Mosimane: We’ll do it if Bafana can’t
Johannesburg - Before Mamelodi Sundowns conquered Africa by winning the Caf Champions League, the club were mocked for reaching the group stage via the back door. The Brazilians benefited from AS Vita being kicked out by the continent’s governing body, Caf, for fielding an improperly registered player.
Vita made way for Sundowns in the last eight. The Brazilians made the most of that chance, going all the way to claim their first continental title.
That title earned them an appearance in the Fifa Club World Cup where they start their campaign against Japanese champions Kashima Antlers on Sunday.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has taken the “back door entrance” tag, something that was used to ridicule the club, and transformed it to have another meaning.
He argues that if Bafana Bafana can’t conquer the continent or the world, then the country must do so via the back door through clubs in continental and international football.
Before Sundowns have even kicked a ball in Japan, they have done better than Bafana whose best display in a World Cup was to finish third in their group.
Sundowns will start their Club World Cup campaign in the quarter-finals, a stage the senior men’s national team have never reached in a global competition.
“We are representing Africa. I would be happy if we (at least) make it to the semi-finals, to make sure we put Africa in the top four in the world,” Mosimane said.
“That’s a good footprint because in the World Cup, with national teams, it’s not happening. (No African nation has so far reached the semi-final of a World Cup). When we have the opportunity to make it happen with the clubs, then we must do it. I couldn’t win the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) with Bafana, but I won the Champions League through the club.
“Maybe our country must work better and stronger with clubs because we have the ammunition. (Bidvest) Wits are strong. (Kaizer) Chiefs are strong. SuperSport (United) are strong. (Orlando) Pirates are strong, they have shown that on the continent.
“Let’s try it the other way. If we can’t succeed with the national teams, let’s go at it through club football. Let’s make South Africa respected again on the continent through the clubs.
“Let’s have two of our teams in the semi-finals of the Confederation Cup and two in the semi-finals of the Champions League. It’s possible. It’s all about our mindset. I would be happy if Africa (at least) finish third in this tournament. Europe and South America dominate it because of the talent that comes from those regions.”
If Sundowns are to finishing third, they must go past Antlers in Osaka tomorrow (kick-off 12.30pm South African time).
This will be a huge test for the Brazilians, who have to go past the hosts to book a meeting with South American champions Atletico Nacional in the semi-final.
If they get through Nacional, Sundowns could possibly meet Real Madrid in the final. This will test Sundowns’ fitness levels after a gruelling year which they have to finish with high-tempo matches just before returning home to play their last league game against a tricky Baroka side.
But that doesn’t worry Mosimane because of the stellar job fitness trainer Kabelo Rangoaga has done.
“KB returned from another international programme with (world renowned Dutch fitness trainer) Raymond Verheijen, who is his mentor ,” Mosimane said. “He told KB that he is happy that his methods are adopted in South Africa and the results are showing. Hence the Champions League, the amount of games we have played in 15 months of football.
“But you never see Sundowns tired, especially in the last 30 minutes. Our methods work We don’t train twice a day. For the last three years we have never had two training sessions. Even in pre-season. We train once.”