from SAVIOUS KWINIKA in Johannesburg, South Africa
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE upcoming fixtures between Zimbabwean champions, FC Platinum, and South African giants, Orlando Pirates, in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League is set to reignite the long running fierce rivalry between the two neighbouring countries.
FC Platinum, playing for the first time in the continental competition, and 1995 winners Pirates, clash in a two-legged encounter that begins at the 5 000-seater Mandava Stadium in the mining town of Zvishavane on January 11.
There are possibilities of switching the match to Rufaro Stadium in the capital Harare or Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo to accommodate bigger crowds anticipated for the encounter.
The return leg is penciled for the 40 000-capacity Orlando Stadium in Soweto on March 8.
Fans from both countries are savouring the prospects of intense battles given the football enmity between South Africa and Zimbabwe, whose rivalry date back to 1992 when the Warriors humbled newcomers Bafana Bafana 4-1 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Harare.
The rivalry has previously encountered tragedy. Some 12 fans died in a stampede at the same National Sports Stadium in Harare as South Africa emerged 2-0 victory in a World Cup qualifier played in 2000.
Njabulo Vilakazi of Pimville, Soweto noted the match between FC Platinum and Orlando Pirates would also revive debate around which of the two is the better league in terms of quality, following years of Zimbabwean players excelling in the South African topflight.
“These are going to be exciting encounters,” Vilakazi told CAJ News.
“No South African team would want to lose to a Zimbabwean side. On the other hand, Zimbabweans believe their league is better than the South African premiership despite financial constraints,” he added.
Lerato Mathebula of Moroka, also in Soweto, tipped Pirates’ chances on the team’s experience.
Across the border, Tariro Shumba of Zvishavane (Zimbabwean) believed FC Platinum would be inspired by the Warriors’ impressive record over Bafana Bafana in recent years.
“I foresee FC Platinum beating Pirates at home and drawing in South Africa,” she said.
Nyemudzai Gumbo of Mberengwa (Zimbabwe) said, “Admittedly, our teams have no fat cheques like their South African counterparts but when it comes to talent, I’m convinced we are better than our neighbours.”
CAF Champions League Fixtures
Club Africain Vs CS Constantine, Olympique de Rades
Wydad Athletic Club Vs ASEC Mimosas, Mohamed V
Horoya Vs Esperance, Stade 28 Septembre
TP Mazembe Vs Ismaily, Stade TP Mazembe
Al Ahly SC Vs AS Vita Club, Borg El Arab Stadium
Simba FC Vs JS Saoura, Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium
Lobi Stars Vs Mamelodi Sundowns, Aper Aku Stadium
FC Platinum Vs Orlando Pirates, Mandava Stadium
ASEC Mimosas Vs Lobi Stars, venue to be announced
Ismaily Vs Club Africain, Ismailia Stadium
JS Saoura Vs Al Ahly SC, Stade 20 Aout 1955 Bechar
CS Constantine Vs TP Mazembe, Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui
AS Vita Club Vs Simba FC, Stade des Martyrs
Mamelodi Sundowns Vs Wydad Athletic Club, Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
– CAJ News