Sunday, 19 June 2016

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: how Pitso's Mamelodi Sundowns confounded the continent

MIRACLE IN ALGERIA: Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane
Today I come to praise Pitso Mosimane. As one of those football addicts who stayed up way beyond midnight last Saturday night, it was a memorable 90 minutes on the Mamelodi Sundowns roller-coaster. Did I say memorable? Make that  bloody miraculous!

After a long day which featured come-from-behind wins for Bafana Bafana (on penalties over Lesotho in the COSAFA quarter-finals), a missed penalty for Cristiano Ronaldo (in another fascinating failure for Portugal) and a first win for Allister Coetzee’s Springboks, it was entirely unexpected.

We burned the midnight oil expecting to see another brave failure in Africa from our PSL champions. When they got to 20 minutes at 0-0, I tweeted that the match situation was already better than expected.

Truth is, our KaboYellow title winners went to Algeria with little to hope against their 2015 champions ES Setif. To list the problems for South Africa’s leading club in full would require several pages, but let’s just say their preparations weren’t ideal, they didn't expect to be in Africa, contracts need settling, new blood has yet to arrive.

In goal, Wayne Sandilands found himself thrust in front of a packed May 18th 1945 Stadium (read more about that name at the foot of this story) as a late stand-in for PSL goalkeeper of the year Dennis Onyango of Uganda and Kennedy Mweene of Zambia.

In midfield, with Bongani Zungu off to Portugal, Tiyani Mabunda need a last-minute visa application to get him out of the country for his continental debut. A word too for Leonardo Castro, who opted to return from Colombia to help out despite the imminent end of his one-year deal in Tshwane.

Whispers told us central defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele was left at home chewing over a move to Kaizer Chiefs, striker Anthony Laffour had “disciplinary problems” and it felt like Pitso Mosimane's usually impeccable preparation was in disarray.

With Ramadan to consider, the game didn’t start until after 11pm, no South African club has ever kicked off so late. And of course, no club has EVER played in the African Champions League group phase after being knocked out of both continental tournaments - only the disqualification of AS Vita Club had landed them back in Africa’s most important cup competition.

And Sundowns previous trips to North Africa hardly instilled confidence. Remember 0-4 against Tunisia’s CF Faxien, 0-3 against Egypt’s Al Ahli, 2-4 to Sudan’s Al Hilal?

They trotted out in Setif, memorable only for football and a massacre (105 were shot dead by French police on May 8, 1945) with a record of six defeats and two draws in their previous eight games north of the equator.

What was it Pitso said a few weeks ago about travelling north? "You see how it is. It's a jungle."

Under pressure from the first whistle to the last, we witnessed a 90 minute miracle. An away win to start a qualifying process Sundowns should never have been involved in.

First the long-suffering Mabunda silenced the rowdy crowd with a stunning first half goal against the run of play. Then, playing on the transition, the tireless Keagan Dolly - hero of Bafana’s only AFCON 2017 win against Gambia - finally threaded a ball through to PSL player of the season Khama Billiat.

The priceless Zimbabwean wove his magical thread through the Algerian defence and stuck it away. At 2-0, an unthinkable victory was confirmed. Setif had barely forced a save out of the impeccable Sandilands.

And then, in injury-time, a roar from the outraged fans, loud bangs from thrown fireworks and a full-scale pitch invasion. Chaos as Sundowns sought shelter by the bench. Fearful Setif players stayed on the pitch, looking on with some trepidation but trying to re-assure the opposition of safe passage from the stadium.


Footage of the trouble HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xX4EPod8avQ




Though our SuperSport and SABC commentators were doing their best from studios in Johannesburg, we were not granted visuals of the missiles thrown, the security guards trying to keep control.

Referee Mahamadou Keita from Mali, who did Sundowns few favours on an historic night, tried to get the match restarted but in the end, the final whistle went amid the chaos.

Much will be said, hopefully by SAFA to CAF, about a night of high drama and crowd chaos which, like the trouble at Euro2016, must be punished.


But this week, let’s just bask in the glory of South Africa’s finest Champions League performance in years. With Nigerians Enyimba at home on June 29. Pitso and Sundowns can finally give the nation something to shout about.


To read about the horrific events of May 8, 1945 in Setif: http://5pillarsuk.com/2015/05/08/8th-may-1945-remembering-algerias-setif-massacre/

5 comments:

  1. Damn, dats so amateurish. Dey do nt want 2loose. Who must loose ? Caf mus jus punish dem wit empty stands everytym dey play at home!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Damn, dats so amateurish. Dey do nt want 2loose. Who must loose ? Caf mus jus punish dem wit empty stands everytym dey play at home!

    ReplyDelete
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