Pirates hope to raise flag for South Africa
By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The Orlando Pirates will be bidding to bring South Africa some rare international soccer success when they take on African Champions League holders Al Ahli of Egypt in the final over the next two weekends.
The Pirates are hosting the first leg in Soweto on Saturday, followed by the return in Cairo on November 10, where Al Ahli will be seeking to extend their record-breaking number of victories in the continent's leading competition to eight.
Should the Pirates prevail, however, it would mark a second successful intercontinental triumph, 18 years after the first.
That success rate represents a stark reminder of the disparity in achievement between the two countries, both major economic powers with established domestic leagues but with contrasting levels of proficiency in pan-African competition.
South Africa had high hopes that hosting the 2010 World Cup would catapult their soccer into a new, regularly successful realm but while their league enjoys a lucrative television deal, results have been poor and the game is in something of a slump.
"We hosted it in 2010 but we are not going to Brazil after failing to make the World Cup play-offs. We can't stand and accept mediocrity," newly elected South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan told a recent forum.
The Pirates have lifted some of the gloom with a run to the final, overcoming an exhaustive campaign, dubious refereeing decisions and several more obstacles on their travels through three preliminary rounds, a six-match group phase and a two-legged semi-final.
SHUT DOWN Continued...