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CAF Champions League

Continental experience could help AmaZulu's McCarthy edge closer to Orlando Pirates

8:41 PM MYT 13/02/2022
Benni McCarthy, head coach of AmaZulu.
An Usuthu side backed by ambitious new owner Sandile Zungu finished second in the PSL last season to earn their spot in Africa’s top club competition

AmaZulu may have lost 1-0 away at Raja Casablanca on Saturday night in the Caf Champions League, but it was still a worthwhile learning experience for Benni McCarthy and his players.

Raja are three-time Champions League winners and have won the Caf Confederation Cup twice - in 2018 and 2021, having only partaken in the tournament five times.

They've also won the Caf Super Cup twice and are among the giants of African football, dwarfing AmaZulu.

And so it says a lot that McCarthy, now in his second season with the Durban club, is able to take AmaZulu to places like Morocco and go toe-to-toe with the continental heavyweights in the Champions League, Africa’s top-tier competition.

If Makhehlene Makhaula’s shot had gone in rather than hitting the post, the South African side could even have taken something from the game.

In any case, they still have five Group B games to go, with ES Setif (Algeria) and Guinea side Horoya the other teams in their group.

It will be tough, but having already gotten past DR Congo giants TP Mazembe in the previous round, anything is possible for McCarthy's men.

And a strong run and qualification for the quarter-finals would greatly enhance what is already a growing reputation for the 44-year-old.

It's certainly feasible that the former Orlando Pirates striker will return to the Buccaneers in the upcoming years, and his former employees must surely be keeping an eye on his progress.

Doing well in difficult continental competitions shows another side of a coach and team's character - the ability to guts it out in tough conditions and to perform when the pressure is on.

Those kinds of attributes are what's needed at bigger clubs like Pirates, even more so if they hope to one day become a force on the continent which they were in former years.

With 20 or more years potentially in front of him as a coach, it's not unrealistic to see the legendary former Bafana striker coaching at a club like Pirates in the next few years, before moving on to the national team and then testing himself overseas. Success in the Champions League would only speed up that progress.