JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has praised his players and technical staff for their hard work over the last two seasons as the club "played two years of soccer without a break".
Sundowns have been stretched thin over the last two seasons as their success in all competitions, particularly the CAF Champions League, has resulted many more games and much more travelling than most PSL club.
Though the league season has now come to an end, with Sundowns finishing in second place and failing to defend their title, Masandawana's campaign continues on Friday when they face ES Tunis in another Champions League game.
“Other players could be playing golf or on the beach taking selfies,” he quipped. “We know where we are going, and we are wiser for the experience from past campaigns. We need to win and get up to seven points.
"We are both on four points right now, and we need to take three points at home, but at a minimum we need to take at least four points from them, and as they still have to go to the DRC to play Vita, it will not be easy for them.
"The rest of the teams in the group will cancel each other out. We went to Kinshasha and played a team which had not lost in a Champions League match at home for 30 years and scored three goals.”
Despite Sundowns failing to defend their PSL title, Mosimane has described his side’s season as “fantastic”. He said that the Brazilians had won the “Grand Slams” of African football in the past season, referring to the Confederation of African Football Champions League and the CAF Super Cup.
“We played two years of soccer without a break, and participated in the Champions League four years in a row. First I want to congratulate the boys for showing a positive attitude throughout," Mosimane said.
"They put their bodies on the line for the team, and did everything to win because they know that Sundowns is an ambitious club that wants to win trophies and they know the theme. They really did exceptionally well.”
He also congratulated the Sundowns fans. “Let me also congratulate the yellow nation,” the coach said. “The mentality has changed.”
He pointed out that in the past they would have thrown vuvuzelas when the team lost: “Against Baroka, they supported the team throughout and sang even after the game had ended in a draw."
The coach went on to heap praise on Manqoba Mnqithi, Rhulani Mokoena the rest of the technical team for the manner they managed the team when they had to play three games a week, and, once, four games in six days.
Mosimane also praised Denis Onyango for wining the CAF African Player of the Year based on the continent Award, and Khama Billiat for coming second. Yannick Zakri had also been nominated, but had not yet joined Sundowns.
“I was voted CAF coach of the Year, the club won Team of the Year, so what more could one ask for? We would be ungrateful to demand more, and might suggest we don’t cherish these achievements,” Mosimane said.
“Above all, we must be proud of our achievements. We won the Champions League and Super Cup, and gained valuable experience playing in the FIFA Club World Cup. We can’t win everything and our supporters have accepted this. It can’t be a bad season and they accompanied the team to various countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe and Japan. Life has been good for them”.
As for next season, Mosimane said that the would once more go for the "Grand Slam" titles. He added that he would definitely strengthen the team, as it was clear late in the season that some did not have the legs anymore, but fought on, once more thanks to the technical and medical team’s match management.
Sundowns take on ES Tunis on Friday at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville in their third Champions League fixture, having won one and drawn one.