JOHANNESBURG - The thought of greater things to come is what helped Denis Onyango move on from the disappointment he suffered with Mamelodi Sundowns and Uganda in a space of two weeks.
The multiple-award winning goalkeeper was part of the Brazilians’ team which returned from Morocco with their tails between their legs after they were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Caf Champions League by Wydad Casablanca, robbing them of a chance to retain the trophy. Just as he was recovering from that, Onyango saw the Cranes’ dreams of appearing in their first World Cup final go up in smoke after their draw with Ghana and Egypt’s dramatic 2-1 win over Congo-Brazzaville.
“It hasn’t been easy for me as a person and as a footballer with the club being knocked out of the Champions League and the hopes of going to the World Cup with the national team being dashed,” Onyango said.
“They both hurt. I had a chance to make history in both competitions, being part of the first South African team to retain the Champions League and being part of the first Ugandan side to go to the World Cup. That didn’t happen but I am still positive. We have to move on. There are a lot of things to look forward to.”
“We have a chance to go back to the Nations Cup and we will be going back to the Champions League next year. I believe that we will get some momentum in the league from our next games which should take us to the top. We are still far from where we want to be as a club but we are in the right direction. The next game is huge for us. A win will see us move closer to the top.”
The Brazilians will look to get that win on Tuesday night against Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld. Sundowns are six points behind surprise pacesetters Baroka FC with three games in hand. The African champions are now playing catch-up after their unsuccessful defence of the continental title. While they are looking to bounce back from their Champions League disappointment, an injury-ravaged Amakhosi wants to make amends for their loss to Bakgaga that saw their coach needing police escort to leave Moses Mabhida Stadium.
It's a clash of two giants when we welcome Kaizer Chiefs to Loftus Stadium tomorrow night. Here is a look back at our previous 5 clashes. pic.twitter.com/iYR4n2aoFF
“We need to move on from our disappointment as soon as possible because we can’t change the past but we can shape the future,” Onyango said. “Sundowns and The Cranes have a bright future. We just need to double our effort. Everyone knows that Sundowns is a team, we are good going forward.
"If we don’t double our efforts and dwell too much on the past, we will not win anything. We have the quality to achieve better things. Even with Uganda. No one knew us until we started getting the success we achieved. It became harder but we didn’t change the gears to the third or fourth gear. The same problem happened with Sundowns and it hurt us a little bit. Now we know what we need to do.”
The 32-year-old goalkeeper, who had said the only thing missing in his international career was playing in the World Cup, remains committed to the Cranes despite that dream unlikely to happen.
“I am part of the core of the national team. I believe that I still have something to offer. I want to take them back to the Nations Cup (in 2019). I can retire after that. There are a lot of youngsters coming up. My job is to mentor them and make them believe that they can do it even without me. I just want to hang on a little bit and see how far I can take the team.”