ORLANDO Pirates coach Julio Leal has resigned himself to the possibility that African Nations Cup-winning star Isaac Chansa will not return from Zambia in time for the Buccaneers’ opening African Champions League clash against Angola side CRD Libolo at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Chansa was part of the Zambian squad that beat Côte d’Ivoire 8-7 on penalties at Libreville in Gabon, to win a maiden continental title at the weekend. Leal said Chansa was probably still partying up a storm with his compatriots in Zambia and he did not think that the midfielder could make a surprise appearance in the Pirates camp before the game.
“I have not spoken to Isaac Chansa since the African Nations Cup,” the Brazilian said.
“And we have not received any information from management as to when he will come back. I would love for him to be available on Sunday as we start this Champions League campaign, but he probably will not be here because of all the celebrations in Zambia.
“In any case, I think it is only fair for him to remain there for a few more days. I would like to have him for Sunday’s game but I do not think that it will happen.”
Chansa’s stock has skyrocketed and the midfielder is believed to be in demand after the Nations Cup.
Pirates open their Champions League campaign on Sunday well aware that they will carry a burden of expectation in SA. No South African side has won the Champions League since the Bucs themselves managed the feat in 1995.
Many observers believe the current Bucs side has a very good chance of finally emulating the class of 1995 as they have many experienced campaigners in their ranks.
They will be led by well-travelled former Bafana Bafana, Porto, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham striker Benni McCarthy who is bidding to become the first South African to win Champions League medals on two continents.
McCarthy was part of the Jose Mourinho -managed Porto squad that went on to win the European Champions League in 2004.
McCarthy said winning another continental title with a South African side this time was one of the reasons that motivated him to quit Europe and sign for Pirates last year.
But the European Champions League is a much different proposition to life in Africa as clubs are allowed by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to commit the most underhand tactics in their attempts to unsettle visitors. Local team bus drivers, for example, are encouraged to take the “scenic route” when visiting sides want to acquaint themselves with the match venue. It is customary for the driver to drive for hours to get to a stadium that is only 10 minutes away from the visitors’ hotel.
Leal bemoaned the fact that he would not have the experience of former Arsenal star Luis Boa Morte in these opening stages of the Champions League as he was signed after the Caf deadline. Boa Morte, however, will be available if Pirates do make it to the group stages.
Limpopo side Black Leopards also embark on their own continental adventure this weekend as they host Zimbabwe side Motor Action at Peter Mokaba Stadium tomorrow.
According to Zimbabwean media, Motor Action have been promised a $50 000 bonus by a diamond mining firm if they are able to beat Leopards.
But Serbian coach Vladislav Heric believes they have an ace up their sleeve in former Leopards coach Sunday Chidzambwa.
“We have a man from Zimbabwe in our team and he is helping us with our preparations,” the Serb said.
While Pirates and Leopards are grappling with the challenges of continental football, the domestic premiership continues this weekend.
WEEKEND’S PREMIERSHIP MATCHES
Tomorrow: Free State Stars vs AmaZulu at Charles Mopeli Stadium (3.30pm), Kaizer Chiefs vs Moroka Swallows at Soccer City (6pm), Santos vs Bidvest Wits at Athlone Stadium (8.15pm), Golden Arrows vs SuperSport United at King Zwelithini (8.15pm)
Sunday: Mamelodi Sundowns vs Jomo Cosmos Loftus Stadium (3.30pm), Maritzburg United vs Ajax Cape Town at Harry Gwala Stadium (3.30pm)
Article source: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=165196