The Brazilians and Amakhosi were dumped out of Africa’s premier club competition following defeats to TP Mazembe and Raja Casablanca on Sunday, losses that undermine our assertion that the Absa Premiership is one of Africa’s top leagues.
In a year when all our national teams qualified for their continental competitions and the national Under-17s actually made it to the World Cup, there was a huge excitement that our game is finally getting back on track following many years of failure.
And the hope was that this semblance of success will also be experienced at club level on the continent.
But with reigning champions Sundowns coming a cropper in Lubumbashi after having won their first leg at home and champions-elect Chiefs expectedly going down in Casablanca following defeat on home soil, it is back to square one.
Of course Orlando Pirates – who else given the Buccaneers’ torch-bearing feats of previous years? – are still in the race after progressing to the second round of the lesser CAF Confederation Cup.
All this though is simply not good enough for a country with so much in the way of resources, and a claim to having the best administered and most financially stable league on the continent.
And while they will likely point to the tough conditions they faced on their trips as well as the renowned blatantly biased officiating in favour of the home teams as defence for their failures, both Sundowns and Chiefs essentially lost their ties in the first leg. Their failure to emphatically win at home, Chiefs actually lost, was always going to make things mighty difficult for them in the second leg.
And this is one big lesson our teams just continue to refuse to heed despite our having returned to the continental game way back in 1992. What is very clear is that CAF are not going to do anything to improve the situation for teams visiting the north, western and to some extent the central parts of the continent.
So to circumvent those issues, our clubs need to learn to take advantage of the home matches and win well. Take Chiefs for example. When they hosted Raja – in Durban because they wrongly thought they’d get a bigger crowd and make more money – they played in a near empty stadium that hardly helped their cause.
On Sunday they walked onto a near capacity arena teeming with a hostile crowed that jeered their every move while acting as a 12th man for Raja.
And just as in the first leg, Chiefs’ failure to convert chances proved their undoing.
It is going to take a while before we get to the top echelon of the continental game.
And while it is always easy to point the finger of blame at the national coach when Bafana Bafana fail, those who criticise the man in charge of the country’s team must also look back to see what it is he has to work with. Until our clubs succeed on the continent, it will be unrealistic to expect our country to be dominant in Africa. - The Star
Original source: SA’s best humbled in Africa