Johannesburg – Following his soccer side’s 1-1 Premiership draw with SuperSport United at Loftus Versfeld on Monday, Mamelodi Sundowns' coach Pitso Mosimane said former president Nelson Mandela's death had overshadowed the game.
Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, last Thursday, at the age of 95. He was buried in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, on Sunday.
“It’s been a tough week for football. This week has been a tough week because we lost important people, we lost legends and it just took everything down,” Mosimane said after the game in Pretoria.
“We couldn’t play football. There was a dark cloud over us to motivate players to train, to play on a Monday after Madiba’s funeral.”
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) decided last week to postpone all fixtures until Monday, but Mosimane said it would take time for his players to recover from Mandela's death.
“Football is a game. But what has happened to us this week: football is not more important than what happened to us this week,” he said.
“Football is football. We play again tomorrow, but what happened was very difficult.”
Nevertheless, Sibusiso Khumalo scored a wonder-goal 21 minutes into Monday’s game, before Sundowns equalised through Katlego Mashego after half-time, ensuring both teams walked away with a single point.
“We can’t complain. We played against a good team. Two good goals were scored. Normally, you don’t see goals like that in South Africa,” Mosimane said of the game.
“We gave our best. Our supporters can never be unhappy with our performances.”
SuperSport coach Cavin Johnson echoed Mosimane’s sentiments, and had harsh words for the PSL regarding their scheduling of fixtures.
“I agree with Pitso. Football can be played tomorrow and the day after that. We’ve buried an icon that no-one in the world will ever see again,” Johnson said.
“Before (the death of Mandela)... the PSL has been in shambles, not us.
“There were weeks where we played three games in one week and then we were off for 10 days. I think we’ve had about three pre-seasons already this year and that’s not healthy for our teams.”
Johnson said that, as former champions, Matsatsantsa had always shared a special bond with Mandela, who was a lover of sport and believed that through sport, the nation could become united.
“My team was really not in a good mood to train because at the club, they have a tradition within SuperSport that whenever they won a championship, they took a picture with Madiba,” Johnson said.
“Some of them are still there (in the photos) and we took some of the players to see his body (at the Union Buildings), so it was up and down the whole time.
“Then, to tell us that you’re playing on Monday, when the funeral was yesterday, we looked at ourselves and we said, ‘rather cancel the games’.”
Monday's stalemate sees United still five points off the pace of their Pretoria neighbours. Sundowns remain top of the log, but their two point lead over Kaizer Chiefs has disappeared, after Amakhosi beat the University of Pretoria and lifted themselves to 24 points, level with Downs. – Sapa