'When we were still under apartheid‚ these guys were playing continental football‚' says Pitso Mosimane

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane applauds the fans after a Caf Champions League second leg semifinal against Wydad Casablanca in Pretoria on Saturday May 4 2019.
Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane applauds the fans after a Caf Champions League second leg semifinal against Wydad Casablanca in Pretoria on Saturday May 4 2019.
Image: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Outspoken Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane says his charges are starting to close the gap on North African sides that have dominated continental football since the days of SA’s isolation under apartheid.

Sundowns exited this year’s Caf Champions League in the semifinal stage after narrowly losing 2-1 on aggregate to Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca at the weekend.

Mosimane refused to drop his head after the defeat and said they are starting to figure out the likes of Al Ahly‚ Wydad‚ Esperance‚ Raja Casablanca‚ Zamalek and Étoile du Sahel‚ among others.

“When we were still in apartheid‚ these guys were playing Champions League football‚” he said.

“We understand how to play with the North Africans but we are yet to conquer them.

‘‘We are the only team in Sub-Saharan Africa‚ with the exception of TP Mazembe‚ that has figured them out.

‘‘You know about the dominance of North African football in the Champions League‚ they operate at budgets ten times than us‚ they get players back from Europe‚ they don’t just get any coach and they fly private jets.

“The support that we got (at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday)‚ I wish I could get it every time because that’s what you see there whenever they play.

‘‘They are even louder to be honest. They pay different salaries‚ they are just at another level and they have been doing this thing for many years. Wydad is an old club that must be respected and we are still young.”

Mosimane said Sundowns are still a work in progress following the departures of star players Khama Billiat and Percy Tau.

“I know that we need some time and experience and I will always say that it is a team in construction when we win and when we lose‚” he said.

‘‘You can see that it needs to be a little bit different up front in terms of scoring goals.

‘‘I have always told you that‚ we tried to reinforce after we lost Khama and Percy.

‘‘We tried our best to sign Ali Meza‚ Tony Silva‚ Jeremy Brockie and Aubrey Ngoma to try and close the gap but reality is that gap was not closed and that is the truth.

“When you lose those two strikers‚ it is difficult to maintain the standards.

‘‘I am happy that the team construction has come this far. I am not talking about our team in construction because we lost‚ no...... I have been consistent about this.”

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