‘We are not here to make up the numbers’: Sundowns coach Mokwena ahead of clash with Young Africans

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena is expecting a tough match from Young Africans of Tanzania in the Champions League quarterfinal on Saturday.
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena is expecting a tough match from Young Africans of Tanzania in the Champions League quarterfinal on Saturday.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

In what looked like a ploy to take attention away from his team, Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena was flattering about their Champions League quarterfinal opponents Young Africans. 

The Brazilians take on the highly unpredictable Young Africans in the first leg at what is expected to be a packed and intimidating Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium on Saturday night. 

The added intrigue to this match is that Sundowns will be up against familiar faces in the form of their former coach Miguel Gamondi and midfielder Mahlatse Makudubela who came through the ranks at Chloorkop. 

A lot has changed at Chloorkop over the years but Gamondi has a rich history with Sundowns as he won the league title with the club in 2005/06 where he worked with Neil Tovey as co-coaches. 

Ahead of the clash, Mokwena said they are aware this match means a lot to the football mad Tanzanian people. 

“We are aware that we are playing against Tanzania’s most successful team with 29 league titles, we also know they are playing in their first quarterfinal in the Champions League since 1970. 

“We know what it means to the Tanzanian people and to the club but we are ready for what is going to be a difficult match. In football you are always as good as your last game. If we rely on experience and rest on our laurels, we will be in big trouble. 

“We have to go into the match and rely on our abilities and play good football. We know we are a good team with lots of good players but we work very hard with our preparations and that is probably the most important thing.” 

While expressing respect for the Young Africans, Mokwena said they are in Tanzania to get a positive result. 

“We have to approach every game with a lot of humility and that is what drives us to give a lot of respect to the opposition. We know they are a very good side, they did incredibly well in the Confederation Cup last season. 

“They are a team that is also trying to win their third league title in a row and they are doing well in the domestic competition. Even though they are a couple of games behind, they are still in the race with Azam and Simba. 

“I watched their games against Simba and Azam where they lost 2-1 but I think they played really well. They have some very good players, you can see the stamp of coaching from Gamondi. 

“That already gives you the importance of going into the game with humility but at the same time being brave, intense and try to win the game. We are not here to make up the numbers and participate in a festival, we are here to play football to win. 

“That is the mentality we carry in all our games and that’s exactly the approach but coupled with a lot of respect for what the club has done, the quality of their players and the work ethic in their coaching department.” 


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