Mokwena: Every defeat leaves a deep scar

Rulani Mokoena was left disappointed after Mamelodi Sundowns failed to win the Nedbank Cup on Saturday. | BackpagePix

Rulani Mokoena was left disappointed after Mamelodi Sundowns failed to win the Nedbank Cup on Saturday. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 3, 2024



Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena could not get his head around his side’s 2-1 Nedbank Cup final defeat after Orlando Pirates timed their epic comeback to perfection at the Mbombela Stadium, on Saturday.

Mokwena looked like a deer caught in the headlights as he moved in for the post-match interview. He said he was clueless when asked about the defeat after his team dominated for long spells in the match.

“It’s one (result) I really cannot find words to explain," said Mokwena.

Bongani Zungu and Thapelo Morena of Mamelodi Sundowns were left dejected after losing to Orlando Pirates. | BackpagePix

For once, Mokwena was straight to the point. Usually, Mokwena's initial response to any post-match question is to rattle off a string of congratulatory messages to everyone from his fellow technical staff to the supporters.

This time, however, Mokwena had no hesitation in heaping praise on his star-studded team, which incredibly suffered back-to-back defeats on successive Saturdays. Last week, their hopes of joining world football’s “Invincibles” evaporated into the rarefied Highveld air when Cape Town City won 1-0 on Sundowns’ home patch.

“We started very, very well. I thought we played well overall,” said Mokwena.

“We got the penalty, but then we didn’t score. Then the game dragged a bit until half-time, but we were still very comfortable and in so much control.

“I think it was one of our better performances this season. We dominated a cup final game against a very strong team like Orlando Pirates.

“And then not to win is bittersweet because when you look at the performance, you know you deserve better. I told the players in my team talk that cup finals are not there to be played; they are there to be won.”

Patrick Maswanganyi of Orlando Pirates flies over Marcelo Allende of Mamelodi Sundowns. | BackpagePix

Referee Skhumbuzo Gasa intervened at crucial times by awarding penalties that TV analysts felt were “soft” and should not have been given. Mokwena was also not happy with the referee’s performance on the day.

“Of course, I think also some of the key moments in the game didn’t go for us," said Mokwena.

“We missed a penalty, and with their penalty, I thought Tito (Patrick Maswanganyi’s nickname) fouled Aubrey Modiba, to be honest.

“I watched it repeatedly, and I think it’s a foul for Sundowns, and it should be going the other way. But cup finals are like games, it is all about small details and moments. Unfortunately, the moments in the 90 minutes didn’t go for us.

“You’ve got to congratulate Pirates and be gracious in defeat, and congratulate them for defending the Nedbank Cup trophy.”

Mokwena reacted to the defeat in a manner much like the famous former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who recently said every defeat, to this day, was “a scar on my heart”.

“Every defeat leaves a deep scar,” said Mokwena.

“Every defeat! It doesn’t matter what type of game and occasion it represents. Every defeat, in my opinion, leaves a very deep scar. The pain is there.

“It is not about losing to Pirates and the cup final. It is about losing the match. Losing a match, which in my heart I thought we played well enough to win. That hurts even more.

“In football, the ones that you lose, and you deserve to lose are a little bit easier to digest. It’s the ones where you thought you played exceptionally well, where you get the dagger right at the end.”