Moroccan nightmare

22 September 2017 - 07:19 By Marc Strydom
A picture that is supposedly being used by Mamelodi Sundowns for training ahead of their second leg of their Caf Champions League semifinal against Wydad Casablanca in Rabat, Morocco, after local authorities refused to avail training venues for the South Africans, the club's Communication Officer Thulani Thuswa posted this photo on his Twitter account on Wednesday 20 September 2017 with the caption: "Looks like we are finding a training pitch on ourselves."
A picture that is supposedly being used by Mamelodi Sundowns for training ahead of their second leg of their Caf Champions League semifinal against Wydad Casablanca in Rabat, Morocco, after local authorities refused to avail training venues for the South Africans, the club's Communication Officer Thulani Thuswa posted this photo on his Twitter account on Wednesday 20 September 2017 with the caption: "Looks like we are finding a training pitch on ourselves."
Image: Thulani Thuswa via Twitter

Wydad Casablanca's gamesmanship and shenanigans ahead of the second leg of their CAF Champions League quarterfinal against Mamelodi Sundowns have forced officials of the Pretoria club to drive frantically around the Moroccan capital, Rabat, for days looking for a training pitch.

Sundowns have a 1-0 lead from the first leg, played in Atteridgeville on Sunday.

The Brazilians are based inRabat, 90km from Casablanca, where they meet Wydad in tomorrow's second leg at the 67000-seater Mohamed V Stadium.

Defending champions Sundowns' communications co-ordinator, Thulani Thuswa, said from Rabat the club had been led a merry dance by Wydad in finding a training pitch.

"They've been messing us around," Thuswa said on Thursday. "They didn't provide us with a training pitch and we had to look for one ourselves. [On Wednesday] we drove all around Rabat the whole day looking for a pitch. Eventually, we found one - at the Stade du FUS - which is the old pitch that used to be used by FUS Rabat.

"On our first day [Tuesday] here we didn't train. We had even told Wydad that, if they could not provide us with a pitch, we had an option to train at the old FUS Rabat pitch, but they said: 'No, no, you can't because the lights don't work there.'

"We went to train there yesterday and the lights worked fine.

"Our advance party even arrived two days before the team, and in that time they could also not find a pitch available.

"We believe Morocco does not have a very good relationship with South Africa. Apparently it goes back to South Africa winning the right to host the 2010 World Cup - and gamesmanship is a big thing here.

"The bus they gave us was sh*t - it was a grey old stinky bus. So we've got another one at our own expense."

The suspicion has been that Wydad have called grounds around Rabat asking them not to make themselves available to Sundowns.

"The official reason the Moroccans have given us is that the national team has not been doing well because of poor pitches, and that they need to preserve all the pitches for the national team," Thuswa said.

"When they came to South Africa we treated them really well. We gave them police escorts; we had [Sundowns official] Alex Shakoane and drivers stationed permanently with them to attend to their needs.

"Here we have had no police escorts. We have this guy who drives our van with our kit in, Ashraf, and he shows us where to go."

Thuswa said the "gamesmanship" could have an effect opposite to that intended by Wydad, angering and motivating the Sundowns players.

"In all the countries that treated us like this we came out victorious," Thuswa said.

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