Sundowns head for DRC as quest for Caf glory begins
Champions League match will be a test but they can tap into the experience of specialists
Mamelodi Sundowns travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this weekend to face AS Maniema Union as the Caf Champions League moves to the second preliminary round stages before the group stages.
The 2016 champions face a daunting trip for a confrontation with Union in the first leg to be played on Sunday in Kindu.
It is a logistical nightmare for any Southern African team, but Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena said the club has specialists who make their lives as coaches a little easier in their Champions League assignments.
“Of course we have Goolam Valodia, who leads the travelling party in relation to being the advanced group. Him and Khalid Ali specialise in that African sojourn for us,” said Mokwena.
Valodia serves as a performance analyst, whose main duties are to travel the continent to profile Sundowns’ opponents.
Ali speaks Arabic and is the club’s Maghreb region logistics manager, who takes care of accommodation and securing suitable training facilities.
Sundowns will host the Congolese side in Tshwane for the second leg on the weekend of October 22 to 24, with the aggregate winners qualifying for the lucrative group stages.
Sundowns have played in the DRC before and had relative successes against one-time winners AS Vita in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi-based five-time champions TP Mazembe.
“We are very familiar with the terrain and the environment, and familiar with the weather and maybe that is why we, in a certain way, manipulated what would be a normal programme for us.
“We would normally travel three or four days before the match but this time we will leave a little closer to the match because of some of the situations we know we will face in relation to a lack of proper training facilities.”
Union played in the first preliminary rounds where Sundowns had a bye. Mokwena said their experts have already profiled their opponent’s recent matches.
“They are direct with very aggressive wing play and overlapping movements of the full backs. They have very quick strikers. The work has been done on them and we have got to be wary on the transitions and their set pieces.
“But we still have a couple more days to work on some of these strategies and schemes and make sure that we are as prepared as possible.”
Meanwhile, red-hot Namibian striker Peter Shalulile walked away with the DStv Premiership player of the month award, while Mokwena and his co-coach, Manqoba Mnqgithi, were crowned the coaches of the months under consideration.