Fans of Egypt's Al-Ahly celebrate after Mohamed Aboutrika scores a goal against South Africa's Orlando Pirates during their African Champions League final soccer match at the Arab Contractors Stadium in Cairo, November 10, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Orlando Pirates coach Roger de Sa was struck by the fan atmosphere at the Champion League final against Ahly on Sunday, suggesting that the team's fans were a major contributor to Ahly's win.
"That is what we are in football for, the atmosphere created by the Ahly fans was fantastic and you have to give it to them and yes it is intimidating to the opposition but we too have home games and perhaps should also do more with our support and atmosphere in our grounds but it certainly was great to be part of that wonderful football atmosphere in the stadium," the former South Africa international told the CAF website after the game.
On Sunday, Ahly welcomed their supporters back to the Arab Contractors' packed stadium for the first time in over 18 months. A crowd ban had been imposed on matches since the Port Said disaster that left more than 70 dead and hundreds injured in a league game between Masry and Ahly in February 2012.
The enthusiastic and eager fans provided a feverish atmosphere that had a great impact on the players.
Player Mohamed Abou-Treika was highly saluted for his performance, as fans hoped they could reverse his decision to retire at the end of the year.
The 35-year-old announced his planned retirement after Egypt's humiliating 6-1 defeat against Ghana in the first leg of the World Cup qualifying playoffs.
De Sa thinks Abou-Treika is still good enough to play for years to come. "He is a very good player and is surely capable of delivering the same quality for more years. Of course we would welcome him at Pirates if he wants to come over," he added in jest.
Young and inexperienced
The Orlando Pirates coach believes his men exceeded expectations this season by making it to the final of Africa's most prestigious competition.
"If you had told me ten months ago that we would be playing in the Champions League final, I would have laughed at you. Not only did we get to the final but to do so after knocking out the likes of TP Mazembe, Esperance and emerge from a group with Zamalek and Al Ahly speaks volumes about the tenacity and ability this Pirates team. I would even say we overachieved in this year's Champions League campaign," de Sa said.
De Sa believes the Pirate's lack of experience was deadly blow against a team like Ahly.
"We had the better of scoring opportunities especially in the first half and at this level of competition the difference is that in PSL we could perhaps have got away with mistakes but Al Ahly are an experienced side and they punished us.
"Having said that, this Pirates side is young compared to Al Ahly and they can only get better and this journey in champions' league has presented us with a platform to build on and it is something we are going to do," de Sa concluded.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)