MOGAMAD ALLIE: Sundowns turns lopsided PSL into a one-man show
The football fraternity should be concerned about the dynasty that the side is establishing
As Mamelodi Sundowns continue their charge to claim an unprecedented quadruple this season, the rest of the Premier Soccer League (PSL), and indeed the country’s football fraternity, should be concerned about the dynasty that’s being established by the Chloorkop-based side.
All credit to Masandawana for their success that has been built on sound planning, good administration and ultimately, delivering on the pitch where it matters most.
Having already bagged the MTN8, Sundowns are on the verge of confirming a record-extending fifth succcessive league title. With five games to play they need six points to be crowned champions yet again — provided of course, that Kaizer Chiefs win all of their remaining eight games.
Sundowns are well-placed to lift the Nedbank Cup for a fourth time having reached the semifinals where they will meet Royal AM on April 30. And they are also strongly in the running to claim a second Caf Champions League title, though that appears to be their toughest assignment.
Starting with this weekend’s quarterfinal first leg tie away to Angola’s Petro de Luanda, the 2016 African champions have some tough hurdles to negotiate if they are to emerge victorious in the final scheduled for May 29. But they have proved, as they did with home and away wins over 10-time champions Al Ahly in the group stages, that they are now a force to be reckoned with on the continental stage.
To emphasise their rise to becoming one of the most feared sides in Caf’s club competitions, Masandawana topped their group with a record-breaking 16 points courtesy of five wins and a draw. Not even the great Al Ahly, Caf’s club of the 20th century, has managed to achieve this feat.
Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi is not shying away from talk of a historic quadruple. In fact, he’s embracing the challenge telling the media after his team’s comfortable 3-0 win over Sudan’s Al-Merrikh on April 2, “When we start every competition, we have a desire to win it. There is no competition that we get into just for the sake of merely taking part in it.”
Of course, to sustain a challenge on all fronts requires a deep squad, which Sundowns certainly has. Crucially, the all-round quality of their squad has enabled the team’s co-coaches to enjoy the luxury of rotating their team regularly without a noticeable drop in their standards. They have already made use of 35 players across all competitions this season to keep their charges as fresh as possible, especially at the business end of the season.
While the 11-time champions are setting the standard and widening the gap between themselves and the chasing pack it is a major concern that big teams with huge fan bases such as Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are trailing in their wake.
With the greatest respect to the other teams in the league, SA football needs the Soweto giants to be strong and competitive.
Chiefs, for so long the standard bearers of SA football, have been lurching from one crisis to the next for the past few years and look no closer to ending their trophy drought that started in May 2015 when Stuart Baxter guided the team to their fourth league title in the PSL era.
Blessed with magnificent facilities, rated by Pitso Mosimane as the best in Africa when his Al Ahly team trained there ahead of their Champions League game against Sundowns in March, Amakhosi owe it to their long-suffering fans to get their act together and challenge strongly for silverware again.
So too Orlando Pirates who at least ended their six-year trophy drought in December 2020 when they claimed the MTN8 title with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Bloemfontein Celtic. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that the Buccaneers claimed the treble in successive seasons — in 2010/11 and 2011/12, under Ruud Krol and Julio Leal — so they know what it takes to be successful.
Both teams have the infrastructure and the finances capable of rising to the top again and going toe-to-toe with Sundowns. They can also take heart from the example of Masandawana who endured a similar barren and even turbulent spell between the time Gordon Igesund guided them to the league title in 2007 and 2014 when Pitso Mosimane claimed the first of his five titles with the club.
In between, the club had several high-profile international coaches, including Frenchman Henri Michel, Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichkov and Dutch legend Johan Neeskens, all of whom failed to deliver silverware to the club.
Make no mistake, the success of Sundowns is to be admired, but the rest of the league need to up their game to challenge their dominance and add a much-needed element of jeopardy to the PSL’s competitions.
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