Kaizer Chiefs face one of their sternest tests in African Club competition and one of their biggest games on the continental stage when they face Wydad Casablanca at the Mohammed V Stadium, in Casablanca this evening.
Chiefs have defied all the odds and the critics to reach the semifinals of the CAF Champions League for the first time and will be aiming to get the kind of result away from home which will give them the upper hand for the second leg in Johannesburg in a week’s time.
This is not Chiefs’ first continental semifinal. Almost two decades ago they overcame Tunisian outfit Club Africain 3-0 on aggregate to reach their first African Club Final in the 2001 African Cup Winners Cup, which they went on to win.
Now, the stakes are even higher as Chiefs look to reach their first CAF Champions League final.
The importance of Chiefs’ achievements in the tournament thus far are a great source of encouragement, says midfielder Willard Katsande.
“Previously we never got past the early stages, this season we got to group stages. It was history on its own and here we are now in the semifinals. We have so many internationals in our team and all we want is to keep on making history for this team,” says Katsande.
With Chiefs looking for further progression in the tournament, Amakhosi will face two times African Champions Wydad Casablanca, knowing the Moroccans are undefeated in their last 12 games in all competitions.
Chiefs are just one of two teams who have managed to defeat them all season, which for Chiefs defender Anthony Akumu is a reason for them to be upbeat heading into the game.
“I lost in a CAF Champions League semifinal in 2016 against Sundowns, again this is a big milestone for me. Our preparation has been good and I believe this is a big opportunity for us to go all the way to the final. We have good players in every department and anyone can do whatever is asked of them. The task is big but the players are ready to do the job,” says Akumu.
It has been a long journey for Chiefs to get to the last four when few gave them a chance, particularly as they headed into their final group game against Horoya away from home where they needed a win or a draw with goals.
Amakhosi achieved a 2-2 draw in Guinea, trailing 2-1 at one stage to progress to the Quarterfinals where they saw off Tanzanian side Simba 4-3 on aggregate.
Chiefs are now within touching distance of the final and playmaker Nkosingiphile Ngcobo who has played 38 games in all competitions this season and 9 in the Champions League is ready to make the most of the opportunity ahead of him.
Ngcobo said, “to play in the semifinals is a great opportunity, we can be proud of ourselves as a team and we need to make sure that we go all the way in the competition, we are happy to be here and will work hard to get a good result”.
Another of the Chiefs youth brigade Happy Mashiane is lapping up being in a continental semifinal and believes that this team has been able to silence their detractors as he said “no one gave us a chance there were so many critics before, we have broken so many records this something we are grateful for.”
Chiefs will be looking to write another chapter in the illustrious half a century history of the club with a sterling performance in Casablanca, a city they return to after six years, having faced Raja Casablanca there in 2015 in the CAF Champions League. This time out Chiefs will be hoping to fly home with a result that will put them on the doorstep of their first-ever Champions League final.