S'Busiso Mseleku

Sundowns deserve their place among Africa's elite

2016-10-24 13:18
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)

Not many people can give lessons or lecture mining mogul Patrice Motsepe on how to build an empire.

GALLERY: Sundowns claim CAF Champions League glory

From being a junior partner at a top Johannesburg law firm, to running a business from a car boot, Motsepe rose up to being one of the richest people in South Africa.

And when he bought Mamelodi Sundowns in 2004, he made no bones about the fact that he wanted to catapult them into one of the best football sides on the African continent.

To many, this sounded like a real pipedream.


For starters, Sundowns were playing in a domestic league that was overly dominated by the two Soweto giants, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

Up to that point, 12 years since South Africa had been welcomed to the global football family, South African clubs had failed dismally to make waves on the continental football landscape.

Only Pirates had caused a stir when they surprisingly beat Asec Mimosa of Ivory Coast 1-0 in Abidjan after being held to a 2-all draw at home.

And now, Sundowns have made a history of their own by becoming the second club from this country and Southern Africa to earn a star on their jersey by being crowned the CAF Champions League kings. This they did by dispatching Egyptian giants Zamalek whom they beat 3-1 on aggregate after walloping them 3-0 at home making the 1-0 loss in Alexandria only academic.

This victory puts Sundowns on the special and exclusive list of continental giants such as Zamalek, Al Ahly, Wydad Casablanca, Asante Kotoko, TP Mazembe and Pirates who have all bagged the coveted title at one stage or another.

So, Motsepe’s journey that started with him joining the likes of Irvin Khoza and Kaizer Motaung in owning and fighting for the domestic league and cups, and has ended with him joining the likes of Mazembe’s Moise Katumbi as one of the top club bosses on the continent.

It has been some journey and included a lot of tinkering, near-misses and misjudgments.

Along the road, Motsepe has earned the ire of football connoisseurs as at some stage - like many soccer bosses - he tended to be too trigger happy in firing coaches.

He has even tinkered with foreign coaches who all failed to bring the desired and required glory ... that is until Pitso Mosimane was roped in only to prove to have been the missing cog in the puzzle.

The steady climb of Sundowns has seen them dominate the local football scene and it is not by chance that they are the most successful club domestically in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) era that started in 1996.

They have already won seven league titles while their trophy cabinet doesn’t look shabby either.

This has been achieved by ensuring that Sundowns always have some of the best - if not the best - players on their books.

Motsepe also made a promise which he has kept: to make Sundowns players the best paid and most well looked after in the league.

The Champions League victory does not only come with a financial windfall of around R20 million, but also an opportunity for Sundowns to play at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December where they will rub shoulders with the likes of Real Madrid.

Well, if that is not football royalty, tell me what is!

Sundowns have earned their place in the sky just as their slogan goes “The Sky is the Limit!”


S'Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning over 30 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

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The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

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