One of Orlando Pirates’ 1995 heroes has offered some timely advice ahead of Saturday’s CAF Confederation Cup final second leg against Etoile Du Sahel. Helman Mkhalele was instrumental in the Buccaneers winning the CAF African Cup of Champions Clubs 20 years ago and says it was not any easier two decades ago: ‘It was intense, throughout the tournament nobody gave us a chance. We were concerned about it but we didn’t allow it to get to us. But it was tense.’
Having drawn 1-1 in the first leg at the Orlando Stadium, many have written the Sea Robbers off. Travelling to Sousse will not be easy but “The Midnight Express” disputes the much-talked about difficulty of travelling in Africa when it comes to football. Mkhalele says: ‘Its a myth. You need to take it out if you want to be recognised as the best team continentally. You need to adapt and that’s what we did (in 1995).’ The 42-year old points out that fans will always be hostile anywhere in the world and it is more important to focus on the task at hand rather than off-the-field matters: ‘Fans will always be cruel because you go there to play against their beloved team but the complaints about hotels and pitches not being up to standard is not a thing to moan about.’
The retired football maestro says the only difference between Africa and Europe in this regard is the time spent travelling between countries. Having been following his old club’s run of late in the Confederation Cup, Mkhalele is positive that The Ghost will return from Tunisia triumphant. He says: ‘We can beat them. They (Pirates players) need to be strong individually. They need to be mentally strong and courageous.’ Mkhalele believes Etoile Du Sahel is a tactically strong side that likes to dictate the pace of the game and added that he was happy with the line-up at coach Eric Tinkler’s disposal and would not change it for the second leg encounter.
Photo credit: Nick Lourens