A bullish Mosimane claimed they will not do as they please in his castle
REGARDLESS of who Mamelodi Sundowns will be drawn with today for the quarter-finals of the CAF Champions League – either Zamalek, Al-Ahly or Raja Casablanca – one thing is certain, Pitso Mosimane will have the red carpet rolled out for him when he enters.
The Mamelodi Sundowns coach is royalty in Egypt and Morocco. In Egypt, Al-Ahly supporters pose with him and those associated with Sundowns with a three symbol in reference to the 3-0 the Brazilians handed Zamalek in the first leg of the 2016 Champions League final. Zamalek fans display a five, in ode to the 5-0 drubbing Sundowns inflicted on Al-Ahly.
There was a meme making the rounds on social media in Egypt of cartoon characters Tom and Jerry representing Al-Ahly and Zamalek, each with fear in their eyes as they pass Sundowns to the other in anticipation of the draw. That’s the reputation Mosimane and Sundowns have on the continent, a feared juggernaut that has humbled north African giants.
Mosimane is also respected in Morocco due to Sundowns’ classical duels with Wydad Casablanca. Wydad supporters courted Mosimane, asking him to lead their club before coach Sebastien Desabre was appointed.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mosimane explains the love he gets in north Africa. “It brings goosebumps, that you go to Cairo and they respect you. It’s unbelievable. Who am I? They treat you like they see Pep (Guardiola) or whoever. I am just a local coach from South Africa. But it is unbelievable there, the respect and the response I get when I am there. They believe in me. They give me a chance, they put me on TV to analyse the game and I don’t even speak Arabic.”
Mosimane continued, “It’s humbling when you get that, and you get respected I can hardly walk the streets in Morocco. But when I am home, I can just walk anywhere. No one cares about me. They are too much fanatics. I have never seen energy like that.
“When you enter the stadium in Casablanca, you feel the heat. They’ve got a lot of drums and all those things. It’s good that my players don’t fear the stage because the stage is too big.”
Years ago Sundowns would have gone to the quarter-finals as underdogs in what promises to be the most tightly-contested last eight in a long time with all eight teams having won the Champions League before. But because of their exploits since lifting the trophy in 2016, the team they will face will dread making the trip to Pretoria – where Sundowns have won all their games in this year’s tournament. The Brazilians’ success against north African giants is based on them taking the fight to those teams.
“Not in Atteridgeville,” is now part of the Mosimane classical quotes collection. He used that line to Wydad who were so disgruntled at losing to Sundowns at Lucas Moripe Stadium that they caused commotion.
A bullish Mosimane claimed they will not do as they please in his castle. That mentality is key in getting the better of north Africans who are used to teams cowering in front of them.