Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana lifts the Premiership trophy in Bloemfontein on Saturday following the draw with Celtic. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana lifts the Premiership trophy in Bloemfontein on Saturday following the draw with Celtic. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Mamelodi Sundowns players and staff celebrate winning the Premieship. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Mamelodi Sundowns players and staff celebrate winning the Premieship. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

BLOEMFONTEIN - The Brazilians might have been more than 400km away from Tshwane but they felt at home here due to the electric atmosphere both fans created in Mamelodi Sundowns’ coronation as Absa Premiership champions for the 2017/18 season.

There was a debate leading up to this match on whether the Premier Soccer League should give the league champions the trophy in their last home game if they secure it early to avoid the embarrassing scenes of Highlands Park celebrating their first division triumph in an empty stadium thousands of kilometres away in Cape Town. 

But Sundowns and Bloemfontein Celtic supporters ensured that didn’t happen here, putting on a greater show than the drab match that was on display.

The atmosphere created by arguably the best set of fans in the country was fitting of the occasion – the crowing of the Brazilians as Kings of South African football for a record eighth time in the PSL era. 

The stands were abuzz with singing and dancing, producing a contest within a contest. Siwelele won the battle of the stands hands-down, reminding South Africa why they used to be the best fans in the country. 

Sundowns’ fans put up a strong fight though, but at one point they gave up and started singing along with the home crowd.

Sundowns’ yellow nation, however, won the war as they had more to celebrate, the league title along with the honour of being the best fans at the moment through the atmosphere they create in Tshwane to back their team even in defeat while their numbers are growing across the country.

Football became secondary due to the entertaining battle in the stands, but for the hosts the contest on the pitch was the most important as they needed a win to finish in the top eight. 

The Brazilians fielded a relatively B-team with the league already in the bag and an international friendly with Barcelona on Wednesday before they travel to Guinea for the second match of their Caf Champions League group stage campaign.

Percy Tau led that “B-team” upfront looking to claim the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot as he started the day tied on 11 goals with Rodney Ramagalela. 

He ran his socks off in search of that goal but he still played for the team and laid the ball for teammates who were in better positions instead of letting greed get the better of him. 

Sundowns hardly kicked into third gear while Celtic huffed and puffed with the aim of ending an up-and-down season on a positive note.

Celtic finished the match stronger but they never found the goal and the win they desperately needed, confirming their place as just the hosts of Sundowns’ party. 

Despite the disappointment, Siwelele were gracious in “defeat” and celebrated with the Brazilians. 

The most moving sight was seeing Thapelo Morena win his first league title in front of his former fans. Morena almost stole the show towards the end of this match but Patrick Tignyemb was alert to ensure that Celtic at least got a point.

It would have been more special had Thabo Nthethe been given a run in what would have been his last match for Sundowns, giving him a chance to bow out in style in his home town against the club that launched his professional career and he represented for a decade before moving to Gauteng four years ago.


IOL Sport

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