Cape Town - As the Confederation of African Football (CAF) drew the curtain on 2021, dreamy Pitso Mosimane was taking in the crisp Qatar night air with the South African flag draped over his shoulders.
Coach Mosimane had earlier guided Al Ahly of Egypt to victory over Moroccan side Raja Casablanca in the final of the CAF Super Cup at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, in Qatar.
After the presentation ceremonies Mosimane was joined by fellow South African and his talisman midfielder Percy Tau, who had played a leading role in Al Ahly's final conquest.
The South African group became three when the South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan joined them.
Jordaan was overwhelmed by Mosimane’s success.
“Pitso has won the hearts of one of the most demanding clubs, fans, football and government officials in Egypt,” said Jordaan. “They expect only the best from the No 1 ranked team in Africa.
“He has now delivered his second successive CAF Champions League and third CAF Super Cup win (once with Mamelodi Sundowns). It has made him a firm favourite with all of them in Egypt.
“Percy Tau too has found new energy and passion. He gave me his soaked jersey afterwards. He worked hard in the cause of victory.
“The South Africans made us proud. CAF president Patrice Motsepe completed the contingent of South Africans who made their presence felt at this year’s finale.”
Inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League
The year’s other stand-out South African achievement in African football was the triumphant Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team at the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League in Egypt.
They defeated Ghana’s Hasaacas Ladies 2-0 in the final in Cairo.
Their achievement along with Sundowns men’s team shot the club into world prominence, alongside Spanish giants Barcelona. Only two clubs in the world have won both men and women’s Champions League titles in their regions.
Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021
The Super Cup final in Qatar was a welcome distraction for Motsepe, who had earlier flown in from Cameroon where he made a whistle-stop visit to quell fears that the Africa Cup of Nations would be postponed.
The 2021 Afcon had already been postponed twice because of the pandemic.
In Cameroon, Motsepe gave Cameroon president Paul Biya the assurance that CAF will work with the Cameroon government to implement Covid-19 global best practices at all the venues where the players, match officials, spectators and visitors will be during the tournament.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino has made it known that he would like to see the tournament postponed. The problem Fifa has is that Afcon is clashing with the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. It starts on February 3 and the final is on 12 February. Afcon will take place between January 9 and February 6.
Al Ahly, CAF champions, will be playing in the Club World Cup. They expect as many as 10 players to be playing at Afcon. As a result, they have requested Fifa to postpone the Club World Cup.
Former Egypt international Mido, who played for several clubs in the English Premier League, said Fifa had disrespected Africa with the decision to stage their event while Afcon is in progress.
“Fifa deciding to hold the Club World Cup while Afcon is going on is a sign of disrespect to African football,” said Mido. “It wouldn’t have been the case with the Euros or Copa America.”
CAF Champions League final
One of South Africa’s finest CAF moments this year was Kaizer Chiefs reaching the Champions League final in July. Chiefs had just come off a poor domestic season, and for a while they hovered above the relegation zone.
Al Ahly defeated Chiefs 3-0 in Casablanca, Morocco. Their victory secured a record-extending 10th CAF Champions League title in 13 finals.
Fifa stage-manage CAF elections
In mid-March Motsepe was elected CAF president during the 43rd CAF Congress after a Fifa-brokered deal ensured that the South African tycoon was the lone candidate.
Fifa’s role came in for heavy criticism from some quarters who felt the election was stage-managed.
Infantino responded: “I am delighted that Fifa has been able to contribute, even if just a little, to this crucial moment for football on this great continent.”
World Cup 2022, African qualifiers
Looking ahead to 2022, it is Afcon and the final round of World Cup qualifiers in March as the stand-out events ahead of the Qatar World Cup. In 2021, the World Cup qualifiers threw up several controversies.
After losing their final group phase to Ghana, Bafana Bafana have appealed to Fifa to declare the result null and void. It is unlikely that the appeal will succeed.
Africa will be represented by five teams in Qatar, after two-legged play-offs in March. The 10 teams in the play-offs are (in order of seeding): 1 Senegal, 2 Morocco, 3 Algeria, 4 Tunisia, 5 Nigeria, 6 Egypt, 7 Cameroon, 8 Mali, 9 Ghana and 10 DR Congo.