The home fans were as boring as always, the team played their best football in a long time, which was rewarded with a priceless 1-0 win over the champions. but that said, some people think that APR haven’t done anything yet to suggest they can eliminate TP Mazembe from the Orange Champions League.
It’s been so long since Amahoro stadium was as full as it was for yesterday’s historical clash between Rwanda’s champions APR and DR Congo’s African club champions, TP Mazembe. Without wondering so much, you could tell by the large masses that turned out how important this game meant not only to both sets of fans but also to the two countries basing on their history.
You could say it’s something that we’re used to but the President of the Republic, Paul Kagame was among the full capacity crowd inside the 25,000-seater Amahoro stadium, which obviously added more significance to the occasion.
Not very often or everywhere that a President turns up to watch a club football game.
The visitors had a following of about a quarter of the crowd inside the stadium, including their club president Moise Katumbi, Despite being inevitably overly outnumbered by the home fans, it was the visiting fans who made the most noise throughout the match—you could mistake them for the locals!
Unlike the boring home fans, who as always cheered only when an APR player did one little dummy here and there or had a sniff on goal, Mazembe fans, at least those close to where I was sitting, sung from first whistle to the final, even when their team conceded an 88th minute killer goal.
Maybe, it was the confidence they have in their team that made them sing and kept believing, even in added time that an equalizer would come from somewhere but it didn’t….and they kept believing even at full time.
“One goal is nothing, you (APR) haven’t done anything to suggest you’ve eliminated us, we shall beat you in Kinshasa, we have our four goals there, so don’t celebrate yet…..” an unidentified visiting Mazembe fan told whoever cared to listen as we came out of Amahoro.
He wasn’t or isn’t alone in this school of thought, there are very many who share his sentiments regardless of which team they support, and until APR go to Kinshasa or Lubumbashi or wherever else the return match will be played and get a result there, they can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
On the field of play yesterday, the Black of White of Rwanda matched their Congolese rivals stride for stride, at times especially in the second period, APR even looked better on the ball than their more celebrated opponents. At some point, you couldn’t see any difference between the two teams.
The champions had their spells in the game as their quality showed whenever they had the ball, especially with their inspirational skipper Tressor Mputu in possession.
Seeing him for the first playing for 90 minutes, I was impressed with what I saw; the man deserves the praise he gets. He’s the heartbeat of TP Mazembe, almost every ball going for the attack goes through him.He’s that good.
Now I understand why the DR Congo international gets the $10.000 monthly wages in addition to other benefits.
Someone told me, he was the main reason Amahoro was that full. Everyone wanted to see the next big thing in African football live in action. And without playing to his full potential, Mputu didn’t disappoint those who paid their hard earned cash to see him play.
Why can’t APR play like this every time they step on the field, be it in the local league or on the continent? How many teams would come here and get a result if the “bikonas” were playing with the same determination as they did against Mazembe? Not very many, I’d assume.
Erik Paske’s side didn’t allow to be intimated by the occasion of facing the reigning African champions, and credit to them for standing up to the plate against the best team on the continent, which has a reported annual budget of $10 millions.
I don’t know how much APR operates on but am sure it doesn’t reach $1M, nonetheless skipper Patrick Mafisango was as good as anyone in Mazembe team yesterday.
He was my man of the match. Maybe he had something to prove to Mazembe, and if that was the case, then his performance on APR left wing didn’t do his cause any harm.
Last Sunday, I predicted a narrow home win and a heavy away defeat for the ten-time Rwandan champions, and at the halfway mark, nothing has changed. Whether it was complacency on the part of Mazembe or not, I surely expected more from them than what I saw.
APR fans believe in their team’s away form in this competition and they’ll be thinking of a good result in Kinshasa or Lubumbashi but like that Mazembe fan said, one goal might just not be enough as the holders will throw everything in APR’s face in the return leg, and there they might just be a different team.