JOHANNESBURG – History beckons for reigning Premier Soccer League champions Mamelodi Sundowns as they stand on the cusp of being only the second team in the country to lift the CAF Champions League.
Standing in their way is Egypt’s Zamalek, who have clinched this competition a few times in their history, while Sundowns have only ever made it as far as the final, before losing to another Egyptian giant.
The ‘Brazilians’ will welcome Zamalek to the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on Saturday and will be well aware that nothing but a convincing victory will do their chances of African glory justice.
Coach Pitso Mosimane and his men have placed the greatest importance on this competition, so much so that they don’t even begrudge Wits’ MTN 8 success – which came at their expense.
Mosimane emphasized that there will always be chances for his team to win cup competitions such as the MTN 8, Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup, but the opportunity to be crowned the best club on the African continent doesn’t come often.
“I hope we win the Champions League in this calendar year, really. I don’t know if we get that… which team wouldn’t like to get that? I don’t think there’s any other team that wouldn’t like to achieve that. Leave these other things, Telkom, we have won, I mean that’s nothing. I’m not saying it means nothing, but it can’t compare.”
‘Jingles’, as the Sundowns coach was affectionately known in his playing days, has always stressed his desire to one day lift the Champions League, especially since he joined the Pretoria club.
To prove his point about the magnitude of winning continental competitions, Mosimane even drew comparisons with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, who always prioritise and win the UEFA Champions League.
“As Real Madrid and Barcelona, what do they want… they want to win La Liga and they want to win Champions League, that’s it. And then (Cristiano) Ronaldo will say the European Championship that he’s been fighting and has finally won, and (Lionel) Messi, the one he’s been fighting for and hasn’t won – the Copa America”
Zamalek will have either the pleasure or the displeasure of hosting the second leg in Alexandria next Friday, obviously depending on how the first leg in Pretoria goes this weekend.
However, Egyptian teams have a rich history of dominating and sometimes even obliterating their opponents in their backyard, especially if they’ve picked up a draw or a narrow defeat on the road.
Kickoff in Atteridgeville will be 15h00, which will make for an interesting encounter, under the blazing hot South African sun.