Kaizer Chiefs target Champions League after double triumph
South Africa's most popular club, Kaizer Chiefs, have turned their attention to the African Champions League, after English-born coach Stuart Baxter guided the Johannesburg club to their first league and cup double since 1992.
Chiefs clinched the double in front of a full-house crowd of 54,000 at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium, after beating holders SuperSport United 1-0 on Saturday, with striker Bernard Parker netting the winner four minutes into extra-time.
Coming just a week after they won their first league title in eight years, Chiefs' FA Cup success is their first since they beat arch rivals Orlando Pirates in a penalty shoot out in 2006.
With their cup success, Amakhosi, as Chiefs are popularly known to the vast legion of fans around the country, became the second team to win the double in three seasons, after Pirates did so in 2011-12.
The club's chairman Kaizer Motaung confirmed that they will play in next year's Champions League, amid speculation that they were against the idea of playing in continental competitions, citing the high cost of travel and the relatively meagre prize money on offer.
Chiefs picked up a total of 19 million rand ($2 million) for winning the double, and the two quarterly league incentives, whereas the prize money for winning the Champions League, which involves unsubsidised travel, is $1.5 million.
"We will definitely play in the Champions League - we have to, for the pride of the nation," Motaung told satellite broadcaster SuperSport.
"It is expensive to participate in the tournament, but we will try and find a way to overcome that problem," he added.
Motaung, however, said he hoped that the Confederation of African Football (Caf) would address some of the problems surrounding African club competitions by the time his team make their third appearance in the Champions League, following previous campaigns in 1993 and 2005.
"Surely there are things that need to be rectified by Caf," Motaung said.
"We heard what Pirates went through in DR Congo [when they alleged that they were intimidated at an away tie against TP Mazembe] and those are some of the things that need to be attended to."
Chiefs' return to next year's Champions League will mark the first time they have competed in continental competition since 2005 - when they were banned for three years and fined $1,500 by Caf for failing to honour their Confederation Cup fixture against Egypt's Ismaily.
In 2002, Chiefs were also fined by Caf, after refusing to play a match in Madagascar, in defence of the African Cup Winners' Cup title they had won the year before.
They will also hope to emulate rivals Orlando Pirates, who remain the only South African team to have won the Champions League, when they beat Asec Abidjan in 1995.
Mamelodi Sundowns were the only other South African club to reach a continental final, when they lost to Egyptian giants Al Ahly in 2001.
South Africa's poor performances in African club competitions - with Pirates being the last team to reach the group stages of the Champions League in 2006 - has resulted in the country being restricted to one representative in Caf club competitions, instead of the two allocated to higher-ranked countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria and Ivory Coast.