The highly anticipated first-leg match is set to take place at the iconic Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca on Sunday.
During the pre-match press conference, Mamelodi Sundowns' head coach, Rhulani Mokwena, shared his thoughts on the upcoming encounter.
He acknowledged the challenge posed by Wydad, emphasizing the quality of their team and the coaching expertise.
It is a testament to the competitive nature of African football that these two powerhouse clubs have reached the AFL final.
History of rivalry: Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad's intense encounters
Mokwena reflected on their previous experience in Morocco, particularly in the CAF Champions League, where the Sundowns faced Wydad.
“Last season, when we came here and played in the CAF Champions League semi-finals, one of the most crucial aspects we had to consider, aside from our performance on the pitch and our tactical approach, was the influence of the crowd, often referred to as the '12th man.'
“The Moroccan fans were incredibly vibrant and supportive of their team. However, I believe that the moment Sundowns left the pitch, we earned the admiration and respect of many Moroccan hearts.
“This was not solely due to our players' behavior but rather the style of football that we showcased.” He stated
The history between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Athletic Club dates back to 2017, and head-to-head records favor Wydad.
Nevertheless, Coach Mokwena emphasized the strength of his Sundowns team, acknowledging the quality of their opponents.
He also expressed the hope that the officiating team, including those responsible for VAR, would ensure a fair and exciting final for fans from both countries.
Furthermore, Coach Mokwena highlighted the talent of his Moroccan player, Abdelmounaim Boutouil, and expressed his belief that Boutouil deserves a place in the Moroccan National Team.
Coach Mokwena expressed his pride in Mamelodi Sundowns, a team known for its distinctive style of play and tactical excellence, and their participation in this exciting new competition.
“We are proud of ourselves for being Mamelodi Sundowns, a team that has received a lot of global recognition for its style of play and tactics that we use”
An emotional start: Condolences and compassion for late Wydad player
The press conference began with a somber note as Coach Mokwena extended his heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the late Oussama Falouh, a Wydad player who tragically passed away following a car accident.
“Please allow first to start with something that is very important… We will start by sending our sincere, deepest, heartfelt condolences to the fellow family and friends to the Wydad family, our sincere commiseration, and the deepest condolences from Mamelodi Sundowns as a football club and may his soul rest in peace.”
The coach's sincere words reflected the sense of solidarity and compassion that transcends football rivalries.
Coach Mokwena also acknowledged the recent earthquake that had affected Morocco, expressing his condolences on behalf of South Africa and Mamelodi Sundowns.
This gesture of goodwill exemplified the broader significance of football in fostering unity and empathy, even in the midst of fierce competition.
This article was most recently revised and updated 4 weeks ago