AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy wants his charges to emulate Kaizer Chiefs’ exploits in the Caf Champions League last season and surprise the continent when the Durban club make their maiden appearance in the coming campaign.
Usuthu host Nyasa Big Bullets of Malawi in a preliminary round first leg encounter at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Friday.
McCarthy said Chiefs’ run to the Champions League final last season, where they lost 0-3 to Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly, showed that any SA side can follow in Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns’ footsteps and win the continental club competition, just as the two domestic sides did in 1995 and 2016 respectively.
The forthright AmaZulu coach insisted the comments were not meant to suggest his charges are better than Chiefs, but rather that he wants his side to learn from Amakhosi’s experiences last season.
“We don’t think that we’re better than Kaizer Chiefs,” McCarthy clarified. “We draw inspiration from it (Chiefs’ run in the competition last season).
“When you look at a team like Kaizer Chiefs and the season they had [in the domestic league, where they finished eighth on the standings] … they had a lot of difficulties. They couldn’t sign players [due to a two-window Fifa transfer ban that prevented the club from buying new players].
“They already had a good team, but they couldn’t build on the team that had just lost out on [winning] the league title [in the 2019-20 season].
“So a lot of things were affecting Chiefs, but they were able to be focused and made sure that home advantage counted. They went away, grinded out the results and were able to go to the final of the Caf Champions League.”
With Chiefs’ exploits in mind and AmaZulu’s own fairy tale after they finished second on the domestic standings behind champions Sundowns, McCarthy believes these factors could enable his team to make their own history and perhaps win the Champions League.
“When you look at the season that we had and the people that we played, I don’t see why we cannot imitate what Chiefs did and maybe even try to go one better,” he said.
“But people mustn’t misquote me and say that I think we’re better than Chiefs. We draw from their experience, we analysed their season, we analysed our season and we try to learn where they had success.
“We want the kind of success that they had and implement it in our game, and hopefully that momentum can take us there.
“I know football very well and I’m not that immature to think that we’re better than anyone. We are our own. But you look at what other teams do and how you can take that and put it into what you have, and maybe it can elevate you to do maybe even something different than what they did.”
The side that emerges victorious in this preliminary round clash between AmaZulu and Nyasa will face five-time Champions League winners TP Mazembe of DR Congo in the first round. The game will kick off at 5pm on Friday and the return leg will be played on September 18 in the Malawi capital Blantyre.
The first leg of the first round, where AmaZulu or Nyasa will meet TP Mazembe, will be played on October 15.
The winners of the first round matches will qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, while the losers drop to the Caf Confederation Cup.
By Sazi Hadebe – TimesLIVE