Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt tends to get hot under the collar when the media suggest he does not take pan-African club competitions very seriously.
Critics say he would rather field a ragtag squad than a full-strength team and wants to “lose” and be done with African tournaments. They say Hunt would rather focus all his energies on the domestic league championship than be bothered with all the hazards and challenges that come with participating in pan-African club competitions.
This theory will be tested when the Students travel to Egypt this week.
Wits gave it their best shot against Al Ahly in the previous round of the African Champions League, but somehow lacked the edge to overcome a well-organised Ahly defence and had to bow meekly out of Africa’s premier club competition. This once again reinforced the theory that African championship football is not high on their agenda.
Following a goalless draw against Egyptian side Smouha at Milpark last week, Egyptian journalist Marwan Ahmed predicted curtains for Wits in the CAF Confederation Cup, adding that the Students had spurned an opportunity to win at home and would not come back from Egypt with their chances still alive.
“Egyptian sides have mastered the art of winning at home and avoiding defeat when playing away,” said Marwan. “So Wits can forget getting a result in Egypt,” he added matter-of-factly — even though Sundowns proved last year that even giants Zamalek could be beaten in Cairo.
SuperSport United bravely held Liberian side Barrack Young Controllers to a 1-1 draw in Monrovia and although many people fancy the club’s chances of qualifying for the group stage, Sierra Leonean journalist Prince Armani Scott warned the South Africans to be careful.
“[The Barrack Young Controllers] are owned by Robert Sirleaf, the son of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the first time I saw them in action was shortly after they were formed during 2009,” said Scott.
“But they have since grown even much stronger and last month, they lost in the final of the [West African] Club Championship to AS Tanda in Senegal — the same AS Tanda that defeated Cavin Johnson’s Platinum Stars 2-0 in the first leg in the [CAF Confederation Cup] last week. And so SuperSport United must be wary of the Liberians.”
Although Mamelodi Sundowns have proceeded to the group stages of the African Champions League, South Africa would really make a strong statement about the strength of its domestic league should all three clubs qualify for the CAF Confederation Cup group stages after this weekend’s fixtures.