Following his side’s historic CAF Champions League group stage victory in Egypt on Sunday, Orlando Pirates coach Roger De Sa says his team remains grounded and focused on maintaining form.
“We’ve always believed in ourselves – there’s never been a doubt,” De Sa said at OR Tambo International Airport today, on the team’s return to South Africa.
“Every game we play, and every competition we play in, we believe. Despite totally different challenges from different countries we’ve visited, we’ve just taken it game-by-game and challenge-by-challenge.”
Pirates eased past Egyptian club Al Ahly 3-0 at the El Gouna Stadium, on Egypt’s east coast, handing out Ahly’s heaviest home defeat in the history of their Champions League participation.
Goals from Thandani Ntshumayelo, Andile Jali (penalty) and Sifiso Myeni saw the Buccaneers record a first-ever win for a South African side away to Ahly.
Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns (twice), SuperSport United, Ajax Cape Town and Platinum Stars have all tried but failed in their bids to come away with a win.
The result thrust Pirates to the top of the group A standings after two games. It places them level, on four points, with Congolese side AC Leopards, but the Soweto team have a superior goal difference.
“Now that we’re in the league stages of the Champions League, it can’t just be one game,” De Sa said.
“We have to worry about all six of our games. We happen to be on top right now, but there are no guarantees. There are a lot of games still to be played.”
Pirates – who also notched up the biggest win by a South African club side over the Egyptian giants in this competition – had a slight advantage over the other clubs that had preceded them.
The match against Ahly was originally scheduled for Sunday night at Cairo’s Air Force Stadium, but Egypt’s military refused to allow the Cairo giants to play in either Alexandria or Cairo, forcing the fixture to be moved to El Gouna.
The encounter was also played behind closed doors after Ahly were banned from allowing spectators into their first two home games, because of previous crowd violence.
Added to the seven-time CAF Champions League winners’ woes, the match was scheduled during the month of Ramadan, where followers of Islam fast from sunrise to sunset.
Al Ahly did not want to compete in the heat of the day with their players fasting, but the Confederation of African Football (CAF) demanded the match go ahead, despite an urgent application from the club to have the fixture postponed.
Pirates skipper Lucky Lekgwathi played down the off-field influences and praised De Sa and his technical team for getting the Sea Robbers fit and ready for the game.
“The preparations were very good,” Lekgwathi said.
“The technical team prepared us really well and the coach kept reminding us that, whenever we play away, we shouldn’t focus on the politics.
“Our focus was inside the field. We just had to make sure that we went there and did the job. As players, we knew we weren’t going there only to represent Orlando Pirates, but also to represent the nation.”
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