This weekend the biggest club game in Africa will be played. It is the CAF Champions League final between South African club Kaizer Chiefs and perennial winners, Egyptian Al Ahly FC from Cairo.

It is another game of Momentum v Resolve.

The Egyptian team has dominated African football for a good few years now. They have won this competition an astonishing nine times, and they will, on July 17 2021, be going for Africa’s version of ‘La Decima’. It is a game of remarkable ramifications for the club especially in these times.

On the other hand though, the South African team Kaizer Chiefs has been on a roll too. In spite of its place in the top two of continental elite football, this team had a disappointing end to the last season, ending up in 8th place on the Premier Soccer League log, a whopping 30 points adrift of national title winners Mamelodi Sundowns. 

But in the African championships they have been strong, and well worthy of their place in the Saturday showpiece.

Now let us look at the men in the dugout for both teams, and it is an interesting matchup.

Both coaches are seasoned men who have travelled extensively over the years, and have had great triumphs over time.

Scotsman (or Anglo-Scot as some have referred to him) has travelled far and wide. He has made a habit of making returns for second stints all his career. He does not have a string of honours, titles or silverware trailing him, and this African Champions League title, if he does get it, will be somewhat a rarity. 

But the 67 year-old is well travelled. Born to a former professional player in Wolverhampton in England, moving to Scotland when his father had to go there to coach, then playing his own football in England, in Scotland, to Australia, Japan and Scandinavia, he maintained form as a coach and managed England U19s, Finland and then a first stint as South Africa national coach. Then he made his way to Finland before he did Stint No. 1 as Kaizer Chiefs boss.

A return to Turkey before he went back to South Africa and did Stint no. 2 as Bafana Bafana coach before going on to Stint No. 2 at Kaizer Chiefs.

That is a remarkable very short wrap of a story that goes wider and longer in detail. Point is, he is where he is now.

Now then…Pitso Mosimane, the 56 year-old South African coach of Egyptian club Al Ahly. There is a story if ever there was one!

‘Jingles’ has not travelled far, but he has achieved quite a lot. Glory days are no stranger to him, and it was a well-crafted journey from the start. He played most of his football in South Africa, also having two stints at Mamelodi Sundowns. Then he went to Greece and then to Qatar for his final playing days.

He coached SuperSport United for 6 years when he became a certified coach, before being named Assistant Coach of the South African national team. He stepped up to become national coach after some years and was in charge until 2012 when he joined Mamelodi Sundowns.

He was an instant hit there and it was only a matter of time before he led the Sundowns to its first African Champions League triumph in 2016. He enjoyed tremendous success in South Africa and on the continent and was appointed coach of Al Ahly in 2020, leading them instantly to the immediate past Champions League edition triumph.

So he stands shoulder to shoulder against Baxter, and emotions are bound to run high.

On the one hand is the fact that Pitso is a legend of the African game who has worked hard, is clearly good at what he does and has led his team to a second successive final in this competition – a real pride for the African continent.

On the other hand, though, is that opportunity for a team from south of the Sahara to break that seeming stranglehold that North Africa has had over continental football for a few years now. It is not very often that a sub-Saharan team wins the Champions League and this presents what might be a refreshing breakaway from that trend. But it will effectively mean failure for our own Coach Pitso, to whom many upcoming coaches look for hope and belief as we strive for recognition and respect amongst our very own – in Africa – and present at least, a level playing field offering equal opportunity for all coaches irrespective of race, creed or colour.

The battle line is drawn, and it promises to be an explosive affair.

Readers, what will be your pick to win this trophy? A team in the north of Africa with an African legend as coach, or a team from sub-Sahara Africa (for a change) but with a foreign coach?

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