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Khoza dreaming big

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Sundowns finished second in Group A, behind 2017 winners Wydad Casablanca and ahead of Lobi Stars and Asec Mimosas.

PSL Chairman Dr Irvin Khoza says he dreams of an all-South African CAF Champions League final. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu BackpagePix

IRVIN Khoza has a dream. The Orlando Pirates and Premier Soccer League chairman would like to see an all-South African final in the CAF Champions League.

Khoza (71) almost saw that this year when the Buccaneers and Mamelodi Sundowns made history by being the first two South African clubs to be in the group stage of the Champions League in the same year. But his Pirates crashed out in the group stage, finishing third – behind the reigning African champions Esperance and Horoya of Guinea but above Zimbabwe’s FC Platinum.

Sundowns had no such difficulties. They finished second in Group A, behind 2017 winners Wydad Casablanca and ahead of Lobi Stars and Asec Mimosas.

They then demolished Al-Ahly 5-0, on Saturday last week at Lucas Moripe Stadium in the first leg of the quarter-finals, handing the Egyptian giants their biggest defeat in the Champions League.

The Brazilians are currently in Alexandria looking to wrap up the tie to advance to the last four.

“The PSL brand is growing from strength to strength,” Khoza said at the PSL’s headquarters. “Sundowns is one of the teams that’s making sure that we consolidate our position of having four teams to represent South Africa in CAF football.

“That’s why we are working very hard as Pirates to be in the final of the competition, because my dream is to see Pirates, or any other two teams from South Africa, playing in the final of the Champions League.

“It’s important that we give teams support. That’s why as a league we did everything we can in terms of administration to make sure that they (Sundowns) are given support, they go there strong, ready to compete and go to the final of the Champions League to win it.

“It would be so nice because Pitso (Mosimane) is proud of the star he brought to Sundowns, it would be the second star he would have brought to the team. So we are rooting for Sundowns, especially for the PSL brand.”

The Brazilians have been the country’s flag-bearer in the Champions League since conquering the continent in 2016. They have qualified for the tournament for five successive seasons, reaching the knockout on three occasions. No other South African team has ever done that.

“It is very important to recognise that playing in the Champions League is for those who are tried and tested,” Khoza said. “For Sundowns to cushion themselves (with a 5-0 lead) it is a great result but it’s not over yet. It is not easy to beat teams from the north in their own environment because they’ve got supporters that cause you nerves and trepidation.

“That cushion shouldn’t make players of Mamelodi Sundowns complacent because if they are complacent, they could get surprises.”

Khoza also reflected on his team’s performance in the Champions League. The Buccaneers had an underwhelming return to the competition in their first participation since going all the way to the final and losing to Al-Ahly in 2013.

“The competition isn’t easy,” Khoza said. “If you don’t take your chances, you won’t go far. Remember we played two draws against the Zimbabwean team. That gave us a disadvantage. If we had won those two games, we would have been sitting pretty right now.

“Horoya won those two games, one at home and the one in Zimbabwe, and that gave them the advantage. If we had won those games, it would have been a different story all together. In football, you win some and you lose some.”