Mamelodi Sundowns R75 million richer after beating Wydad Casablanca to win African Football League

Sundowns players celebrate lifting the Africn Football League trophy after beting Wydad Casablanca in Sunday’s final

Sundowns players celebrate lifting the Africn Football League trophy after beting Wydad Casablanca in Sunday’s final at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Nov 12, 2023


It could not and should not have gone any other way, right? Rulani Mokwena had said before the match that it was “written in the stars” and that all his Mamelodi Sundowns had to do was make sure they align those stars.

And the Brazilians duly did as they beat Wydad Athletic Club 2-0 to win the inaugural African Football League (AFL) that was conceived by Patrice Motsepe, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) president who is first and foremost the owner of Sundowns, 3-2 on aggregate.

Somewhat cruelly “denied“ the opportunity to win the CAF Champions League a second time earlier this year when they bowed out to Wydad at the semi-final stage via the away goal rule despite being unbeaten throughout, Sundowns set out to make amends this time around.

And when Motsepe launched this eight-team tournament, Mokwena saw it as an opportunity to give his group of players that ‘deserve a continental title’ a short at some sort of African glory. Granted, it is not really the Champions League. But when you’ve gotten the better of Petro de Luanda, Al Ahly and Wydaad you have surely done alright.

And it was not a given that they’d be successful, not after they’d lost the first leg 2-1 last weekend. There was another barrier too, the psychological one from having failed to beat Wydad at Loftus back in March.

And for a good while in the first half here on Sunday, it appeared as though the Moroccans would spoil the party just as they’d done so a few months ago when Sundowns looked to give their dearly departed former PRO Alex Shakoane a good send off.

In a scrappy first half that was characterised by the Wydad players continuously faking injuries in a bid to while away time, the breakthrough came in added time when Peter Shalulile reacted quickly to slot home the loose ball after Mehdi Maftah had parried away Teboho Mokoena’s attempt.

The Namibian was playing in only his first match of the competition having been out injured. But he showed his worth as the Sundowns talisman with that strike and he actually should have scored a brace. Three minutes into the second half Shalulile picked on a back pass but he failed to go round the keeper when the chance to make it 2-0 was there for the taking.

Four minutes later though, the lead was extended when Aubrey Modiba intercepted a sloppy Wydad pass and made a run for it before coolly dinking the ball over Maftah to send the capacity crowd that painted Loftus yellow into delirious celebrations.

But there was a long way to go in the match still and Sundowns needed to prove their mettle defensively and they did well to keep Wydad a bay, the Moroccans hardly threatening Ronwen Williams’ goal.

It was a fantastic win for Mokwena and his men, particularly given that they’d been beaten in the local MTN8 final by Orlando Pirates. To win what is essentially the continental top eight tournament is sure to see them approaching the CAF Champions League group stages stating in a fortnight’s time with great confidence.

Mokwena has continuously said Sundowns were worthy of at least reaching the final last season He has a great opportunity to prove that much this time around and this victory will be a major confidence booster.


IOL Sport