Few pundits – and certainly not their most ardent rivals – had given Kaizer Chiefs any hope of reaching the group stages of the CAF Champions League, let alone the final.
Chiefs players, however, galvanized together and with the backing of their myriad of fans have gone on a run that will see them take on Africa’s most successful club, Egyptian giants Al Ahly, on Saturday evening at the Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca Morocco in the tournament’s showpiece game.
Al Ahly are the favourites for the title and Chiefs will again go into the game with the underdogs tag, something that has worked well for them throughout the tournament.
The club have already eliminated Simba of Tanzania in the quarterfinals, a team that had defeated Al Ahly in the group stages. Chiefs have also tasted victory in Casablanca in the tournament, crucially defeating Wydad at the Mohammed V Stadium 1-0 in the first leg of the semi-final, the venue for the final.
Now Chiefs will try and prevent Al Ahly from ‘Ashara’ which loosely translated means ‘ten’ in Arabic as the Red Devils and their coach Pitso Mosimane – an old adversary of Amakhosi, from his days as SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns – look to extend their dominance in African football.
This will be the second meeting between the sides, their only other clash came in the 2002 CAF Super Cup, where Al Ahly, winners of the 2001 CAF Champions League, defeated Chiefs, who were the winners of the CAF Cup Winners Cup, 4-1 in Cairo in March 2002.
For Chiefs this is just their second clash against an Egyptian team in the CAF Champions League or its fore runner the African Cup of Champions Clubs. Back in 1993 they faced Al Ahly’s rivals Zamalek in the second round of the competition. Chiefs won the first leg 2-1 but a 1-0 loss in the away second leg saw Chiefs lose the game on away goals, despite the aggregate score being 2-2.
In addition, the club’s only other meeting against an Egyptian team came en route to winning the 2001 CAF Cup Winners Cup, where Chiefs faced Ismaily in the Quarterfinals the first leg at Ellis Park ended 0-0 the second leg in Egypt finished 1-1. Chiefs progressing on away goals with current Chiefs assistant coach Arthur Zwane grabbing the important away goal, which set Chiefs on their way to lifting the title.
While this is Al Ahly’s first game against Chiefs in the CAF Champions League they have played against South African clubs in the competition 22 times, winning 13 games, drawing 6 and losing 3. Amongst those losses was their record all time loss in the competition a 5-0 drubbing by Sundowns in the 2018-19 Quarterfinals first leg in South Africa. Chiefs will also become the seventh South African club Al Ahly will face in the CAF Champions league, and the third in the final after victories over Sundowns in 2001 and Pirates in 2013.
Chiefs though have already created history this campaign, having tread a path which most South African clubs in the Champions League previously have not managed..Most notably they became the first South African team to win the away leg of a CAF Champions League Semi-final.
Casablanca is also not new territory for Chiefs. This is the club’s third game in the city bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to defeating Wydad in the semifinals this season, Chiefs faced Raja Casablanca in the 2015 First Round Second leg at the Mohammed V Stadium.
This may be Al Ahly’s 14th CAF Champions League Final and Chiefs first, but Amakhosi have shown all tournament long that they are determined to add a star to their jersey, having kept a record 11 clean-sheets in the tournament.
Amakhosi will be targeting a 12th. Should the game end in a draw after 90 minutes, we will be heading to extra time and eventually a penalty shoot-out, Chiefs have never been involved in a penalty shoot-out in continental competition previously.
Each team will be allowed five substitutes with a further one more allowed in extra time.
This is the second time the CAF Champions League Final is played as a one off final. The other occasion was last season when Al Ahly defeated Zamalek. It is also the fourth time that Egyptian and South African clubs meet in the final of the competition. Previously Al Ahly defeated Sundowns and Pirates in the final, while Sundowns overcame Zamalek in 2016.
Burundian official Pacifique Ndabihawenimana will take charge of the game. He has already refereed two of Chiefs games in the competition this season, Amakhosi’s 0-0 draw away against Petro Luanda in the group stages and their 3-0 quarterfinal second leg away loss to Simba.
He will be assisted by Cameroonian Elvis Guy and Lee Okello of Uganda, while Moroccan Radwaan Jaid has been appointed as the Video Assistant Referee.
Chiefs game against Al Ahly will be televised live on SuperSport DStv Channel 202 with build up from 20h00 South African Time, as well as on SABC.
Kickoff for the game is at 21h00 South African Time.
Refereeing team for the game:
Referee: Pacifique Ndabihawenimana (Burundi)
Assistant Referees: Elvis Guy (Cameroon) Lee Okello (Uganda)
Fourth Official: Eric Otogo (Gabon)
VAR: Radwan Jaid (Morocco)
Match Supervisor: Alioum Abu Bakr (Cameroon)