He was on an early evening hike in the hills surrounding Turkey’s largest metropolitan city, Istanbul, but when kaizerchiefs.com called former Amakhosi coach Muhsin Ertugral, he was more than happy to take a breather and joyfully reminisce about leading Chiefs to their first African title in 2001.
When looking back at Chiefs’ triumph in the 2001 African Cup Winners Cup, Ertugral was adamant that “the most important game” was the quarterfinal second leg against Egyptian giants, Ismaily.
“Ismaily won the Egyptian title that season and were a strong team. The first leg at Ellis Park ended 0-0, in the second leg we made changes early on and Arthur Zwane scored, and we drew 1-1 and went through,” recalled Ertugral.
Now, another Egyptian Goliath in Al Ahly awaits to be overcome if Amakhosi are to add a coveted first African Champions League title to the African Cup Winners Cup title Ertugral’s side so proudly won for the Amakhosi.
Ertugral has given his backing to the current crop of Chiefs players ahead of this week’s massive CAF Champions League Final against Al Ahly. He feels Chiefs are in a better position now with a single legged final, instead of a two-legged final which back in 2001 saw Chiefs draw the away leg against Inter Clube of Luanda 1-1 and then win the second leg 1-0 in Johannesburg.
Speaking about that final, Ertugral said: “The final was two games and that was a challenge for us. We did not really know what to expect in Angola. We had our football manager Bobby Motaung go early to Angola and he organised everything. We needed to be sure that when we get to the country, the players must just be focused on the game.”
Ertugral is a serial winner in cup finals with Chiefs and during his time as Amakhosi coach he won six Cup Finals with the club.
He spoke highly of Chiefs getting to the final against Al Ahly and is confident they can go all the way and win the final.
“It is something else to play a Champions League final. These players might play many cup finals, but this one is a once in a lifetime achievement. I know players like Lebogang Manyama and Itumeleng Khune, players who I have worked with, are still around the team and this is a lifetime achievement for them and the other players. It is not going to be easy, as Al Ahly are going to be very competitive,” he added.
Ertugral, who was Chiefs coach when they faced Al Ahly in the 2002 CAF Super Cup, has called on Amakhosi to savour the moment and enjoy the game.
“With all my heart and for the boys I must say that they must not put themselves under too much pressure. This type of game comes along once in a lifetime and I hope they can really enjoy the game, especially as they are playing against a team who have been there many times before,” said Ertugral.
The former Chiefs mentor believes the Amakhosi have the quality to put up a good performance in the final as he concluded his discussion by saying, “there’s a structure that they will have and through this structure their individual brilliance will come together and through the brilliance of this team, I think they can achieve it”.
Ertugral led Chiefs to a treble in the 2001-02 season, which included the 2001 CAF Cup Winners Cup, which was Chiefs first continental title.
Two decades on, Amakhosi will be looking to add another African title to their silverware.