Few hurdles to clear as Downs bid for R1bn bonanza

Who could be standing in Mamelodi Sundowns’ way of bringing home R1-billion? After pocketing the sugar-coated R75-million when they lifted the newly launched African Football League (AFL), Mamelodi Sundowns’ quest for another R1-billion started yet again yesterday.

The 13-time PSL champions face Tanzania’s enterprising outfit Young Africans SC, affectionately known as Yanga in the first leg of the Caf Champions League quarterfinals at the Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium, in Dar es Salaam on Saturday night.

As expected, coach Rulani Mokwena’s eyes will be fixed on the big prize, and his players will also be keen to go all the way and qualify for the 2025
Fifa Club World Cup, which comes with a staggering R1-billion and a chance to play at the biggest stage in football competition.

Reports from Europe say that the overall tournament’s prize money, which will take place in America, has been increased to a whopping R50-billion. Each of the four African teams that will qualify will be in the pound seats, with each team getting smacked with R1-billion.

There are two routes for the SA champions to book their ticket to the US: either by winning their second African star since 2016 or via the Caf rankings, where they are lying third on points. Via the ranking route, they will have to ensure that they finish ahead of Esperance de Tunis, Petro Luanda, and Simba SC in the Champions League. North African giants Al Ahly and Wydad Athletic have already qualified by virtue of winning the last two editions of the competition.

We look at the teams who are still remaining in the Champions League and who stand in Sundowns’ way of bringing another fat pay to Chloorkop.

Yanga SC: The talented Tanzanians could spoil Mokwena and his players’ party if they could knock out the Brazilians in this last eight stage that started on Friday.

It is highly unlikely, but we have seen shocking results in the past, like when Jwaneng Galaxy of Botswana prematurely ended the Orlando Pirates and Jose Riveiro’s Africa safari in the first round of the Caf Champions League.

They also have South African-born Skudu Makudubela, who will have some good intel for the East Africans on their highly fancied opponents.

Yahya Mudathir, Abdulla Ibrahim and Job Dickson are the star players at the club.

Esperance: North African sides have always been a pain in the backside for South African teams.

Their dominance on the continent has gone on for years and their hunger and ambition has always seen them through.

However, in fairness, the Tunisians are no longer the powerhouse they used to be a few decades ago. But under coach Miguel Cardoso, they have been clawing their way back into contention for glory on the continent.

Simba SC: The Tanzanians have surely raised their hands this season. They have two teams in the quarterfinals, and this surely means that their stock is rising and they are becoming a force to be reckoned with in club football in Caf competitions.

However, their road could be over in the tournament after they lost their first leg encounter at home against the African Club of the Century, Al Ahly on Friday night.

Denis Kibu, Yassin Mzamiru, and Salum Aishu are some of the Simba players who represented the country at Afcon.

Petro Luanda: Two years ago, the Angolans were responsible for dumping Sundowns out of the Champions League in the Last 8 stage after a 1-1 draw at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

They reached the semi-finals via a 3-2 aggregate, following a 2-1 win in the first leg in Luanda, Angola. Miguel Vieira Gilberto is the dangerman.

TP Mazembe and Asec Mimosas: Though Mazembe and Mimosas are still in the tournament, they do not really pose much of a threat to Sundowns.

Mazembe and Mimosas, from Ivory Coast, are expected to be the bridesmaids in the run-to-the finals of this year’s competition.

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