GU shatters Pirates' dream

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It was meant to be a perfect return to the CAF Champions League for South Africa's oldest club, Orlando Pirates.

The stage had been set for the official opening of one of the venues for the World Cup, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

This was supposed to be South Africa's crowning moment, to showcase a world-class facility and quality football with Pirates supposedly pummelling underdogs, Gaborone United (GU) and marching to the next round of Africa's premier club competition. If it were a movie, Pirates were supposed to assume the character of a super-hero, with GU the hapless victims. It seemed a perfect plot and a perfect setting. Nothing could go wrong. The crowd had turned up, though not in large numbers, and like a lamb being led to the slaughter, GU walked out of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium dug out in their white uniform, while the Ghosts, as Pirates are affectionately known, wore their traditional black.

The Buccaneers are the only Southern African team to win the CAF Champions League and they were up against a side that has never gone beyond the preliminary round of any continental club competition. GU refused to lie down in the opening stages of the game, which clearly frustrated Pirates. But normal business resumed when Pirates' striker, Katlego Mashego struck a sweet low shot after selling a dummy to three GU defenders. It was 1-0 at halftime and the plot was still intact.

Just seven minutes into the second half, Bennett Chenene's clinical header made the score line emphatic and Pirates were cruising. It was all Pirates until four minutes from time, when the plot went horrendously wrong. A gusty GU forced Mashego to head the ball past his goalkeeper to reduce the margin to 2-1 in the 86th minute. 

This galvanised the Botswana champions as substitute, Steven Maposa fired a priceless equaliser two minutes later. The Reds stood firm and resisted intense pressure to knock-out their fancied opponents on the away goals rule after the first leg in Gaborone ended 0-0. The feat meant that GU made history in two ways. The Reds have become the first Botswana side to eliminate a South African team from a continental club competition. Besides, GU is the first Botswana club to clear the first hurdle in the CAF Champions League. At 2-2, Pirates knew they were down and out. Their dream of emulating the 'Class of 1995' evaporated in front of their partisan, vuvuzela blowing fans.

A 'small team' from Botswana had literally spoilt the party.

What was supposed to be a crowning moment turned into a clowning moment for both Pirates and South Africa.It will now be etched in the annals of history that GU dumped Pirates out of the 2010 Orange CAF Champions League on a day that the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was officially opened. What a way to spoil such an auspicious occasion for the hosts. 

It was supposed to be the re-birth of a Pirates side that badly wanted to emulate the 1995 heroes.  The CAF Champions League was seen as the competition that will redeem Pirates' season that is trophy-less this far.  But that was not to be as a club teeming with stars, sponsorship and boasting a multi-million squad succumbed to a club of semi-professionals and a shoe-string budget.  The least paid Pirates player is said to be earning around R20,000 a month, an astronomical figure than can pay the first GU 11 and leave enough change to pay reserves. 

But that huge gulf was hardly evident on Sunday as GU tore the form-book into shreds to register a famous result. GU will now face Curepipe Starlight from Mauritius who beat La Passe of Seychelles 3-1.

The Mauritians go through 3-2 on aggregate after losing the first leg 1-0. The first leg fixtures will be played on the weekend of March 19-21 with the reverse fixtures in a fortnight.

Meanwhile, Uniao Flamengo Santos sang the blues in front of their supporters when they went down 3-1 to visitors, Costa Do Sol in the CAF Confederations Cup to crash out 5-1 on aggregate. This leaves GU as the country's only representative in Africa.

First round fixtures: Away leg: March 19-21; Return leg April 2-4 
APR (Rwa) - Tout Puissant Mazembe (DRC)
Djoliba (Mli) - ASc Lingure (Sen) 
Ismaily Egy) - USS Tamponnaise (Reu) 
Africa Sports (Civ) - El Hilal (Sud)
Raja Casablanca (Mar) - Petro Atletico (Ang)
Club Africain (Tun) - JS Kabylie (Alg)
Gazelle (Tch) - El Merreikh (Sud)
Esperance Tunis (Tun) - ASFA Yennenga (Bfa)
Starlight (Mauritius) - Gaborone United (Bot) 
St Eloi Lupopo (DRC) - Dynamos (Zim)
Gunners (Zim) - Al-Ahly (Egy)
Ittihad (Lby) - Difaa El Jadida (Mar)
Zanaco (Zam) - ASEC Mimosas (Civ)
Union Douala (Cmr) - Entente Setif Alg)
Tiko United (Cmr) - Heartland FC (Ngr)
SuperSport United (Afs) - Ferroviario Maputo (Moz)

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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