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Mokwena Still Feels the Sting of Champions League Exit

  • May 6, 2024
  • 2 min read
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Mokwena Still Feels the Sting of Champions League Exit

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena admits he hasn’t overcome the disappointment of losing in the CAF Champions League semifinals.

“No. And I’m talking personally when I say I’m still reeling,” Mokwena confessed. “Someone tried to console me by saying, ‘You’ve already secured a double with the league and the AFL title, so why are you still dwelling on it?'”

“But I feel like I’ve let this group down,” he continued. “It’s my responsibility to lead, and when we fail, I need to stand accountable. A potential treble wouldn’t change that feeling for me.”

Mokwena believes his team deserved to reach the Champions League final. “Based on our performance in the second leg of the semifinal, I think we created enough chances to have a shot at it,” he said.

“However, things didn’t go our way. We were building momentum and creating chances when there was a sudden thunderstorm, followed by Thapelo Maseko’s injury,” he explained.

“That disrupted our rhythm. We went from creating pressure for 45 minutes to having only 20 minutes left, with the added anxiety of needing goals in the remaining time. It’s a difficult situation to overcome.”

“Other factors, like not having access to our stadium for a Saturday 15pm kickoff, which would have allowed for an extra recovery day, along with the altitude and heat disadvantage against a North African side – these may seem like minor details, but they can tip the scales in your favor,” Mokwena added.

“From a philosophical standpoint, I have to accept it,” he conceded. “But that doesn’t lessen the pain. I’ve already apologized to the club, and I apologize again for that failure. I take full responsibility.”

“This doesn’t mean we won’t keep trying,” Mokwena concluded. “We will win the Champions League eventually.”

Despite the Champions League setback, Sundowns have a chance to secure the treble as they face Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup final on 1 June at Mbombela Stadium. They secured their place in the final with a 2-1 victory over Stellenbosch FC at Danie Craven Stadium on Sunday.

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Robin-Duke Madlala

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