Mamelodi Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane credited the team’s experience in the Caf Champions League for their passage to the group stage for a third successive year, something no other South African team has achieved.
The Brazilians had to not only battle against Rayon Sports but also the elements in a waterlogged pitch at Loftus Versfeld after heavy rain hit Pretoria just before the match. Despite that Sundowns were comfortable 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Wayne Arendse and Sibusiso Vilakazi.
“I think we showed our experience to win this game,” Mosimane said. “We have been in this space for the last four years. We know how to play the Champions League. I was a little bit disturbed when I came out of the dressing room just before kick-off to find the pitch water logged. I had a challenge in my mind, thinking that South African teams struggle to adapt in such conditions. When the pitch is like that, it favours the guys who have the body. Because it’s not football, it’s war.
“When you have the body you have the strength and you will overcome. It’s unbelievable. I have never seen my team play like this in this kind of condition. In the first half they fought, Percy Tau led the team from the front and put his body on the line in front of the big boys. Vila (Sibusiso Vilakazi) was there. Gaston Sirino tried. I thought that they would struggle on the pitch.”
“They showed integrity, professionalism and experience that it doesn’t matter what kind of conditions that you face. You just have to make sure that the team goes to the group stage. That’s what they did. In fact I am happier with their first half performance than how they played in the second half. They showed their mental strength.”
The Brazilians are in group C alongside defending Champions, Wydad Casablanca (Morocco), AS Togo Port de Lome (Togo) and Horoya A.C (Guinea). Rubbing shoulders with the best in the continent will be nothing new to Sundowns who won this competition in 2016 and reached the quarterfinals last year. Before the win over Rayon, Mosimane also rubbed shoulders with the best in the continent as he attended the inaugural Caf Pro Licence Course that was held in Morocco at the invitation of Caf president Ahmad Ahmad.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mosimane said. “It was a huge privilege. I am humbled by it. Caf invited four coaches, Florent Ibenge – the DRC and AS Vita coach. Coach Hassan Shehata, what a legend. Back-to-back winner of the Cup of Nations winner with Egypt. It’s unbelievable. He was talking to me about the Egypt team he came with here for the (2009) Fifa Confederations Cup. He says the team he had was the best ever. What a humble guy with a lot of experience. Ibenge won the Chan with DRC and is doing well with AS Vita. For a local coach to coach big stars in Europe isn’t easy. It’s the same with Aliou Cisse. Cisse knows Sundowns in and out. He is watching the team. I met the (former) coach of Wydad who I lost to.”
“They invited the local coaches of Morocco to do the Pro License and the four of us. It was a great experience.”