Congolese forward Walter Bwalya has been in the Al Ahly dressing room for barely two months.
But the talented striker is overly aware of the top-secret that landed Ahly ‘three-layered’ glory last season.
He is convinced it may just be the same secret that will spur them on to perform the Houdini Act when they face European champions Bayern Munich on Monday night (20:00).
Mosimane leads his Red Devils troops against the mighty Germany champions in what could easily be his most adrenaline inducing assignment in recent times.
Granted, the final of the CAF Champions League was massive for so many reasons. Not just for Mosimane.
Al Ahly had not won the final since 2013, a stage they are known to covet so much. A lot of the players were lifting the trophy for the first time, having heard of how the club had previously won it eight times.
But then again, the FIFA World Club Cup presents a whole new dimension.
Ahly’s eccentric goalkeeper Mohamed El Shennawi has made it clear that playing at this stage is the utmost dream for any footballer. So has his new teammate Bwalya, pictured below.
“Qualifying for the second round and taking on Bayern Munich would be amazing for us [the players] because we’ll be taking on the best team in Europe. It’s what every player dreams of,” the Ahly captain, El Shennawi, said.
And so when Ahly trot onto the turf of the Al Rayyan Stadium, one of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Stadiums, they are likely to feel that pounding sensation in their hearts. Understandably so. Anyone would.
But there is something that could actually spur them on against their much fancied Bavarian opponents. It’s an unusual chemistry.
In an interview with FARPost, Bwalya says there is a mutual desire every Ahly player shares with Mosimane.
“It’s really an honour to work with Coach Pitso. Everyone knows what he wants in his career and everyone in the team knows what they need to do,” says Bwalya, who provided the assist on Thursday when the Egyptian giants beat Qatari side Al Duhail 1-0.
Bwalya, often mistaken for a Zambian after his successful stints with Forest Rangers and Nkana in the southern African country, speaks as though he has heard the story of how Mosimane shared his vision with Gerald Modabi some 21 years ago.
It was in July 2000. Mosimane was only aged 36 at the time. He dreamt of coaching at the highest level.
Here he is today – age 56, guiding arguably Africa’s biggest football club in a semi-final at the international club football tournament.
Interestingly, that same vision he shared with Modabi, naked in the shower, is known to his Ahly players, at least according to the 25-year-old winger, Bwalya.
Even more fascinating, the Lubumbashi-born star says the former Mamelodi Sundowns mentor has sold his utmost dream to the players. He has them believing they can achieve anything they put their minds to, just like he has.
Of course, Mosimane is on record as saying his players should “play for fun” because they “have nothing to lose” against their world class opponents.
But behind closed doors, he has drummed up the message that “imagine if we win, our life will turn around”.
Luckily, his players have embraced the ‘behind closed doors’ message and they are prepared to fight for it.
“We’re excited and ready for the challenge,” Bwalya tells FARPost.
El Shennawi further says “the team wants to go as far as they can and have a good tournament”.
For Bwalya, who signed from El Gouna last month, the Cairo giants want it so bad.
“It’s us who want it the most. They (Bayern) don’t have anything to lose,” he says.
Thursday night’s game, in which Bwalya had a goal disallowed after a VAR check, could have gone any direction.
Al Duhail threw everything they could at the nine-time African champions after the Egyptians took the lead through Hussein El Shahat.
“It was a wonderful win for the team and all our supporters,” Bwalya adds.
For the greater part of the game, they had to contain the hosts, who had mercurial Kenyan forward Michael Olunga in their team.
Besides the Bayern excitement, Bwalya says playing in a team like Al Ahly is the most important step in my career. And then taking on Bayern would be his biggest footballing assignment ever.
“To wear an Al Ahly kit has put many responsibilities on my shoulders. I’m aware of this and ready, I will do my best with Al Ahly to write my name in the history books of this big club. I used to follow Al Ahly when I was a player in the Zambian league,” said Bwalya.
The team of the Century’s Tunisian defender Ali Maaloul is convinced they can pull it off on Monday. This time, however, they are coming against the free-scoring Robert Lewandowski, a man deservedly regarded as one of the best strikers in Bundesliga history.
Even still, Maaloul says they will throw everything at Bayern, just to make their fans happy.
“It will be a tough game between African and European champions. We must prepare well, be fully focused and do our best to defend Al Ahly’s jersey in the match.”
A man regarded as the best defender ever to come out of Egypt, Wael Gomaa, believes Mosimane and his charges have already outdone themselves by beating Al-Duhail SC.
“It was very important to win the first match in the tournament, I was afraid to lose the Al Duhail game but now I can say the mission is completed and I want the players to play against Bayern Munich for fun and to enjoy the football,” he told FARPost.
“I don’t want them to think if we can beat Bayern Munich or not. I don’t want the players to think about this, I want them to enjoy the moment, they are playing against the best team in the world, that will not happen every day so I want all the players to play good football and enjoy the game.”
But the former Bafana Bafana coach, Mosimane, knows just how any dream will go through steps before it manifests.
“We are taking the Club World Cup step by step. In the beginning, we wanted to win the Caf Champions League title to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup then we wanted to defeat Al Duhail SC to reach the semi-finals. Now, we are facing a tough challenge against European champions,” Mosimane said.
Ahly have made five previous appearances at the Club World Cup, the last of which was in 2013. Their best result was a third-place finish at Japan’s 2006 edition.
<span;>They will be buoyed by the fact that they have previously met Bayern Munich in two friendly matches; the first was in 1977 that ended with a 2-1 win for the Egyptian team, and the second was in 2012 that ended with a 2-1 victory for the Bavarians.
Whatever the case, Mosimane has a big dream and his players seem to have embraced that same dream.
But it remains to be seen if they will upset the apple cart. Anyway, only time will tell – in a matter of hours.
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By Mthokozisi Dube