Pietermaritzburg – Pitso Mosimane’s transformation from Bafana Bafana mathematical mampara to the Brazilians’ mastermind was completed in “Pitso-Maritzburg” yesterday as Mamelodi Sundowns were crowned 2013/14 Absa Premiership champions.
“I’ve won cups before and coached in World Cup qualifiers, and Afcon qualifiers, but this was the big fish. I’m proud of this team and the unity amongst this squad is unbelievable,” Mosimane smiled as thousands of cold but ecstatic Brazilians’ fans chanted his name.
Sundowns drew their final match of the season 1-1 against Maritzburg United, on the back of a 10-match winning streak that wrested the title from the clutches of a tiring Kaizer Chiefs outfit.
Mosimane, speaking with great humility, was more than happy to share the spoils with long-time friend Steve Komphela, the Maritzburg mentor.
“I’m happy to lose these two points to Steve. He is my brother. He protected me, spoke well of me during the tough times. I’m also proud to add to the history of black coaches in this country because sometimes we get crumbs,” he said.
“But I have a president (Patrice Motsepe) who has supported me and I have to be thankful for that.”
Komphela’s side gave Sundowns a guard of honour at the start of the match and he saluted Mosimane on his achievement.
“I told the players that we had to do that because you have to show respect for a job well done. Pitso and his team deserved it and that gesture was necessary. Who knows, next time it may be us,”Komphela quipped.
Mosimane also lavished praise on his skipper Aljie Schut, his Dutch tower of strength who scored a last-minute equaliser yesterday to ensure Sundowns finished their season with a cheer.
“That is my player of the season. Come on man, who else can it be?” he challenged, pointing to his captain’s impeccable displays.
For Schut, who lifted his first league title, the experience was another feather in the cap and he paid tribute to the Sundowns’ management for handing him the armband.
“In my culture, the captaincy usually goes to the player with the most experience, so I was a bit surprised when they gave it to me, but also very proud. I’ve won the cup back home a few times, but never been in a position to win the league. The fans deserve this because they have been amazing,” he beamed.
“I am also really happy for a guy like Teko Modise, who has suffered a lot at the club,” Schut said.
Schut and Mosimane looked ahead to the future, which will also bring with it Champions League football.
“I’m very excited by that because I only played the Europa League,” Schut explained.
“I’ve been to places like Egypt for friendlies, so I can imagine what kind of atmosphere we will have with 50000 people screaming in a CAF Champions League. It will be a great experience for us.”
Mosimane said Sundowns’ challenge was to go as far as possible in Africa.
“Why not? Orlando Pirates have that star on their jersey, so we have something to aim for. We have a squad big enough to challenge, and that will be a big priority for us,” he added
Mosimane admitted he had learnt lessons from Pirates and Chiefs, who had stretched themselves trying to challenge for honours across the board and come short.
“We’ve seen teams who were going for everything, and have now finished the season with nothing. You can’t be greedy in football and we will try to defend this league title, of course, and then focus on Africa. I love the other cups, but we can’t be too greedy,” he added mischievously. - Sunday Independent