JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana applauded the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) decision to change the format of the CAF Champions League to one match in the final at a neutral venue.
The decision was met with a lot of criticism by football analysts and supporters, arguing that Africa is an expensive continent to travel and this will make it hard for supporters to watch their teams in a final.
There are no direct flights from South African to Tunisia for instance, you have to travel either via Dubai or France to get there – a costly exercise that isn’t practical for most fans.
But the two-legged final with a home and away leg at least gave fans one match to watch their team fight for the biggest prize in club football on the continent.
But from a players’ perspective, this change is welcomed as Kekana explained.
“It’s very fair, for everybody,” Kekana said at Diageo’s offices in Midrand during the company’s Drive Dry campaign.
“Remember what happened last season? The team (Wydad Casablanca) had to leave the field because of the VAR that didn’t work (in Esperance’s home match) and the unfair display on the field.
“More than anything, it was just a lot of games to play in the Champions League. The two-legged final was difficult for the players to adjust to. When you play two games, you have to adjust on whether I go for the kill or I also wait a bit to see what is going to happen in the second leg.
“That’s now something that we have to flag to the CAF people and say that this is a good job. I just hope that Mamelodi Sundowns can get to the final so that we can play one match and win the trophy.”
The Brazilians were drawn in a tough group where they will face a familiar foe, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco. The two teams have fiercely contested eight matches since 2017. This is the third time they are in the same group. USM Alger of Algeria and Angola’s Pedro de Luanda complete the group.
Kekana speaks about the tournament with affection. His voice changes and he gets animated.
“The lessons that we take out of this tournament are something,” Kekana said.
“Coach Steve (Komphela) mentioned something about education in football, there are lots of lessons that we take out of this competition. There are different cultures that we interact with. There is a certain way in how they live their life.
“For me, as a player there is a lot that I gain from this tournament. Soon I’ll be a father of people and I should be able to teach them how to live life, the morals of life.
“The world today is teaching us to forget about morals and live the way we want. But when we travel these countries, they still have these rules that we have to follow.
“I remember when we went to Algeria, I couldn’t answer my call in a certain room because they said that the Queen normally arrives from that place so you can’t just talk there.”
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