Not that Pirates are a yardstick in African club football, and South African teams generally don’t treat the African Champions League with the respect it ought to be given.
Additionally, since winning the African Champions League back in 1995, the Buccaneers have been on a downward spiral. Even in their own South African premiership they have lost that aura of invincibility, with Pretoria teams Supersport United and Mamelodi Sundowns dominating them and their Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs.
What Gaborone’s accomplishment showed at the weekend is that the element of supremacy in African club football — just like at the national team level — is slowly waning.
Zimbabwean champions Gunners will face Egyptian aristocrats Al Ahly in the first round of the Champions League after advancing past Tanzanians FC Mafunzo in the preliminaries. While a club that is barely in its third year in the Zimbabwean premiership will be seen as a sitting duck against Africa’s most crowned club side, Gunners will look back at the remarkable showing of Monomotapa last year with some inspiration.
Monoz where in the same situation as Gunners when they took part in the Champions League last year; a new, ambitious Zimbabwean side taking on the best on the continent and they put up decent performances.
It was also a fruitful preliminary campaign for Caps United and Lengthens, the country’s representatives in the Caf Confederation Cup, the continent’s second-tier club competition.
United sailed through after edging out Swaziland’s Mbabane Highlanders on penalties.
Lengthens went through courtesy of a 2-0 aggregate win over AS Adema of Madagascar.
Now, Caps have a date with South Africa’s Moroka Swallows, who do not have a good track record in Africa. Lloyd Chitembwe’s men will be hoping to benefit from the attitude of the teams from Mzansi in Africa.
As for Lengthens, it should be a 50-50 affair between them and Simba Stars of Tanzania.
The biggest clash featuring a Zimbabwean team is of course Dynamos’ first-round tie with FC Lupopo of the DRC.
They don’t come as big as this. It’s a clash between money and reputation.
Lupopo, like their Congolese rivals TP Mazembe, have been waving the chequebook around in pursuit of success, and at the beginning of the season they signed four players from Dynamos — Ephraim Mazarura, Carrington Gomba, Mtshumayeli Moyo and Philip Marufu.
The local boys will be unleashed on their countrymen, with their knowledge of local conditions and their former teammates expected to plot Dynamos’ downfall.
But Dynamos are a dangerous side in Africa, and the fact that they were given a bye while such sides as Orlando Pirates fought it out with the rest in preliminaries shows the general level of esteem in which they are held.