Pirates to face Setif in Ghana
Bucs the latest SA club to face travel hiccup
Orlando Pirates may end up playing all their CAF Confederation Cup group stages fixtures in neutral venues as their opponents have already imposed travel bans on South African clubs.
Pirates are in Group A alongside Algerian outfit ES Sétif, Enyimba of Nigeria and Ahli Benghazi of Libya. Algeria and Nigeria have been sceptical about granting visas to South Africans, citing Covid-19 fears.
In January, Bloemfontein Celtic ended up playing their Confed Cup first round away leg against Nigerian side Rivers United in Benin. This was after the Nigerian government had imposed strict coronavirus protocols on the SA club.
Last Sunday, Algerian club CR Belouizdad couldn’t host Mamelodi Sundowns on home turf, taking the Champions League Group B clash to Tanzania. The Brazilians' trip to Algeria was cancelled at the eleventh hour due to travel restrictions.
In another similar scenario, Kaizer Chiefs were denied visas to travel to Morocco, also in north Africa, where they were billed to take on local giants Wydad Casablanca in the Champions League Group C match earlier last month. This fixture was eventually played in the Burkina Faso capital last Sunday.
Last week Libya announced that the 10-year ban from hosting international has been lifted. The ban had been imposed due to the civil war in that north African country. It remains to be seen if the Libyans will follow fellow regional counterparts in banning SA clubs due to coronavirus concerns.
Pirates will meet their opponents, Sétif, at a neutral venue, Ghana’s Accra Sports Stadium, next Wednesday. SA Football Association (Safa) spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi confirmed the arrangement. However, he emphasised that it was premature to conclude all Pirates’ away games would be played on neutral turfs.
“It’s not an issue of being denied entry. It’s an issue of long process to get visas, but I can confirm Pirates will play the Algerian club [Sétif] in Ghana. We will be looking at this issue on country to country basis. The other two fixtures [against Benghazi and Enyimba] we will look at it when the time comes," Chimhavi told Sowetan yesterday.
“It’s not a blanket approach. We are going to approach this case by case. You might find out that certain SA people are flying to these countries, so it’s the issue of long visa process, not that they are denying SA entry."
Pirates’ senior administrator Floyd Mbele said: “At the moment we’ve not received any communication. I can’t talk about things I don’t know.’’
But as far as inability to travel to north Africa is concerned, that could be a blessing in disguise for SA clubs as that means travelling shorter distances to neutral venues, as it happened with Downs and Chiefs at the weekend.
Pirates Confed Cup away games:
March 10: v Sétif
April 2: v Benghazi
April 28: v Enyimba
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