Pretoria - Veteran midfielder Surprise Moriri says a unified effort and a strong belief in the cause helped Mamelodi Sundowns secure their first Premie Soccer League (PSL) title in seven years.
The Brazilians ended a six year wait for silverware on Tuesday as they were crowned PSL winners at Loftus Versfeld, edging rivals SuperSport United 3-0 to ease to the title with a game to spare.
“The boys worked hard. The guys who started the season laid the foundation for some of the guys who finished the season and that’s all about team work,” Moriri said after the game.
“Even the younger ones responded. Our experience couldn’t have worked if the younger ones were not there to follow us, so we had to lead the way.”
Moriri opened the scoring for the newly-crowned champions after half-time, following a dismal first half where Sundowns looked anxious and failed to execute their natural, free-flowing style of play.
Now in the twilight of his career, the 34-year-old is no stranger to title-winning campaigns, having already lifted two league titles - in 2006 and 2007 - before Tuesday’s success.
Moriri has been with Sundowns for the majority of his stellar career, spending 10 years with the Pretoria club, who last won a trophy in 2008, when they lifted the Nedbank Cup.
The former Bafana Bafana regular, who earned more than 30 caps for the national team, was well-used this season by coach Pitso Mosimane, who was rewarded for his faith in Moriri, by claiming his first ever league title, having come close as coach of SuperSport United.
Moriri was ever-present from the bench during the championship winning campaign, but has started the last eight games in succession, after a number of injuries forced Mosimane to use his ageing playmaker more often than he would have anticipated at the beginning of the season.
Of the 10 games where Moriri was named in the starting line-up, Sundowns completed a clean-sweep, winning all 10.
Humble as ever, Moriri chose not to highlight himself for his efforts, but instead praised coach Mosimane for the hard work and honesty that went into claiming top-spot before the season had even come to an end.
“Pitso has been good. One thing about him, he’s the kind of person who understands the culture of the South Africans and everybody,” Moriri said.
“He always makes sure that everyone is on their toes and you can see it. He makes sure that each player gives his best and finally we’re celebrating.
“Pitso is open-minded and he doesn’t hold back. If you are wrong, he comes straight to you and he’ll tell you to your face that you are wrong.
“Whether you are a senior or a junior and this is the kind of person that we want.”
Moriri’s team-mate, Teko Modise, who scored the second goal on Tuesday, claimed his first ever league honour despite a glittering career which took flight while at Orlando Pirates, where Modise twice won the coveted Footballer of the Year award.
“Winning this title will change the rest of my life. I need to set new goals but, for now, I’m just going to celebrate,” Modise said.
“After Surprise’s goal, things started opening up and we knew if we could get one, we’d get the second and the third.”
'Downs end their season with a dead-rubber against Maritzburg United at Harry Gwala Stadium with the knowledge that defending league champions Kaizer Chiefs trail by four points and cannot catch them.