Wayne Arendse is hungry for success in Africa with Mamelodi Sundowns. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
The thought of being an African champion never crossed Wayne Arendse’s mind, but once it did and he eventually conquered the continent with Mamelodi Sundowns, he has become addicted to being the toast of the continent.

Arendse played a key role in the Brazilians’ side that lifted the Caf Champions League two years ago by beating African football royalty Zamalek in the final.

Sundowns lost to eventual winners Wydad Casablanca in the quarter-finals in their title defence last year.

The Brazilians return to the competition this year looking to make amends for that disappointment.

Tonight they host Rayon Sports at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria in the second leg of the Champions League’s first round with a place in the group stage up for grabs for the winners with the first leg having ended goalless.

Fans wearing yellow or any Sundowns regalia will be granted free access to the stadium.

“To be honest with you, at first I never thought about winning the Champions League,” Arendse said. “But when I played in the Champions League and we saw that we could win it, that’s when I started thinking about winning it as a possibility.

“We did it. Now I am thinking, why not again? I don’t think it’s impossible. I think that we can win the Champions League again.

“I am not just speaking about us as Sundowns but I believe that the other South African teams can also do it. They just need to take this competition seriously and plan better for it.

“This competition isn’t that difficult to win. Your home games are crucial. If you do well there, that’s the job half done.”

Sundowns didn’t do well at home last season which led to their elimination in the group stage.

But in 2016 they were lethal at home, scoring two goals or more in all their home matches which paved the way for them to be crowned African champions.

Arendse won on two fronts during that run.

Before Sundowns took on Zesco United in the semi-finals his son Ethan was born. Arendse flew to Ndola a day before their match after spending some time with his newborn.

The now 33-year-old said he wanted to win the Champions League so that he can tell his son in the future how he rushed to witness his birth, flew to Zambia to help Sundowns reach the final and eventually became an African champion for the first time in his career.

“That winner’s medal, I can’t even explain the feelings I go through when I see it,” Arendse said.

“I have it hanging in a frame at home. Looking at it always reminds me of the journey we took and how we won the tournament.

“I’ll always remember how packed Lucas Moripe Stadium was when we beat Zamalek 3-0 in the first leg of the final.

“When we came back with the trophy and the whole of South Africa was celebrating with us. The airport was full on our return.

“Those were exciting times for South African football, Sundowns as a club and for me personally.”

Arendse continued: “Being part of the team that wrote their names in the history books was surreal.

“The motivation to do it all over again is there. The guys really want to do it because we let it slip last season.

“I think that we could have won it but the problem is that we didn’t make the most of our home advantage. We need to be ruthless at home. You need to win your home games, not just by one but by two goals or more.”

Sunday Independent

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