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Why Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane says he owes debt of gratitude to Bafana

18 September 2017 - 16:05 By Mninawa Ntloko
Pitso Mosimane coach of Mamelodi Sundowns during Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria on 11 February 2017.
Pitso Mosimane coach of Mamelodi Sundowns during Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria on 11 February 2017.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Sundowns overcame insurmountable odds to win a maiden African Champions League last year and they are course to defending their title this year.

Their title defence has had many challenges and the nation’s soccer lovers will have stood aghast at the sight of Morocco side Wydad Athletics’ technical staff charging at their Sundowns counterparts in the closing minutes of a heated African Champions League first leg quarterfinal at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

But while the huge crowd that attended the game gasped at the unusual sight of the match officials desperately trying to prevent the incensed Moroccans from starting a skirmish inside the Brazilians’ technical area‚ Mosimane seemed unfazed by the commotion and had the calm demeanour of a man taking a stroll in his garden.

‘‘I was with the South African Football Association for five years (coaching Bafana Bafana) and I learnt a lot about international football‚ and that helps us here (at Sundowns) now‚” Mosimane said.

‘‘That’s why sometimes it is important to get the experience (on the continent). And that is why I left SuperSport United to join Bafana because I needed to understand international football.

‘‘I spent seven years at SuperSport and I could have stayed there for 10 or 12 years maybe. But what’s the point? I needed to update my programmes and learn.

‘‘So I went to Bafana to understand and learn.

"We played all these North African countries. We played Egypt here (in SA) and Killer (Katlego Mphela) scored the goal here‚ they went away and they never scored.”

North African sides take great pride in intimidating the opposition and they typically upped the tempo after Yannick Zakri gave Sundowns the lead late in the second half with the lone strike that would win the match 1-0.

But Mosimane said he was never bothered by the Moroccans’ antics‚ even after the final whistle.

‘‘You go to Setif (to face Algeria side ES Setif) and they intimidate you. They burn things and they come inside the pitch. It is unbelievable‚” Mosimane said.

‘‘Zamalek — you saw the bottles they threw at us in Egypt. Their technical team was attacking us.

‘‘You must frustrate them. You must understand the North Africans. I know it very well and that is one part of the continent I wanted to know and understand very well.”

Incredibly‚ the Moroccans were seemingly not even bothered by the huge crowd that attended Sunday’s game in Atteridgeville and they went looking for a fight.

If you did not know any better‚ you would have assumed that they were playing at home in Morocco.

‘‘We know the mentality‚ you saw what happened‚” Mosimane said.

‘‘They come to our bench‚ you know........ it’s not that they are bad‚ it is the culture and it’s the mentality.

‘‘We played Zamalek in the Champions League final in Alexandria last year and they came to our bench. Remember?

‘‘But in South Africa if I go to the opposition’s bench I will be sent off to the stands. But it’s okay‚ we understand this.

‘‘It’s nothing man‚ it doesn’t mean anything. It is the culture‚ it is the mentality‚ it is the belief — it is North Africans. They blow their fuse and they’ve got a short fuse.

‘‘But my boys know this thing.

"We went to Setif‚ we went to Zamalek‚ we’ve been to Espérance (Tunisia) and now we are going to these ones (Wydad) in the quarterfinal second leg on Saturday.” - TimesLIVE