the sky is the limit

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

After starting the season by winning the SAA Supa 8, Mamelodi Sundowns hope to end it in a similar way by clinching the inaugural Nedbank Cup.

But they first have to negotiate their way past National First Division side Mpumalanga Black Aces before dreaming of depositing the R6 million first prize in their account.

The two sides meet in a final at Johannesburg Stadium tomorrow.

Dubbed "David v Goliath", this battle is bound to be an exciting game as the two sides boast an array of quality players with massive professional soccer experience.

AmaZion have made history by becoming the first non-Premiership club to reach the final in this South African version of the FA Cup.

But they are coming up against one of South Africa's greatest clubs boasting players with massive international exposure.

Harris "TV 4" Choeu, Sundowns' assistant coach, said they will have to be ruthless to realise their dream of becoming the first club to lay their hands on the title (in its existing form).

"We have to win this one for the [club] president [Patrice Motsepe] and our supporters," Choeu said.

"It will be a great celebration for Tshwane after SuperSport United won the league."

The history of Sundowns dates back to the early 1960s. But it will be incomplete not to talk about Screamer Tshabalala and his popular "piano and shoeshine" style.

There are many stories to tell about The Brazilians, but the Tshabalala era was full of drama that almost resulted in the collapse of the club.

Tshabalala replaced Ben Segale.

It was in 1986, a year after Sundowns gained promotion to the elite division, that the then owner, Zola Mahobe, roped in Tshabalala as a coach.

In the next two years Downs were an all-conquering side, winning almost everything to end the monopoly of the Soweto big three - Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows.

The charismatic Mahobe rewarded the players and technical staff by sending them, their wives and girlfriends to England to watch the FA Cup final.

It was the best ever Sundowns team. It included Pitso Mosimane, Harold Legodi, Choeu, Ernest Mtawali (Chirwali), Lovemore Chafunya, Rabie Moripe, Mark Anderson, Sam Khambule, William Zondi, Lucky Molefe, Zane Moosa, Mike Ntombela, Walter Kutumela, Andries Chitja, Jan Lechaba... the list goes on and on.

But the honeymoon at Sundowns abruptly ended after big spender Mahobe was arrested for fraud and the club fell into the hands of Standard Bank.

Later on, there was an auction where Krok brothers Abe and Solly of the Twin Pharmaceutical Group became the owners.

Irvin Khoza was also one of the top business people who bid for the club before Kaizer Motaung convinced him to go back and save the sinking Orlando Pirates ship.

Speaking of Pirates, there is this strange connection between them and Sundowns considering that Mahobe is a former Bucs supporter.

The current club boss, Motsepe, grew up in a family of Amabhakabhaka.

The Krok twins, after taking over, recruited Angelo Tschilas and his wife Anastasia, as chairman and managing director, respectively.

Enter visionary politician-turned-business mogul "Is'khokho" Motsepe in 2003, when he bought a 51 percent stake in the club.

The following year, Motsepe became sole owner of Sundowns and relocated it to HM Pitje Stadium.

Before Motsepe took charge, the management of the club curiously found it taboo to have "Mamelodi" attached to the club's name.

While Sundowns have done very well since Motsepe's arrival, winning the elusive African Champions League is still a dream.

From the first day he came into the club, Motsepe did not beat about the bush, stating that he was going to pay his players very well and also that he wanted to conquer Africa.

It is very common at Downs to see players sharing prize money among themselves, as was the case with the R2,6 million first prize for winning 2006-07 league title.

Some of the all-time stars of Sundowns include Phil Masinga, Sizwe Motaung, Bennet Masinga, Russell Molefe, Joel Masilela, Joas Magolego and Daniel Mudau.

But the club's future is in the hands of a new batch of stars. It remains to be seen if the sky will be the limit once more, come 5pm tomorrow.