Ostriches seek flying start in Gabon
Having gone over nine months without a competitive match, the Ostriches must now flap their wings on a 2, 771km journey, travelling deep into Africa for their next football fix.
Orapa United’s return to action sees them take on Gabon side AS Mangasports in the first leg of the CAF Confederations Cup preliminary round this Sunday.
The Boys from Boteti departed for the Gabonese capital, Libreville – the city where the national team lost 2-1 to Mali in AFCON 2012 – on Tuesday.
With the return leg scheduled for Saturday 18 September at the National Stadium, Orapa know that a decent result on the West African coast will go a long way to securing their progress to the next round.
The Oranges will be desperate for success in what is the continent’s second biggest club competition. Last time round, they fell foul of the away goal rule, losing out to Rwanda’s AS Kigali despite a 2-2 aggregate scoreline.
Back then, Orapa went into the away leg on the back of a 2-1 victory in Gaborone. However, they suffered late heartache on a humid December night in Kigali.
Seconds from progression, with the score locked at 0-0, Abubakar Lawal popped up with an 89th minute winner to send Kigali through and Orapa crashing out of Africa.
Desperate to make up for lost time, despite the less-than-ideal preparations, new Head Coach, Philimon Makhwengwe was typically upbeat when he spoke to Voice Sport shortly before his team left for Gabon.
“This past three weeks of sports suspension affected us greatly because we couldn’t do much. Mind you, it was only us, Jwaneng Galaxy and Double Action who were allowed to play, so we made it a point to come down south and play one team for a friendly. But we are not using it as an excuse or angry about it because saving lives comes first,” maintained the experienced tactician.
Focusing on the positives, Makhwengwe revealed he has a full strength squad to pick from, with his charges hungry to prove themselves.
“We could have played many friendly games in South Africa but due to Covid-19 we decided to not embark on that journey but to intensify training locally. We are ready for any opponent and our intention is to play a cautious attacking game,” he said.
Makhwengwe further stressed the 2019 Orange FA Cup winners were looking to right the wrongs of the past and improve Orapa’s dismal continental record.
In the 2018 edition, the Ostriches were outplayed by Angolan side Pedro de Launde 6-0 in the qualifiers, while the previous year they had their wings clipped at the same stage, losing 4-2 to Swaziland’s Mbabane Swallows.
“All along the team has been getting knocked out in the first round so now we aim to reach the latter stages of the competition,” Makhwengwe declared boldly.