Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane praised an unlikely source for contributing to the club’s success that has seen the Brazilians dominate South African football in the last seven years.
In that time Sundowns have won four league titles, two domestic knockout competitions, the 2016 CAF Champions League and 2017 CAF Super Cup. But before Mosimane ended the drought and brought back happy days in the country’s capital, he faced a major stumbling block – the club’s bloodthirsty fans who were baying for his head at one point when results weren’t going his way. It was nothing new, when results didn’t go the club’s way Sundowns supporters attacked their coaches to a point that they needed a police escort. That has changed dramatically in the last couple of years.
“Sundowns supporters like to put on a show and many people follow after,” Mosimane said. “I have seen other guys have a big drum now, I say okay, good. I have seen other people when the match finishes they also stay a little bit and clap hands like Sundowns. Good! It’s a good thing, everybody joins in and it’s one big family. It’s not that because you started it, it’s yours. It’s good for everybody, let the mood be positive in the country. Let’s all clap the hands after the match, even after you lose.
Mosimane continued, “The big test is when you lose, and they stay, clap hands and sing. Not many teams can do that after a loss, they all leave. Our supporters stay with a deep heartfelt feeling that we have lost the match, and I have to go there. The best thing about that is that the players aren’t afraid to lose a match because they are going to get abused after. That thing has been a turnaround in our team, to say that if the players lose a match we are with you just as we are when we win. Sundowns supporters have brought a different culture.”
Sundowns supporters’ love for the club will be put to the test this evening in their Champions League clash with Angola’s Petro de Luanda. The match kicks off at 9pm at Lucas Moripe Stadium, a rarity in South African football. But since the Confederation of African Football (Caf) took over the naming of times and dates, there have been a number of 9pm matches in South Africa which is a foreign concept. This is done to accommodate the continental audience, especially North Africa.
“We have played at 11pm in North Africa when it’s Ramadan,” Mosimane said. “We are used to this. Your day is too long, so you’ve got to be very careful because you can eat and eat and get bored. When you are used to sleeping at 11pm, your body switches off because your body is used to do. If you go to another time zone, that’s why they call it jet lag, your body is shocked because you are used to a certain pattern."
Mosimane continued, “Once you disturb that, it disturbs your mood, mentality and your pattern. But this is part of the Champions League, you know that those games are televised all over the place.
"In North Africa 9pm is normal. They don’t play earlier, they play around 10pm and 11pm. The day is different there. In the morning there aren’t too many people on the streets, but here in South Africa at 6am and 7am you can see we are rushing to work. It’s a different culture and mentality, but because we are used to it this won’t be a shock.”