Chiefs could have a say on whether AmaZulu play in the Caf Champions League or not
AmaZulu's maiden appearance in the Caf Champions League next season hangs in the balance after it emerged that Kaizer Chiefs could have a say on whether the Durban side participates in the premier continental club competition or not.
Usuthu celebrated well into the night after their 1-0 win against Swallows FC on a dramatic penultimate day of the DStv Premiership season ensured that they would finish runners-up to champions Mamelodi Sundowns no matter what happens on the final day of the campaign on Saturday.
The excitement in Durban was understandable as second spot on the Premiership standings also secures a place in the Champions League.
But it has since emerged that should Champions League semifinalist Chiefs go on to win the continental competition in the coming weeks‚ AmaZulu could suddenly find themselves in the cold and out of the event.
Champions League spots are reserved for domestic champions [in this case Sundowns] and runners-up‚ but Chiefs - they have a semifinal date against Morocco's Wydad Casablanca later this month - could put a spanner in the works if they lift this year's prestigious continental club trophy.
Amakhosi would then also qualify for next season’s tournament as defending champions.
It would then be left up to the tournament’s Competitions Committee to decide AmaZulu's fate.
South African Football Association (Safa) chief executive officer Tebogo Motlanthe was hopeful that the Confederation of African Football will not deny AmaZulu the opportunity to play in the competition.
“They (Caf) may extend the spots‚ it depends on what the Caf Competitions Committee decides‚” Motlanthe said.
“Remember that as a country currently we have two Champions League spots‚ and you can’t close Chiefs out if they win the tournament because there must be a defending champion.
“But at the same time you can’t also prejudice AmaZulu because it is a written rule that number two qualifies for the tournament. We used to have three spots. They may decide to have three again‚ depending on the circumstances.”
AmaZulu‚ their fans and even neutrals has been in a celebratory mood since Wednesday night‚ but closer scrutiny of the Caf rules indicates that participation in the tournament is not guaranteed.
Article 5 on under “Engagements” says: “In case the association is allowed to engage two teams and the champion is defending its title‚ only the holder of the title and the champion of the national league will be allowed to be engaged.
“In that particular case‚ the 2nd of the league will not be allowed to engage in CAF Champions League. In case the holder of the title is at the same time is the champion of the national league‚ he will be engaged with the 2nd of the national league and the 3rd classified team will not be allowed to participate.
“In case the holder of the title is at the same time the second of the national league‚ he will be engaged with the 1st of the national league and the 3rd team will not be allowed to engage.
“No Association will be allowed to engage more than two clubs within the CAF Champions League. The association of the holder of CAF Champions league is not allowed to engage another team in case the holder of CAF Champions League is defending its title. Only the holder of the title is engaged from this association when the said association is entitled to only one club.”
After securing the Champions League spot‚ AmaZulu president Sandile Zungu released a video on the club’s social media platforms to express his excitement.
“You have absolutely no idea how happy I am‚ how thrilled I am and how elated I am. Deep inside I am so warm‚ I should be crying actually. You have outperformed yourself‚ gone beyond my initial expectations of what you could achieve this season‚” he said.
“You [the team] have done it for yourself. Imagine if we cemented our top two position assisted by the defeat of Golden Arrows and by the drawing of Orlando Pirates. We did ourselves‚ we beat Swallows and became the second team this season do to so.
“Well done to you‚ now you have cemented yourselves in the hearts of the AmaZulu faithful. You have begun to write your names boldly on that white canvass which will be talked about the historic era of AmaZulu. You have earned it‚ you deserve it and I am humbled by your success.”
Caf officials could not be reached for comment at the time of publishing the story.
Amakhosi‚ who showed marked improvement in their 3-2 win over Golden Arrows on Wednesday under caretaker coaches Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard‚ take on Wydad Casablanca in the Champions League semifinals in two weeks time.
If they overcome the heavy odds to beat Wydad over the two legs - the first match is in Morocco on June 18 and the second in Johannesburg seven days later - Chiefs would then face the winners of the game between Esperance and Al Ahly in the final.