching their arch-rivals Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns wrestle for honours against Africa’s elite clubs.
But come July 17 at the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca, Chiefs will hope to rewrite the history books. They will battle with Al Ahly for the biggest prize in African football – the Champions League crown – after going through a season of mixed fortunes.
History favours the Egyptians heading to the showdown in Morocco. That they are the defending champions is a cherry on top. But there’s no South African club – Chiefs, Sundowns or Pirates – that has ever defeated the African Club of the Century in a cup final.
Both Sundowns and Pirates have met Al Ahly in the Champions League final. In 2001, Sundowns held the Egyptians 1-1 at home but were hammered 3-0 away. In 2013, Pirates drew 1-1 with Al Ahly in Orlando, Soweto, before losing 2-0 away. Luckily for Chiefs – luck plays a part in football – their fate will be decided in 90 minutes or the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.
And that’s more the reason why they should hold their nerves that long, as they’ll join the country’s elite clubs, Pirates and Sundowns, by adding a continental star above their crest.
But perhaps what will help Amakhosi in this regard is revisiting the archives and going through matches of Sundowns and Pirates against Al Ahly.
The Sundowns-Al Ahly matches will be the most relevant. Not only because the rivalry between the two is still fresh but largely because the Egyptian giants are coached by former Sundowns mentor Pitso Mosimane. With the Brazilians, Mosimane’s record against Al Ahly reads: one win, one draw and two losses. Mosimane won one quarter-final tie, before losing the other.
On Mosimane’s homecoming recently he guided the Red Devils to a 1-1 draw against Sundowns in Pretoria as they progressed to the semi-finals after winning the tie 3-1 on aggregate – setting the Egyptians on course to win their record 10th continental title.
Chiefs and Sundowns have been on different sides of the coin in the last five seasons. The Brazilians have been dominating local football, while Amakhosi have been stuttering.
But surprisingly enough, Sundowns’ bogey side in the league has been Amakhosi.
Two seasons ago, Sundowns needed to win their last match of the season in order to retain their league title after the Amakhosi were at the summit of the standings for the entire campaign. Last season, Sundowns’ only defeat in the league was against Amakhosi at home.
So from the list of the few teams that can match Sundowns on the continent, Chiefs have to be there. And given the history between Mosimane and Chiefs, the latter can fancy their chances against Al Ahly who are also busy with their domestic title defence.
Moreover, while Mosimane and his assistant Cavin Johnson will be the only two tacticians in Al Ahly’s dugout who’ll know all about Chiefs, the Soweto giants have four football brains in their technical team – Molefi Ntseki, Stuart Baxter, Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard.