Free State Stars

Mon 21 May by Mark Gleeson


Free State Stars players and coach Luc Eymael are embracing their qualification for African club competition next season but must still convince a sceptical management of its merits.Victory in Saturday’s Nedbank Cup final in Cape Town over Maritzburg United ensured that Stars will play in the next African Confederation Cup, set to kick off in November now that the Confederation of African Football are switching the timing of the event.It will be a maiden participation in continental club competition for the Bethlehem-based club and will place a strain on finances as the CAF competitions come with heavy travel costs but only a significant financial reward in return for the teams that make it right to the end.The Mokoena family, who own Stars, are concerned about costs and although will not repudiate the right to play in next season’s Confederation Cup, must still decide whether they will expand the size of the squad to allow Stars a better chance of doing well.There is also the concern about the impact the extensive travel can have on the domestic campaign as has been witnessed in the past.
Ever since Jomo Cosmos were relegated in the same year they reached the African Cup Winners’ Cup semifinal, there has been a long list of South African clubs who have seen their local league form dramatically dip on the back of extensive campaigns in continental club competition.But at the end of Saturday’s final, several Stars players told television interviewers they were keen to compete and coach Luc Eymael is putting pressure on the management too.
“I know it costs money to play Africa, but it is an honour to play in Africa. You are playing not only for your club, but also your country,” Eymael said.
“All these games are games at a higher level and you can gain a lot of experience, and it can only benefit your players and to the national team.
“On the matter of the money, it depends on where we need to travel. You have to be mentally strong to play in Africa. If you go to Congo you will have to wait three hours to get the visa, if you go to Algeria and you need to take another plane they will delay you so you miss the flight and then you need to take a bus. I know this, I have done it.”