Sundowns : Continental glory within reachBy GIFT NDOLWANE
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – IN his team’s quest to win the Confederation of African Football Champions League, Mamelodi Sundowns coach, Pitso Mosimane, has drawn inspiration from the Denmark’s national team that created one of the biggest surprises in football history by winning the European Championships in 1992.
South African side Sundowns, popularly known as The Brazilians, are the unlikeliest of finalists of Africa’s prime club competition. They face Egyptian side Zamalek, the perennial winners, next month.
The team from the capital city Pretoria had earlier been knocked out of the competition but bounced back after their opponents in the final qualifying round AS Vita Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in February.
Almost similarly, Denmark were eliminated during the qualifying campaign but earned a reprieve when Yugoslavia were expelled due to warfare in that country.
The reprieve came just over a week before the competition began, giving Denmark precious little time to prepare. They went on to win the European Championship trophy, under coach Richard Møller Nielsen’s defensive playing style.
Advancing from the group stage ahead of England and France, Denmark beat the Dutch defending Euro 1988 champions on penalties in the semifinal, and with the 2–0 win against reigning 1990 FIFA World Cup champions Germany in the final, the Danes had won their first international trophy.
Sundowns players had to cut their pre-season holiday short when CAF announced their imminent return before the draw for the group stages in May.
They won the group ahead former champions Enyimba of Nigeria and Zamalek, who were ranked higer. They will fancy their chances against Zamalek in the two-legged final after beating the Egyptians home and away in the group stages.
If fate can repeat itself, it is Sundowns’ cup to lose.
“North African teams struggle our Southern African style of play,” says Mosimane subtly asked if his side can emulate the 1992 Euro winners.
“We have won the league many times but winning the Champions league will be our greatest honour. I hope they go to the final and give their best.”
Club President, Patrice Motsepe, also pointed out his side had won the local league seven times but was now eyeing Africa’s premier club competition.
When he bought the club in 2004, the mining magnate expressed his ambition to see the club win the competition.
Meanwhile, Premier Soccer league acting Chief Executive Officer, Mato Madlala, is confident ‘Downs could lift the trophy.
“As Mamelodi Sundowns edge closer to making history and conquer African club football, as the League, we are equally excited about this progress. Their success will always be associated with the PSL,” she says.
“We would like to congratulate them on the achievement so far. Of course the big task lies ahead in the final but we are confident they will ride this wave and bring glory to the country.”
Orlando pirates are the only side from South Africa and the region to win the trophy, claiming it in 1995.
– CAJ News
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