2 November 2013

Africa: We Can Feel the Title - Pirates Goalkeeper Meyiwa

Photo: Confédération Africaine de Football
Orlando Pirates – Al Ahly (1-1) en final aller de ligue des champions 2013

Orlando Pirates believe they are just 180 minutes from going to the top of the continent's club competition.

The Soweto giants meet Al Ahly from Egypt in the first leg of the Orange CAF Champions League final knowing a good show will edge them closer to repeating the heroics of 18 years ago when striker Jerry Sikhosana broke away to score a legendary goal in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in that famous win over Asec Mimosa.

Since then, there has been very little to celebrate about in South Africa's club football apart from 2001 when Mamelodi Sundowns were massacred 4-1 by Al Ahly in the final before Pirates reached the last four five years later.

Now, Bucs are closing in on their second African title and they feel they will not let this one escape from their grasp. The hero in the 1995 win was goalkeeper Williams Okpara who is now goalkeeper coach at Pirates and mentoring current goal minder, Senzo Meyiwa. Meyiwa was only eight years old when Bucs won the Abidjan encounter.

The agile keeper has turned in a number of brilliant displays that has included saving as many as three penalty kicks on the journey to the final. He saved two late penalty kicks against TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi, a performance that really turned the corner for the Soweto side. Then against Al Ahly in El Gouna, he again denied the home side a consolation goal in a victory that announced Bucs as serious contenders for the continental title.

Pirates have been receiving a lot of well wishing from the state president right to Jack and Jill in the street. "This has really been some road to the final. We are almost there and we should just push ourselves to the limit to get across the line. "It will be sad to lose now. We have done most of the work but there is still more to be done. We are tense but determined," said Meyiwa. He said some of the stalwarts of the 1995 heroics had visited the camp to give them a pep talk and that was very helpful.

"We have also watched over and over again that victory in Abidjan and it just gives you another inspiration - doing this for the family, friends and above all your country. When you play a sport, you dream of achieving something and it does not come bigger for the club than conquering the whole continent.

"You feel like you are on top of the world," added Meyiwa who warned his teammates to watch out for attacking midfielders Mohamed Aboutrika and Walid Soliman. "They are gifted and skilful and might wreck out party. I have told our defenders that they must police the two throughout the 180 minutes. If they do that, we will be having a huge party," he laughed.

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