not out of it

Linda Moreotsene

Linda Moreotsene

Platinum Stars, who meet Tunisian side CS Sfaxien in the second leg of their Confederations Cup match on Sunday, are positive about their chances of upsetting the champions in front of their home crowd.

Stars and Mamelodi Sundowns - who take a 1-0 lead to Egyptian side Haras el-Hodoud on Saturday - will once again attempt to win glory in Africa.

But as The Tycoons' coach Miguel Gamondi puts it, when Sfaxien snatched a 2-2 draw from Stars in Rustenburg in the first leg a week ago after trailing Stars by two goals in the first half, the result was tantamount to a 4-2 loss for Gamondi's side.

So infuriated was the normally affable Argentinian that his phone was permanently on voice-mail the entire week, as if in mourning, which he probably was.

"I wondered why, when we were leading 2-0, we had to go and concede two cheap goals and end up drawing against a team we had so dominated. I was so shocked and disappointed that we failed to show character when it mattered most," Gamondi said.

However disappointed he was, Gamondi recognised the quality of the opposition.

"Sfax reached the final of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago and were eventually beaten by Ahly. I say to my players that they are so close to being in the big league in other ways, but our mental strength keeps letting us down," he said.

None of Stars' senior players - the likes of Stanley Kgatla, Michael Khaile and Dingane Masanabo - feature in national teams, except goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini who gets regular call-ups from the Zimbabwean national team.

This inexperience can be crushing, admits Gamondi. But his message is clear, South African football is still far too insular, with domestic competitions being regarded as more important than continental ones.

"I think the answer could be found in the South African history. For instance, there is more interest in the Charity Spectacular than the Champions League. In North Africa, teams strive to be in the top four so they can compete on the continent," Gamondi said.

As straight-talking midfielder Edward Williams put it, Stars threw away the match, just like they did earlier against Egypt's Al Ahly in the Champions League.

But, said Williams, the situation can be salvaged provided his team makes use of the experience they have amassed on the continent and start believing in themselves.