Big incentive for Pirates to win

Orlando Pirates

A winner’s cheque of R50-million would be on offer should Orlando Pirates win the Caf Champions League trophy and go on to lift the Fifa Club World Cup, for which they would automatically qualify if they win the Champions League.

The Buccaneers would achieve a new milestone for South Africa by becoming the country’s first club to qualify for the club championship should they beat Egyptian club Al Ahly, in a home and away, two-legged Champions League final.

The draw for next month’s Fifa Club World Cup, to be held in Morocco, raised the inviting prospect of the African champions playing renowned European and German champions Bayern Munich in the semifinals.

The substantial prize money for the seven teams competing in the club competition, went right down the line, with the runners-up receiving R40-million; the third-placed team R25-million; the fourth-placed side R20-million and even the team finishing fifth netting R15-million.

The club draw, released by Fifa earlier this month, had the African champions playing the champions of Asia – either FC Seoul or China’s Guangzhou Evergrande – in the quarterfinals, with the teams from South Korea and China having already drawn their first-leg final 2-2 in Seoul last week-end.

Pirates would play their first-leg fixture against Al Ahly on Saturday at Orlando Stadium and faced the Egyptian giants – seven-time winners and defending champions – in their backyard the following Saturday.

“We’re obviously aware of what it means to qualify for the Club World Cup,” said Pirates coach Roger de Sa following an intensive, enthusiastic training session on Wednesday.

“But right now, my thoughts are focused on Al Ahly – and I’ve told my players to do the same and not to be carried away with what the future might hold.”

De Sa said Pirates were preparing for Saturday game “just as though it was another fixture – because there is no need to change the routines that have brought us success in the competition thus far”.

“In any case, getting involved in additional training at the last-minute could do the players more harm than good. They are in peak physical condition and fully motivated and you can’t ask for more than that.”

Pirates would report for what is their standard camping procedure the night before the Saturday’s game, rather than spending the entire week ensconced in their camp.

“The more normal the procedure this week for the players, the likelier they are to come into Saturday’s game in the right frame of mind and avoid becoming too tense and emotional.”

Asked if the Al-Ahly clash was the highlight of his sporting career, De Sa, who had represented South Africa in soccer, indoor soccer and in basketball, said he rather viewed it as a highlight in what had been a “fantastic sporting journey”.

“Representing Bafana was also something very special,” he said.

“How will I feel if Pirates go all the way and add another honour to the Caf Champions League title won in 1995? I’ll just have to wait and see.”


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