Richard Ofora (Gallo Images)
Orlando Pirates seek to dispel the belief that they are easy prey for Moroccan rivals by winning Renaissance Berkan in the CAF Confederations Cup final in Uyo, Nigeria on Friday.
Last season in the quarterfinals of the second level African competitions “Bucanoirs” suffered from Raja Casablanca with a score of 5: 1.
After playing a 1-1 draw in South Africa, Raja increased the lead by four goals at home before taking his foot off the accelerator and saving the visitors from further humiliation.
“There will be no repeat,” said the Pirates goalkeeper from Ghana Richard Ofora after a workout. “We are going to Nigeria to win the final.
“I didn’t play against Raja, but I remember that match. The Moroccans led by four goals long before the break. It was a huge stain on the Pirates record in Africa.
“We don’t underestimate Berkan, especially after they scored four goals to eliminate TP Mazembe (from the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the semi-finals.
“I appreciate that in Mazembe a player was removed at the end of the second half, but when was the last time any club in Africa scored four in a match against Mazembe?
“The Pirates have had a bad domestic season, and the only trophy we can win is the Confederations Cup. Fans only remember the winners, so we have to succeed.”
The Pirates are seventh in the near-completed DStv Premiership Championship, which has already won the Mamelodi Sundowns, and has left two domestic knockout competitions ahead of schedule.
The Buccaneers have reserved all the best for the Confederations Cup, the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League, especially in North Africa, a region where they have often fought in the past.
There was a 2-0 victory in Group B over JS Saoura in Algeria, as well as a victory in the first semifinal match with the same score against Al Ahly Tripoli in Libya.
If the Pirates are able to regain the form shown in these matches, they have a chance to become the first South African winners of the Confederations Cup after losing in the 2015 final to Etoile Sahel of Tunisia.
Twenty years earlier, Pirates had become the first South African club to win in Africa, lifting the African Champions Cup (now the CAF Champions League).
“The heroes of 1995 are remembered with warmth. We want to achieve the same status,” said Ofori, who hopes to get to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with qualifying Ghana.
Berkan, known as the Orange Boys because they come from the northeastern part of Morocco, where citrus is grown, is not as well known in the world as the Pirates.
But they are proud of the Confederations Cup record, finishing second after Zamalek in 2019 and defeating another Egyptian club, the Pyramids, in the next final.
They had a harder time reaching the final than the Pirates, leading the group to which former African champions ASEC Mimosas from Côte d’Ivoire fell before ousting Al-Masri from Egypt and Mazembe in knockout matches.
The Offers made a big difference after recovering from injury during this African campaign to bolster a defense that was sometimes porous.
The biggest threat to the Pirates could come from Youssef el-Fahli, whose five goals, including a double against Mazembe, make him Berkana’s top scorer in the Confederations Cup.
Like many of his teammates, El Fahli is tall and strong, and Pirates central defenders, including Nigerian Olisa Ndah, could face a tough time when Berkan will seek to use air power.
“It will be a very tactical final,” the Pirates coach predicted. Fadlu Davids. “The winner will be the team that wants the trophy the most.”