On a warm and dry Gauteng afternoon – December 2 1995, to be exact – a hushed silence fell over Orlando Pirates fans gathered at the FNB Stadium at the end of a CAF Champions Club final.
Having won the league in 1994, followed by a spectacular run that defied all odds in the continental competition, South Africa’s hope had just been held to a 2-2 draw by Asec Mimosas of Abidjan in the final first leg.
Helman Mkhalele had put the Buccaneers a goal up in the fifth minute before John Zaki (18th) and Donald Sié’s (31st minute) strikes brought the stadium to silence. Gavin Lane levelled matters three minutes before half time, but there were to be no more goals.
The only noise that could be heard was from the small band of drum-beating Asec followers who had come from their abodes in central Johannesburg, Hillbrow and Yeoville to witness the drama.
This irritated the Bucs’ myriad fans so much that they started attacking them. A few were injured as they jumped into the tunnel that surrounded the stadium at the time, before running onto the sanctuary of the empty pitch.
The country was in shock.
South Africa was still taking baby steps in international football, having only rejoined the global football family in 1992, and even some of the experts insisted that an away goal counted for two.
Pirates supporters scratched their heads trying to figure what their club needed to do to stage a dramatic comeback in the second leg.
The answer came in the 73rd minute, on December 16 1995, at a packed Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan, when Jerry “Legs of Thunder” Skhosana beat two Asec defenders and scored the historic goal that earned his club the 3-2 victory that saw them crowned Kings of Africa.
A sense of déjà vu must have engulfed the club’s spiritual home, Orlando Stadium, at the end of their CAF Champions League Last 16 encounter against FC Platinum of Zimbabwe that ended in a 2-2 draw on Friday.
The current generation of football supporters is much wiser. The message is clear: Pirates must get out and beat Horoya Athletic Club in Guinea this Saturday.
Friday’s result leaves the South Africans third in Group B with six points after a Thembinkosi Lorch strike midway through the second half and an Augustine Mulenga equaliser with three minutes remaining cancelled a 27th-minute own goal by Alfred Ndengane and a Rainsome Pavari first half tap-in.
Topping the group is Espérance Sportive de Tunis with 11 points, followed by Horoya with seven and Pirates at six, while Platinum props up the table with only two.
Friday’s comeback was typical of Pirates of late. During the week coach Milutin Sredojevic registered his concern about two aspects of his team, defence and their tendency to start games very slow.
The club has also tended to consider first, as it happened on Tuesday night, where they scored late to draw level 1-1 with Bloemfontein Celtic at home. When they beat AmaZulu 4-1 a fortnight ago, Usuthu were first to find the back of the net. Even in the Soweto Derby against archrivals Kaizer Chiefs they had to come back from a goal down to level matters and end the match in a draw.
However, a draw will not be good enough on Saturday as they need all three points to go through to the quarterfinals. However, Horoya could be a tough nut to crack at home as they will also be eyeing a spot in the next round.
Micho must keep on drumming it into his charges: win, win, win!