JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – SuperSport United captain Dean Furman has labelled the South African club “special” ahead of a CAF Confederation Cup semi-final first leg against Club Africain of Tunisia this weekend.
The clubs meet Sunday in Pretoria while title-holders TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo host FUS Rabat of Morocco in Lubumbashi.
“There is something special about his team,” said midfield enforcer Furman of a team that take an 11-match unbeaten African run into the biggest game in the history of the club.
SuperSport failed to get beyond the play-offs in four previous appearances in the second-tier club competition that is the African version of the UEFA Europa League.
Now they are two matches away from a home-and-away final offering a record $1.25 million (1.05 million euros) to the winners.
“Who knows what we can achieve,” pondered Furman. “There is an amazing spirit in this team — a refusal to concede defeat.
“We have endured some difficult moments, like trailing by two goals away to Mazembe in the blazing heat of central Africa and clawing back to draw.
“Some of my team-mates have been punched in the face during off-the-ball incidents unnoticed by referees on our way to the semi-finals.
“I am sure many people had written us off when we trailed Zesco United in Zambia as the quarter-final entered stoppage time.
“But we believed that there would be one more chance to equalise and when a cross fell, Thuso (Phala) scored. That was a truly special moment, a wonderful feeling.”
SuperSport, who are bankrolled by a Johannesburg-based pan-African TV channel with the same name, held Zesco 2-2 and advanced on away goals after a goalless first leg in Pretoria.
Phala scored both goals, which compensated for a below-par performance from 2017 Confederation Cup leading scorer Jeremy Brockie, a New Zealander.
Club Africain, the 2011 Confederation Cup runners-up, were involved in another tight last-eight tussle, edging Mouloudia Alger of Algeria 2-1 overall.
Teenager Moataz Zemzemi and veteran Saber Khalifa scored the goals that brought victory to a team coached by former AC Milan and Italy striker Marco Simone.
Mazembe were by far the most impressive quarter-final winners, hammering Al Hilal Obied 5-0 in Lubumbashi after returning from Sudan with a one-goal advantage.
The Congolese have an impressive 10-title record in CAF competitions, bettered only by the 19 successes of Al Ahly of Egypt.
They are the only semi-finalists boasting an unbeaten Confederation Cup record this season and appear to have found a long-absent consistent scorer in Ben Malango.
Shock 2010 Confederation Cup winners FUS have lost four of five away matches and a defence marshalled by Senegalese Ass Mandaw Sy must do without suspended Saad Ait Khorsa.