Mamelodi Sundowns coach Mokwena on MTN8 final hopes: More football, fewer handbags

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Mokwena on MTN8 final hopes: More football, fewer handbags
Credit: Icon sport

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena has started playing mind games in the lead-up to the much-anticipated MTN8 final.

While Orlando Pirates may be the official opponents on the field, Mokwena acknowledged that the real challenge lies within his own team.

As the Sundowns juggernaut gears up to face off against Pirates at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the outcome of the final could epend on whether Sundowns can conquer their internal battles.

Mamelodi Sundowns prepares for the MTN8 final while hoping for a clean game

Khuliso Mudau with Rhulani Mokwena, Head coach of Mamelodi Sundowns and Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2023 MTN8 Final Mamelodi Sundowns Media Day
Credit: Icon sport

Speaking to the media, Mokwena was under no illusions about the challenge that Orlando Pirates poses.

In his assessment, he acknowledged, “It's a difficult opponent with some very good players on the pitch, an opponent that's playing its third cup final as a group.”

Sundowns are well aware of the magnitude of the assignment and is determined to give it their all.

One of the key concerns Mokwena raised is the physicality and the potential for injuries in games against Pirates.

He recalled past incidents where Sundowns players suffered severe injuries, impacting their performance.

Mokwena hoped for a game that focuses more on football and less on contentious issues on the field.

“We understand the magnitude of the assignment, and we have to go for it as well,” he continued.

“Hopefully, it’s a very good game of football, without the harassment of referees and without the physicality, with tackles that are over the top.

“In almost every game against Pirates we lose a player with a very severe injury. Hashim Domingo, in the Carling Cup. [Abubeker] Nassir is still not here because of the situation with [Pirates' goalkeeper, Siyabonga] Mpontshane.

“In the last game, [Nkosinathi] Sibisi took Marcelo [Allende] out on the half-way line with his studs up, two-footed tackle. Marcelo hasn't really recovered from that.

“I am hoping for a game that doesn't have too much of those … we have more football, and people are able to talk about the football and less about the handbags. The things on the periphery.”

The upcoming final is expected to be a closely contested and emotionally charged match, reminiscent of Sundowns' encounters in the Champions League.

However, the physicality and intensity often associated with such games are at odds with Sundowns' commitment to playing beautiful, possession-based football.

Mokwena striving for balance

Tebogo Mokoena of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates goal with teammates
Credit: Icon sport

Coach Mokwena acknowledged the challenge of finding the right balance between winning and playing attractive football.

“We try to do our utmost to find balance,” he stated.

Maintaining this equilibrium becomes even more complicated with a congested fixture list and limited training time.

Despite the challenges, Mokwena emphasized the importance of consistency.

“What we have to do is continue what we have been doing at this moment in time – we have found the balance between the two,” he asserted.

Sundowns aim to maintain a pragmatic approach that delivers results while staying true to their footballing philosophy.

In closing, Mokwena emphasized that Sundowns must not grow complacent with their success.

He believes that continuous improvement is key to their future success.

“What we have to now continue with is to be consistent and not get tired of winning. As soon as we can do that, we will continue to improve,” he concluded.

As the MTN8 final approaches, Mamelodi Sundowns and their coach are bracing themselves for a challenging encounter, both against their formidable opponents and the internal struggle to maintain their style of play amidst the physicality and intensity of the game.

The balance between winning and playing beautiful football will be put to the test, making this final a must-watch for football enthusiasts.

This article was most recently revised and updated 9 months ago

Rababe Koussaimi, a 22-year-old journalist, is deeply passionate about the world of sports. She grew up in a footballing environment, supporting both Bayern Munich and Wydad Athletic Club. She began her English journalism career by hosting a podcast for the first English radio station in Morocco. Currently, the Moroccan journalist channels her enthusiasm into writing and conducting extensive research, creating insightful and engaging content for GoalBall Live readers.