Mamelodi Sundowns wary of dark horse FC Nouadhibou in Champions League opener - Grant Kekana

Abdellah Haimoud of Wydad challenges Grant Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2023 African Football League final between Wydad Casablanca and Mamelodi Sundowns in Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca

Seasoned Mamelodi Sundowns defender Grant Kekana (pictured with the ball) has warned against underestimating opponents who are perennial under-achievers in Africa. Picture: Nour Aknajja/BackpagePix

Published Nov 24, 2023


Seasoned Mamelodi Sundowns defender Grant Kekana has warned against underestimating opponents who are perennial under-achievers in Africa.

Sundowns will play Mauritania champions FC Nouadhibou in their CAF Champions League Group A opener at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Sunday. Kick-off is at 3pm.

In the past 20 years, Nouadhibou have only reached the elite Champions League twice, but have never progressed beyond the preliminary round.

Kekana pointed out that in the Fifa World Cup qualifiers, there have been a host of upset results over the past few days in Africa. As a result, it was dangerous to underestimate teams.

Surprise results

“There have been a lot of surprise results on the continent lately – just look at some of the outcomes of the qualifiers,” said Kekana, who had to withdraw from Bafana Bafana’s past two matches because he was nursing an injury.

“On the continent, there are little-known teams like FC Nouadhibou that cannot be taken lightly. This Champions League will be tough, and it is a journey that we have prepared well for. We will not take any team for granted.

“We also call on the ‘Yellow Nation’ to come to the stadium, paint it yellow and sing their lungs out.

“They must be our audible 12th man. The club is offering tickets for a give-away price of R20, and we expect the fans to show their love and support.”

Kekana played his role in helping the club to make history by becoming the first to engrave their name on the African Football League (AFL) trophy.

He said that this feat will allow the club to approach the Champions League with greater confidence, but at the same time, has made the players hungry for more success.

Champions League - still the ultimate

Despite their formidable AFL conquest, Kekana said the Champions League remained the crème de la crème of continental club glory.

“We are now aiming for the bigger prize – the CAF Champions League,” said Kekana.

“Everyone knows how prestigious the Champions League is. It is very competitive, and it is tough. This team from north-west Africa will be tough.

“We know they have a few players in the Mauritanian national team, so that will ensure that their team’s quality will be high.

“We expect it will be physical too because teams from Africa are like that.

“It should be a good game, and one that we’ll be ready for.”

Group A is undoubtedly the toughest. It includes three-time champions TP Mazembe (Democratic Republic of Congo), former champs Sundowns, the powerful Egyptian runners-up Pyramids and lesser-known Nouadhibou.

IOL Sport