JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns haven’t even been handed the Absa Premiership trophy, yet Tiyani Mabunda already has his sights on another trophy that would see the Brazilians continue their record-breaking spree.
The Brazilians will receive the championship trophy on Saturday next week for a record eighth time in the PSL-era.
“It’s great to be part of a team that aspires to set records and write their names in history,” Mabunda said.
“We’ve won the league for a record eighth time now and for me to be a part of the squad that did that is really a blessing. This is another trophy that we won which needs to be celebrated but that doesn’t mean losing focus because we still have a bigger job to do.”
“We still have to do the job in the Caf Champions League to be the first South African team to win this tournament twice. We need to get back to our rightful position at the top of African football.”
Mabunda played an instrumental role in the Brazilians’ league triumph. He carried the team through his graft which allowed players such as Percy Tau and Khama Billiat to shine.
“I’ve reached a point in my life where I understand that I have to put myself aside and do what is best for the team,” Mabunda said. “The team comes first. I always get this question that people don’t really recognise the job that I do so how do I keep going?”
"That’s not a problem for me. Just to be playing alongside such incredible players is amazing. We’ve got exceptional players ... I don’t have to compete with them. All I have to do is focus on allowing them to become better by making sure that their weaknesses aren’t seen.”
“When they don’t have the ball, we work as the defensive players and when they have the ball, we rest. We have the right balance that ensures every player shines in their respective duties.”
Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane argued that the league would be won by the people who carry the piano for the maestros, like Tau, Billiat, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Gaston Sirino, to play it.
Mabunda and Hlompho Kekana carried that piano with aplomb, allowing the players upfront to produce sweet music.
What makes this triumph even more impressive for Sundowns is that they did so while also juggling their continental commitments. In the last two years Sundowns won the Champions League and last year were knocked out of the competition in the quarter-finals.
“We are used to this pressure,” Mabunda said. “For four consecutive years we have been fighting for the championship and competing in the Champions League. There isn’t a single team that can say that here ... We never lost focus and we never panicked.”
“We were in a similar position last season and we learnt from our mistakes. We can only get better with what we have gone through.”