Are South African Clubs now taking Caf Clubs Confederations Tournaments serious?

Are South African Clubs now taking Caf Clubs Confederations Tournaments serious?
Well, if the recent comments by the different participating teams is anything to go by, then at long last the country is surely becoming part of international (African) community. Wits, SuperSport United and Platinum Stars are looking to draw inspiration from the achievements of Caf African champions league champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, as they continue with their campaigns this weekend.

Wits coach Gavin Hunt who has succeeded locally but has been viewed as having a lukewarm attitude towards Caf competitions has allayed these fears by promising to target Group stages of the Champions League. The Students are scheduled to play Al Ahly in a CAF Champions League first round, first-leg tie at the Al-Salman Stadium on Saturday evening and Supersport United play Al-Ahly Shendi in Sudan on Sunday.

Meanwhile, defending champions Sundowns remain focused and hungry to continue the journey of success.
Sundowns became the second South African club to win both the Champions League and Super Cup after Orlando Pirates won the Champions League in 1995 and the Super Cup in 1996. Be reminded that although Kaizer Chiefs lost the Super Cup in 199 after they won the Confederation Cup (by then called-Mandela Cup in 2001), this shows that the South African big three clubs no minnows when it comes to Caf tournaments. In the last decade Orlando Pirates have been the only club which has participated with seriousness hence they played and lost in the finals of the Champions League and Confederation Cup in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

Who will win it this time, and how will the South African teams fare?
Unlike, some of their neighbors, or part of the whole of Africa, South African Premiership League clubs come from one of the richest leagues in the world, it is quoted as being the 7th richest leagues in the world. They really need to set the precedent when it comes to these continental competitions. The difference between South Africa and most African leagues is not only of professionalism, but also salaries paid to players. South African league is popular, and even capable of generating lot more money.

Sundowns are again well placed for African success, the first by virtue of their experience and the knowledge and expertise of their coach Pitso Mosimane and his technical staff, second because of their wealth brought in by their President Patrice Motsepe hence have ability to buy top players and the current bench of unquestioned Champions League pedigree.

The success of Mamelodi Sundowns in Champions League, Super Cup and the experience in the Club World Cup in Japan has had an unbelievable influence not only to the Sundowns club and particularly players judging by their thereafter performance but this success and experience also has had an impact on all the other top clubs like Kaizer Chiefs and Wits who had in the past not shown that seriousness on Caf tournaments. At the announcement of the Kaizer Chiefs-Toyota car sponsorship announcement, Kaizer Chiefs boss Kaizer Motaung, promised Toyota South Africa CEO Andrew Kirby that he will see him in Japan as Chiefs will qualify through winning Champions League for the Toyota FIFA Club World Cup. This is the best message from Kaizer Chiefs, well done Mr. Motaung!!
I spoke to Wits University CEO Jose Ferreira about their preparedness to compete and make an impact in the Champions League, he assured me they are serious and judging by the players they have one believes them and their Coach Gavin Hunt publicly said he is eyeing the Group stages. What a commitment from both these top clubs.

The other big club Supersport United commitment has never been questionable as they have always taken African football very seriously given their holding company Supersport’s very big direct investment to Africa and their Chairman Khulu Sibiya comments.
Mamelodi Sundown boss Patrice Motsepe and Orlando Pirates boss Irvin Khoza political will to Africa sets them apart and are unquestionable to their seriousness to South African government agenda to Africa.

The other participating team in 2017 is Platinum Stars, although their principals are very rich, they are still the so called small club because they also still play small, by releasing their best and experienced player focusing on youth to compete at this big level. Judging by comments of Platinum Coach Cavin Johnson and CEO Senzo Mazingisa they are serious about their participation in the Confederation Cup.

After all is said and done, out of the four teams participating this weekend only Sundowns knows and is really ready for the Caf tournament given their experience and organization, these other clubs will be found out as they play starting this weekend.

Tribute to the Late Goodenough Ace Nkomo

Football, diski…whatever you call it, the “beautiful game” was once South African obsession, both at amateur and professional level. Football rivalry in Soweto where Goodenough Ace Nkomo and I come from was a daily thing. He came from township, Tshiawelo which was mainly dominated by Tsonga speaking people, on the other hand I hailed from a Nguni township, Senaoane. Putting blacks according to their tribes was plan of the apartheid government of dividing us and people fought against it and broke it.

During those times in the late 70’s and early 80’s Nkomo’s club Northen Brothers after he earlier played for Tshiawelo Bush Bucks. Brothers was a big club with bigger and older players, it enjoyed a successful run and has its own devoted fans. Just across Potchefstroom Road, Senaoane, a place also where the citizens eat, sleep, and breathe football- the township is home to Senaoane Gunners. It was not uncommon to hear the game against Northern Brothers referred to as a “blood rivalry.” Come game day, thousands of people pack the grounds to chant Gunners slogan “Wadl’ i Varara Wadl’ i Cala”. The rivalries between township boys was beyond the football one, in such a way that each township boy would not easily enter into another township without a fight ensuing. Remember a boy would enter another township either because of sport, friendship or for at most times for a girl.

Gunners was the talk of the town also admired because of its blend of football and its introduction of youngsters who were largely smaller to the game when the game at that time was dominated by bigger and older players. Nkomo graduated to be a professional player and plied his trade at Pretoria Callies. He was later recruited to Highlands Park by the legendary Coach Joe Frickleton. He then made a huge move to the Phefeni Glamour boys, Kaizer Chiefs. Later together with another Kaizer Chiefs FC star Abednigo “Valdez is Coming” Ngcobo went to ply their trade in Uruguay( South America) for Penarol where Nkomo was even more successful. It was when he was playing for Kaizer Chiefs and when back from Uruguay when he came to coach Senaoane Gunners.

In Tshiawelo, Nkomo was seen by some as a traitor but others admired him for moving to Gunners, also in Senaoane to some he was not trusted because people thought he had ulterior motives but many admired him for breaking this tribal divide and also ploughing back. I had befriended myself to him wanting him to teach Gunners players how professional football players behave and play. What a choice, the best the club could have chosen after I asked him to come to Gunners during his spare time. Nkomo became a friend, brother, coach and mentor to all. I can categorically say Nkomo fought tribalism and stood for social cohesion.

Nkomo taught Gunners amateur players particularly myself how to behave and play like professionals. As it is raining a lot these days, Ace taught us that training is never cancelled at your place but at the training ground. One of the days it was pouring and in my street there were 4 players Disco, JC, Mainline Thanjekwayo’s and myself were confused whether there will be training or not but we decided to walk to Rockvile Elkah joined by our other Gunners player Carlie Sibiya. On arrival we were surprised and happy that most players like Duma Nkosi, Gilbert Thwala, Joe Moloko, Schola Dube, Victor Thwala, Sbash Nhlapo, Faroh Gamede, Bridge Sodomba(from Tshiawelo)were there as well coming to check whether there will be training, all came jogging. Nkomo our coach arrived jogging like all of us even though he had a car. Yes he had his raining suit on, and we did not have raining suits, remember he could have come by his car but did not. In his address to us, he said never odule ko hae ungwaya sebono uri wabata or pula yana!!. Guess what we trained that day as it was just raining with no thunder.

I hope Clubs or athletes particularly at development level were training for the whole of the week irrespective of the pouring rain particularly as there was no thunder.

By Mike Ntombela – Mike Ntombela Sports Management

www.mikentombelasports.co.za

Tribute to the Late Goodenough Ace Nkomo

When will we have a Caf Club crowned as Club World Cup Champion?

When will we have a Caf Club crowned as Club World Cup Champion?

Club World Cup 2016 has come and gone Real Madrid of Spain were crowned as Champions after defeating the host country club from Japan, Kashima Antlers 4-2 after extra time. The score was 2-2 at full time. Real Madrid were 1st and Kashima Antlers came 2nd. Our 2016 Caf Champions League winners Mamelodi Sundowns are back at home after coming 6th in this , 7 teams tournament. Please be reminded that the 2015 African Champions League Winners TP Mazembe came 6th in in this tournament.

Let’s congratulate Mamelodi Sundowns for this big achievement for the whole country, Sadec region and whole continent. Please know, I’m not celebrating mediocrity, I’m just being practical, given that it is the first time that Sundowns participated in the Club World Cup. The biggest achievement for Mamelodi Sundowns, Sadec and Africa was for Sundowns being there, treated the same like Real Madrid participating as Africa’s Champions against other Champions of other continents. The experience they got is unquantifiable and will leave with all who were there particularly the players, for the rest of their lives.

I’m not sure whether everyone understand this tournament. The Club World Cup is the biggest and the ultimate club competition. Just like the World Cup where nations play against each other after every 4 years the Club World Cup happens annually. Since its inception in 2000 the Club World Cup happened every year in December where 6 Continental Champions played amongst each other in 1 country to get the Cup World Cup Champions and since 2007 the host Premier or highest League Champion was introduced to make the tournament a 7 team tournament to get the ultimate winner to be crowned the Club World Cup Champion. Remember although Orlando Pirates won the Champions League in 1995 but unfortunately they never participated in this tournament as this tournament was started in 2000.

As we know there are 7 continents in the World but 6 participates as the 7th is the Antarctica which cannot participate as there are no clubs there to say the least but if we go further there are no residing people there permanently. Each of the 6 continents has a Confederation of Football which organizes and manages football for the whole continent. Each of the 6 Continents has an annual champions League winners, and 1 host country League winners making it 7 winners participating tournament those who participated in 2016 were the following:

European Union of Football Association ( EUFA) Champions League winners, Real Madrid of Spain
Confederation of African Football Association (Caf) champions League winners, Mamelodi Sundowns FC of South Africa)
Oceania Football Confederation Champions League winners by Auckland City from New Zealand
Asian Football Confederation Champions League winners, Jeonbuk from South Korea
Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football Association( CONCACAF) Champions Cup winners, Club America from Mexico
South American Football Association ( CONMEBOL) The Copa de Libertadores winners, Athletico Nacional from Uruguay
Asian Football Confederation Host Country League winners Kashima Antlers from Japan.

B. The next question is, what level is our South African, Sadec and African club football compared to other continents in the World?

Mamelodi Sundowns Head Coach Pitso Mosimane summed it up very well about Mamelodi Sundowns level compared to the Worlds level in his after tournament interview by saying ” We know our level in South Africa, and we know our level in Africa and NOW we know our level in global football”.

I think that was a summary hence I would like to take this discussion further so that we are sober about our clubs level in South Africa, Sadec and Africa to be able to draw short , medium and long term objectives for our clubs.

According to Fifa, EUFA and CONMEBOL presently are ranked obviously 1st and 2nd judging by the fact that these 2 Confederation’s clubs automatically qualify for the Semi Finals and all other 4 Confederations play to come to the final 2 Semi Finals slots. Considering the standard of the 2 exempted Confederations and number of games they play in the continents I understand that approach.

According to 2015 and 2016 Club World Cup statistics and even before, CONCACAF and ACF clubs are consistently the number 3 and 4 in this tournament, but still play the quarter finals
with CAF and OCEANIA with host country having play off with the smaller and far behind in ratings OCEANIA.

Therefore we need in a short and medium term try to make our Confederations clubs particularly those in the Sadec region to be the 3rd or 4th consistently in this tournament:
Although TP Mazembe of the DRC is the most successful club in our region Sadec in this tournament having participated 3 times( 2009, 2010 and 2015)
Al Ahly is the most successful club continentally having participated in 2005, 2008, 2009,2012 and 2013)
Raja participated twice qualifying in 2000 and hosting in 2013
and finally S Etoile (2007), Esperance( 2011), SS Setief( 2014) and Mamelodi Sundowns(2016) have participated once.
Our African clubs have struggled to make an impact in this tournament. It is only northern region and Sadec region which are the only 2 regions which have participated in this tournament. Furthermore only the Nothern region, Morocco, has hosted it.

As our clubs consistently qualify for this tournament automatically by either winning the Caf Champions League or by hosting rarely, as Morocco has twice hosted this tournament in 2013 and 2014.

Even though our African clubs have inconsistently made it into the last 4 and even the last 2, yes TP Mazembe in 2010 and Raja Casablanca in 2014 played in the finals no African club has ever won it.

C. Why should clubs participate and what is the importance of winning it?
Business and Economy
Like the participation of TP Mazembe the one of Mamelodi Sundowns participation makes the whole world to take notice not of only our clubs but our region, Sadec and continent Africa. Foreign investors can look positively to invest not only to our economy but also to our sports including our athletes.
Prestige, support and respect.
This brings the above to our country, region and continent. Our athlete could be respected and recruited to other international leagues and make clubs to want to play and even have more pre Season camps in our country, region and continent.
We can get support should we want to host the club World Cup in the foreseeable future.

How can we work towards winning this club tournament?

The first way of trying to win it is, we need all clubs in their respective countries, more so those in the Sadec region and in the continent should take Caf tournaments seriously and participate fully.

The second way of winning it is by hosting the Club World Cup. In 2013-2014 Morocco hosted it and Wydad Casablanca played in the final and lost and in 2016 Kashima Antlers of Japan played in the final and lost 4-2 to Real Madrid after extra time as the game finished 2-2 on regular time. Never underestimate the power of home ground advantage. Our region needs to host and South Africa with the resources is the right country to host this tournament, for us to brighten the chances of winning it.
The clubs can only succeed to consistently qualify to the last 4.
Governments, business and Caf with its federations can support the clubs more.

Mike Ntombela: Director at Mike Ntombela Sports Management(MNSM) and From the Pitch to the Boardroom.