Mamelodi Sundowns were crowned the inaugural African Football League champions on Sunday night, managing a 3-2 aggregate win over Wydad Casablanca in a display that caught the eye of FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Downs coach Rulani Mokwena says the head of the world governing body, who was in attendance alongside his CAF counterpart Patrice Motsepe, marvelled at watching the Brazilians claw their way back from a 2-1 deficit in the first leg a week ago to turning the heat at Loftus Stadium.
Mokwena felt vindicated, especially with Infantino giving his side validation.”The first thing he said to me was ‘Your team plays magnificent football’ and I think as I always say, the game of football belongs to the players but heavy is the head that carries the crown. I think sometimes we all forget that by nature, football is a low scoring game,” Mokwena said.
Under Mokwena, Sundowns have been criticised for failing to close off games of this magnitude because the coach preferred to keep playing a certain way.He adds every player is given a role and carries out their duties.
“You see how much of a difference even a half-fit Peter Shalulile makes. A half-fit Lucas Ribeiro makes to this team and for this team to do what they have done without recognised strikers. The sacrifice from all these players. I think Mkhulise [Sphelele] has played as a false 9. Themba Zwane has played as a false 9. Teboho Mokoena has played slightly higher up away in Morocco,” Mokwena added.
Mokwena insists Sundowns will continue to play to be dominant and entertaining while winning games.”We’ve been asked whether we’ll change the style of play, it’s very difficult because this club has a certain identity and we have to try by all means to always try to play well.
“We are not always going to win every game 4-0,5-0,6-0 because the reality is football by nature is a low scoring game and cup finals, you very seldom see one team dominate the other but I mean we went to Casablanca the data suggests that we were the more dominant side,” he concluded.
(story credit: SABC Sport)