ONLY 270 minutes of action now stand between Sakubva-born midfield enforcer, Willard Katsade and his South African football outfit, Kaizer Chiefs reaching the Promised Land.
The Soweto giants are three hurdles away from being crowned champions of the continent if they successfully navigate their path past the semi-finals and also come out victorious in the decider.
Amakhosi square off against Moroccan giants Wydad Athletic Club over the double-legged semis, with a ticket to the finals on stake. The first match is on tomorrow (Saturday) away in Casablanca and Amakhosi host the reverse fixture next weekend.
The other semi-finals clash features Al Ahly and Esperance.
Despite stuttering to an unconvincing eighth place finish in their domestic campaign, Katsande believes they have what it takes to go all the distance on the continent.
“This is an important assignment for us. It is likely to be tough considering what is at stake, but we are geared for the challenge. So far we have done very well in this competition and are out to maintain that fine run. We have not come this far to give up easily, especially with the finishing line now within sight. We are gunning for gold.
“This is the only way we can salvage our season and make up for the disappointing outing we suffered in the local Premiership. We are on the verge of something great and will not allow it to slip through our fingers,” declared the former Highway player.
While Chiefs are only making their debut at this stage of the competition, their rivals are used to it as they have made it past this level on several occasions before.
Wydad Athletic Club are two-time champions of the competition (1992 and 2017). They made it to the finals in 2011 and 2019 and were semi-finalists in the previous edition.
However, Katsande insists this is a new and different ball game.
Past achievements do not count, he reckons.
The combative grafter said they are not intimidated by the profile of their Moroccan counterparts, adding that their opponents can underrate them at their own peril.
Said the gritty midfield hardman: “We are ready to compete. Their history in the tournament does not intimidate us and it will not be a factor when we meet. In fact, this underdog tag suits us very well and puts us under no pressure to deliver. We are going to use that to our advantage to spring a surprise.”
But there is an intriguing subplot to the fixture.
Interestingly, it is a battle of familiar foes as the two teams were in the same Group C — alongside Horoya from Guinea and Angola’s Petro de Luanda — from where they progressed to the quarter-finals stage.
In that double duel, the duo got the better of each other, with Chiefs winning their home tie 1-0 and losing 4-0 away.
Katsande played in both matches, starting in the first leg and coming off the bench in the return fixture. This sets the stage for a potentially fireworks-filled thriller as the antagonists now know a thing or two about each other.
For the former Warriors skipper, it is one game at a time as he underscored the need to grind out a good result in the first leg.
“The importance of picking up a positive match outcome away is not lost to us. We want to score goals there and possibly keep a shutout at home, where we hope to finish off the job,” said Katsande, emphasising on the need to put good preparations into the ties: “I think it will come down to who wants it more. At the end of it all this will carry the day, but we are going to fight with everything that we have.”
As one of the seasoned players and team captains, the club will be banking on his experience. He is a veteran of the game and has competed in Africa before as he was the commander of the Warriors troops at the 2017 Afcon finals.
Katsande called for mental fortitude among his teammates.
Kaizer Chiefs are the last team standing from southern Africa among three other rivals from the north left in the competition’s final four.
Amakhosi are hoping that the return of coach Stuart Baxter for a second spell in charge of the Soweto side will inspire and propel them to glory after they parted ways with Gavin Hunt late last month following a shambolic domestic campaign.