JOHANNESBURG – An outrageous record is the fuel that has driven the Pitso Mosimane led Mamelodi Sundowns to finish in the top two in the PSL in the last five seasons.
The Brazilians’ record in those five campaigns is impressive – finishing first, second, first, second and first to claim three league titles and be the only consistent team in the league title race in the last five seasons.
They are also among the sides challenging for the title this season, currently in second place and tied on 40 points with first-placed Orlando Pirates.
“Our target all the time is 72 points,” Mosimane said. “We thought that we could get 72 points (in the 2015-16 season), but we got 71 points.
“It’s a record that we have put for ourselves, not for anyone else. Seventy-one points with the Telkom Knockout and Caf Champions League.
“I want to know if there’s any Mamelodi Sundowns team that can beat that record.
“It’s something to celebrate, have alumni and the jersey that players can use to celebrate that they were part of the first team to collect 71 points in (a 16-team league in) South African football – until another team breaks that record.
“We did that, for that – not for the sake of other things.”
The current generation will not reach that magical 71 points this season. But they can add a second star to the Sundowns badge, like the class of 2016.
The Brazilians lead Group A in the Champions League with two games to go. Sundowns’ second-last game is against Lobi Stars at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday night.
“The Champions League is a priority for us,” Mosimane said. “The game on Saturday is big for us. You know that I always say that I would love to win everything, but you know where the biggest weight is.
“In the history of the club, the Champions League is huge. If it was easy, why can’t everybody win it?
“Because before you win the Champions League, you must be number one or number two. Is it easy to be number one and number two? It’s a difficult one.
“But after that, can you play three games in a week? That’s the Champions League requirements, and you are travelling…
“The priority at home is the league, but internationally, for the brand of Mamelodi Sundowns, it’s the Champions League.”
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) March 7, 2019
Mosimane once told a story of the reception Sundowns received when they landed in Congo to take on AC Leopards in Dolisie in 2016.
He says they were greeted by chants of “Pirates”, with the locals thinking that they were Orlando Pirates as the Buccaneers, then, were the most recognised South African team in Africa.
Sundowns have muscled their way into that bracket.
“I walk in Morocco in the shopping mall and they ask me, ‘Coach, how are you?’ And I am not wearing Sundowns clothes. They ask me how are you and how is the team? When are you coming back?
GOAL MORNING MASANDAWANA!👆 Excellent team work made for some lovely goals when we met ASEC Mimosas at home, this time round we face Lobi Stars at home on Saturday! Who wants to see more of this?!?💛🏆🔥#Sundowns #CAFCL pic.twitter.com/Hqvux260au
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) March 8, 2019
“That’s the (power of the) Champions League for you. I walk in Egypt, and they recognise me. It’s an honour.
“You really feel that you are contributing to African football. It’s unbelievable,” Mosimane said.