Sundowns primed for unchartered waters as CAF Women's Champions League kicks off
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Cape Town – Mamelodi Sundowns Women will become part of African women's football history this weekend when they compete in the first-ever CAF Women's Champions League in Cairo, Egypt.
Sundowns will be one of eight teams in the 14-day tournament and will play their opener against Kenya's Vihiga Queens in a Group B clash on Saturday afternoon. The other Group B teams are ASFAR Club of Morocco, and one of the tournament favourites, Rivers Angels from Nigeria.
The eight-team field has been drawn from the winners of the six CAF Zones, the host nation’s representative, and a team from the zone of the CAF Africa Women Cup of Nations champions, Nigeria. The Group A teams include Wadi Degla SC (Egypt), AS Mandé (Mali), Hasaacas Ladies (Ghana) and Malabo Kings FC (Equatorial Guinea).
With this tournament, CAF (Confederation of African Football) will become only the third FIFA Confederation (out of six) to stage a Women's Champions League. Europe and South America have been the Women’s Champions League forerunners.
Kanizat Ibrahim, Chairperson of CAF Women’s Football Organizing Committee, described the tournament as a “window of hope” and said it will be a new page in the history of women's football.
Sundowns, the Cosafa winners and South African domestic champions, have an extraordinary record of being undefeated since 2018 in all competitions. They have overwhelmed opponents in the Cosafa region but have not tested their strength elsewhere on the ‘Mother’ continent.
The team has been in Egypt since Tuesday. Their coach Jerry Tshabalala says the players are ready to make their debut at the continental showpiece.
"We are battle-ready to show our opponents what we are made of," said Tshabalala. "It is the first time this competition will be taking place, and we are trying several tactics in training.
"During training sessions, we have worked on our mentality as that goes a long way in defining our characters on the pitch.
"We will be coming up against tactically sound teams in the competition. We have tried to alter some of our tactical set-ups during our sessions to ensure that we are faced with zero surprises when we square off against our opponents in Egypt.
"We are aware that we are representing the nation of South Africa and also the Southern region, but we do not want to allow those feelings to get the better of us."
Sundowns Ladies, nicknamed Banyana Ba Style, face Kenyans Vihiga at the Al Salam Stadium, in Cairo on Saturday evening for the first of three Group B matches.