Do Kaizer Chiefs even want to progress past PWD Bamenda in the Champions League?
While his ex-boss competes for the 2019-20 Caf Champions League final against Zamalek as coach of Al Ahly this weekend‚ it seems some representation of the gradual decline of Kaizer Chiefs that Khama Billiat will hope to help the limping club past the 2020-21 opening round.
It is an anomaly of the new normal of Covid-19 that two days after the much-delayed 2019-20 final‚ where Billiat’s ex-Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane takes charge of Africa’s most successful team in the competition with eight titles against its second-most‚ Zamalek‚ with five – the next season’s tournament kicks off.
Chiefs return to the Champions League for the first time in four years when they meet Cameroon’s tournament rookies PWD Bamenda at Omnisports Stadium in Limbe in Sunday’s first leg of their preliminary round tie.
The last time Amakhosi competed in continental competition in 2016 Steve Komphela’s team were eliminated 1-0 on aggregate in the first round‚ with a round to go to reach the group stage‚ by Ivory Coast’s Asec Mimosas.
Chiefs have limped so poorly to their lethargic start to 2020-21 under new coach Gavin Hunt‚ though‚ that it has been hard to picture them raising the effort‚ mental fortitude and spirit required to progress far in African competition.
And the question might be‚ given their domestic tribulations and Hunt struggling vainly to find his combinations: do Chiefs even want to progress past Limbe over the two legs?
Champions League campaigns are expensive and energy-sapping. On the other hand‚ they can also present the perfect opportunity to forge unity and relationships in a squad – features seemingly lacking for Chiefs so far in 2020-21.
Billiat said he believes there is enough experience in Chiefs’ squad – he‚ Ramahlwe Mphahlele‚ Leonardo Castro‚ Willard Katsande and Itumeleng Khune are among players with Champions League spurs – to negotiate past Bamenda‚ and make a run of it in the competition.
“I’ve played the Champions League before with a few of the guys‚ and the team has played it before – there’s nothing new‚” he said.
“It’s just the way we are going to approach each and every game. It’s very important to know that you are playing away‚ it’s very very important to know you’re at home.
“Every result has to have a meaning behind it. And‚ ja‚ we have a good team‚ and I feel like we need to go out there and challenge in Africa‚ and take this team back where it belongs.
“I think it starts now. We needed this. We needed also to test ourselves with big teams out there.”
Hunt might want to see his charges come away with some form of morale-boosting result in Cameroon‚ as he seeks to rectify a start where two league and cup wins‚ four defeats and two draws culminated in Tuesday night’s 1-0 Premiership loss against promoted Swallows FC.