SINAN RAJUB SENOGA
The 2020/21 CAF Champions League season will officially come to an end with the final between record holders Al Ahly and Kaizer Chiefs.
The final is slated for Saturday 10pm at the Complexe Mohamed V in Casablanca, Morocco.
Al Ahly come into the encounter as the favourites and will be aiming for “Al aashir” – their record 10th CAF Champions League title. They have won nine with the latest coming last year against Zamalek in Egypt.
Kaizer Chiefs are making their first ever appearance in the final and can become the third South African team to win the champions league after Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates.
To reach this stage, Kaizer Chiefs beat Wydad Casablanca 1-0 over the two legs while Al Ahly cruised past their Tunisian rivals Esperance de Tunis with a 4-0 aggregate score.
It will be the fourth ever final between Egyptian and South African clubs, Al Ahly have won two of those finals against Orlando Pirates (2013) and Mamelodi Sundowns (2001).
Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane will be aiming for his third Champions League having won one with Sundowns in 2016 and the most recent last year.
Mosimane admitted that he is overwhelmed with mixed emotions ahead of the final since he is facing a club he grew up supporting.
“I’m playing against my home country, so I’m conflicted. Yes, I am patriotic, but I must look after my family first. I must look after the people who pay my salary and allow (me to pay for) my children to go to school, so I have an obligation.” He told BBC.
“When I’m here, I’m wearing two hats – a South African hat, but also an Egyptian hat. The Egyptian one comes first at this point in time, but when I’m back in South Africa it will be South African.”
“I grew up as a Chiefs fan. My uncles both played for Chiefs and Pirates, but during that time Chiefs were a bit more dominant. I never thought Chiefs would be in the final, I must tell the honest truth.”
Kaizer Chiefs have been boosted by the timely clearance of their new head coach Stuart Baxter whose working permit had been delayed by paperwork since his appointment over a month ago.
Khama Billiat has also been deemed fit to feature in the final from injury but could start on the bench.
Baxter will look up to the team’s skipper Bernard Parker and their leading scorer Samir Nurkovic for inspiration but most importantly whoever will start in goal.
Youngster Bruce Bvuma, who had a brilliant performance against Wydad Casablanca, is likely to start ahead of the old guards Itemuleng Khune and custodian Daniel Akpeyi.
On the other hand, Mosimane will greatly rely on his offensive department to unlock the impenetrable Kaizer Chiefs defense.
Tournament top scorer Mohamed Sheriff alongside Hussein Shahat, Magdi Afsha, Taher Mohamed and Walter Bwalya among others, will be Mosimane’s go-to-men against the stubborn Glamour Boys.
This is the second ever meeting between the two sides having met once in the CAF Super Cup in 2001 in Alexandria, Egypt and Al Ahly won 4-1 in a game that saw goalkeeper Essam El Hadary score a goal from his own half.
The eventual winners of the tournament will bag USD 2.5 million while the runners up will walk away with USD 1.25 million.
Ugandan match official Dick Okello will be the second assistant referee of the game. Burundi’s Pacifique Ndabihawenimana will be the center referee.