GREEN MACHINE EXPECT HOT RECEPTIONThomas Kwenaite
A North African derby headlines Group B of the group stages of the CAF Champions League this weekend when Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel hosts the “Red Devils” of Cairo (Zamalek) in Rades.
Yet while one expected Al Ahly to be focussing on their Tunisian opponents, their minds are firmly fixed at a canary yellow shirted team based on the southern tip of the continent who motivates them to keep going.
Never in the 100-year history of their existence has Al Ahly been humiliated like a year ago when Mamelodi Sundowns put them to the sword, smashing five unanswered goals to visit the most embarrassing defeat they had ever suffered.
“I did not wish on my own to face Sundowns,” said Al Ahly’s international goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy, “but all the Al Ahly players are driven by the same desire (re-match). It was unacceptable (5-0 loss) to go out of the Champions League like that. We hope to do better this season and hopefully meet with Sundowns along the way or in the final to set the record straight!”
But a meeting with Sundowns might not materialise anytime soon and in the meantime, the record CAF Champions League winners need to focus on their weekend opponents – Etoile du Sahel – and provided Sundowns also keep winning, perhaps the much anticipated match might just happen.
In the other Group match, Zimbabwe’s Platinum FC travel to Omdurman Stadium to confront Khartoum giants Al Hilal and must get out of the blocks and hit the ground running.
Boosted by their former player Nyasha Mushekwi who purchased a top of the range luxury bus for the team that was stylishly branded in the team’s colours in South Africa, Platinum needs to show they deserve to be considered a top class outfit out of Harare.
Whenever Pan-African football is discussed and the topic leads to Zimbabwe, people tend to mention Dynamos who reached the final back during 1998 when they narrowly lost to Cote d’Ivoire outfit ASEC Mimosa but it is Platinum’s hands to change the narrative for ever by punching above their weight and making a statement.
Zimbabwe’s “Green Machine” has been quietly going about their business, strengthening their squad to withstand the challenges of Pan-African club championship and have managed to lure Ramilton Jorge (Cape Verde), Musasa Tshatsho and Dieudonne Kalulika both from the (DR Congo), Akinfenwa Ibukun (Nigeria), Jackson Chileshi (Zambia) and James Sangala (Malawi).