Leopards' hopes high - Nation behind Lidoda Duvha's CAF play-off
BLACK Leopards seldom enjoy massive support from the nation.
However, the heroics of the Limpopo side in the CAF Confederation Cup haven't gone unnoticed.
Their hard-fought victories so far in the competition have not only propelled them to the edge of a remarkable achievement, but appear to have also won them widespread public affection.
Lidoda Duvha will have the rare backing of the nation when they face Sudan side Al-Merreikh in their vital play-off second-leg tie at Ellis Park Stadium, in a match tomorrow at 3pm that they need to win to advance to the group stages.
Leopards lost 3-2 to the Sudanese in the first leg a fortnight ago, but they put themselves in a position of strength by scoring two crucial away goals.
A 1-0 win will see the Leopards through on the away goal rule, but there is still work to be done to that end.
Al-Merreikh will not be pushovers and Leopards might have to dig deep for a result if they are to extend their fairy-tale run in the competition.
Led by Brazilian coach Heron Ferreira, Al-Merreikh have dominated the Sudanese league in recent seasons, defending their league championship on several occasions.
Inspired by two-goal hero Ahmed El Basha, Al-Merreikh will be looking to finish the job they started at home a fortnight ago. On loan from Libyan side Al-Nasr, El Basha has proved influential for them in the competition, as have attacking midfielder Nasreldin Sheighel and Nigerian-born Sudanese international Kelechi Osunwa.
But Leopards skipper Mongezi Bobe was confidence personified yesterday, vowing Leopards will go to war against Al-Merreikh.
"We've made a lot of sacrifices to get this far in this journey. It can't end here," Bobe said. "We are confident because we had a good first-leg match, considering that it was away. We collected two away goals that should make things a bit easier on the second game. But there is a challenge to overcome and we have to win."
Safa president Kirsten Nematandani confirmed the association's support for Leopards, saying: "Their success augurs well for the country. We will give them all the support they need to succeed in this tournament.
"They have inspired the country so far and we wish them all the best."