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Comment: Sundowns' wealth does not necessarily make them invincible

Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates after the DStv Premiership 2021/22 match against Royal AM at Chatsworth Stadium on 23 May 2022. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates after the DStv Premiership 2021/22 match against Royal AM at Chatsworth Stadium on 23 May 2022. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Published May 25, 2022


Cape Town - Mamelodi Sundowns are presently without peer in South African football and have highlighted their supremacy by winning their fifth straight DStv Premiership title, with four matches to spare.

Their latest conquest marks their 12th Premiership title and on Monday they fittingly paid tribute to their growing fanbase by displaying a banner headlined: 12th PSL title for our 12th Man!

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More and more rival coaches are pointing to the club's wealth as the mainspring of its success, but this may not necessarily be true. Some local football analysts say that South African football is at its lowest ebb. It is in a state of decline and Sundowns' sound infrastructure and a strong squad have given them a head start.

There are numerous examples in South African football that show there were clubs with a low wage spend that have won Premiership titles. Classic examples are Manning Rangers and Santos who won titles when Gordon Igesund was at the helm. SuperSport United upstaged the country's biggest clubs when they won titles under the tutelage of Pitso Mosimane and Gavin Hunt. During that time hardly any SuperSport player made the national squad. Hunt also won titles with unfashionable Wits University.

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Further down the line, there was former England international Budgie Byrne who won domestic titles with Hellenic. In an interview, Byrne once said his players were so ordinary none would fetch even R5 in the transfer market.

Sure, Sundowns' wealth allows them to buy the best available players and have a squad with great depth. It has been the main reason for their success just like clubs elsewhere in the world. In England, the wealthiest club Manchester City won the Premiership, and the pattern continues in Europe. Spain’s richest club Real Madrid won LaLiga; Germany's wealthiest club Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga and in France, Paris Saint-Germain, the richest club in the country, won the league.

Despite their barnstorming finish in the league, Sundowns were not always head and shoulders above the rest. They lost to a very ordinary Maritzburg United who were in throes of relegation at the time. They suffered defeat at the hands of AmaZulu. This season they ran up eight draws and one was against Baroka FC who have just been relegated.

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The DStv Premiership also have wealthy teams who rank among the richest in Africa. Teams like Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are certainly not poor, but it would seem they are devoid of football intelligence. To date, neither of these two teams have a head coach.

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The football intelligence deficiency also rears its head in other aspects of the club's day-to-day functions like hiring and firing players. Sundowns have Flemming Berg, a man of world-class credentials, as its Sporting Director. Before him, Sundowns employed Jose Roman Alexanko, the former Barcelona captain who later headed up the club's world-famous academy.

At Chiefs and Pirates, little attention is paid to this primary position. Instead, it is left to relatives of the clubs' owners will oversee basic functions of the club. They manage coaches and other technical staff members. They do the scouting and recruit players. How many times during his season at Chiefs did Hunt own up and say he does not have answers even though the questions were well within the ambit of the head coach?

Very soon clubs will be sitting down to plan long-term strategies. One area where rival clubs can steal a march on Sundowns is in the recruitment area. A wealthy club like Manchester United were the biggest spenders this season in England but they ended up in the sixth position. The five clubs above them spent less in the transfer market.

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It is best not to leave this function to lightweights but to employ people of the standing of Berg, and maybe clubs can assemble a squad to unseat Sundowns as the Kings of SA football.


IOL Sport