Kaizer Chiefs will have the chance to join rivals Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns as CAF Champions League winners when they face Al Ahly in the 2020-21 season final at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca, Morocco today.
Chiefs have upset the odds all the way through their CAFCL campaign. They scraped through the preliminaries before edging out Horoya AC by the finest of margins (away goals on head-to-head count-back) to advance from the group phase, survived a storming comeback attempt from Simba SC in the quarterfinals and then defeated Wydad Casablanca 1-0 on aggregate in the semifinals.
Along the way the Amakhosi endured a miserable domestic campaign in parallel with their African exploits (which ultimately brought about the dismissal of manager Gavin Hunt), but reaching their first Champions League final is a major milestone.
Winning the continental title would certainly bring further glamour to South Africa’s best-supported club, as they could join Pirates (1995) and Sundowns (2016) in putting a star above their club crest to signify a CAFCL title triumph.
“We’re just going to enjoy every moment of it because we’ve come a long way to be where we are,” said Chiefs attacker Lebogang Manyama.
Al Ahly, however, head into the match as heavy favourites. The Egyptian giants, managed by South African Pitso Mosimane, had a minor slip by not finishing top of their group but then emphatically ousted Mamelodi Sundowns (3-1 on aggregate) and Esperance de Tunis (4-0 on aggregate) in the quarter- and semifinals respectively.
The Red Devils are the reigning African champions and will be seeking a record-extending 10th continental crown, while they also have the advantage of being in playing rhythm: Ahly have racked up four domestic league matches since the second leg of their semifinal in late June, while Chiefs have not had the chance to play any competitive fixtures and could well be rusty heading into the final.
Mosimane has admitted that it will be strange coming up against a South African side, but he is fully committed to guiding Ahly to yet more CAFCL glory.
“I am a South African playing against my home team, a team I supported when I grew up. At this time, it is about me, my family and my team [Al Ahly]. They come first,” said the former Sundowns coach.