We are going to ’write history’, says Kaizer Chiefs captain Bernard Parker
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JOHANNESBURG - If football matches were won on enthusiasm alone, Patrice Motsepe – the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) – might just as well hand the CAF Champions League trophy to Bernard Parker.
Generally reserved and often calculated with his words, the Kaizer Chiefs captain exuded uncharacteristic energy and confidence during the virtual pre-match press conference ahead of tonight’s final against holders and record champions Al Ahly.
Defying massive odds can do that to a man. After all, Parker and Co were not expected to be out in Casablanca, Morocco, for the ultimate stage of the continent’s premier club knockout cup competition. Damn, they shouldn’t even have gotten out of the group stages if the experts were to be believed.
Not only did they sneak into the knockout stages but Amakhosi overcame a Wydad Casablanca side that had hitherto smashed them 3-0 and had foreseen a place in the final as somewhat of a right for them given their stadium was to be the venue.
Chiefs, however, spectacularly upset the apple cart by beating Wydad in the semi-final to become arguably the unlikeliest finalists in the competition’s history. Forgive them then for being as cock-a-hoop as Parker was as he addressed the media yesterday afternoon.
“We just can’t wait for the whistle for the game to start,” Parker said of tonight’s match at the Stade Mohammed V in the Moroccan capital. “Because with the preparation we’ve gone through, I believe we are stronger. We’ve built ourselves stronger than we have been in the competition. With our spirit of togetherness, we will go all out for the 90 minutes to write history. And what is on every player’s mind, including the technical staff, is for us to leave everything on the field of play.”
When glorious history is within touching point, one cannot help but be as eager as Parker is. A veteran of 10 years at the club, Parker knows just what success tonight will mean for the club that only recently celebrated a half century of existence. The striker is aware that Amakhosi – renowned domestically as the cup kings and country’s most successful club – last won a continental title two decades ago and a minor one at that. Amakhosi’s CAF Cup Winners Cup triumph from 2001 definitely pales into insignificance when compared to bitter rivals Orlando Pirates’ Champions Cup win in 1995 as well as Mamelodi Sundowns’ victory in the Champions League in 2016.
It is for that reason that Parker and Co are hyped up for tonight.
“Every player is well aware of the history of the club and what’s been going on at the club throughout the years. The blood, sweat and tears shed for the club to be such a big club. And this is the moment, every player is aware of the position we are in in terms of writing history. With the club having turned 51 this year, it will be good to lift this trophy.”
And Parker, who is now on a short-term contract with the club after the one he had ended in June, is in no doubt they have the squad to deliver. “We are blessed to have such a good mix of players – young, old and middle. The young players are definitely happy and excited to be part of the team, so are the rest of the guys. The good thing is that in our team we have a good spirit and an open policy. With the backing of the technical staff, we share ideas. The young players do ask questions of the senior guys because of the experience that we have, and today everyone is clear about their roles. What’s left is for us to go on and execute. All the players are happy and we all know that happy players are performing players. It is just for us to perform once again, after the performances we’ve shown (so far). ”
And he believes they have a trump card for the final – the availability of new coach Stuart Baxter who has finally got his work permit after having watched the semi-final clashes with Wydad from the stands.
“With the coach being on the bench now, it is extra motivation for us. Now, having the coach nearer to us is a plus for us.”
Amakhosi fans the country over will no doubt be praying it is as they hope to see Parker lift continental club football’s most coveted trophy tonight.