Emotional Mokwena can’t mask his dismay

RULANI Mokoena of Mamelodi Sundowns completed a near perfect season, only to be denied by Cape Town City this past weekend in the DStv Premiership. BackpagePix

RULANI Mokoena of Mamelodi Sundowns completed a near perfect season, only to be denied by Cape Town City this past weekend in the DStv Premiership. BackpagePix

Published May 27, 2024



RULANI Mokwena did his best not to break down after Mamelodi Sundowns’ coronation as the seven-time, successive champions of the land on Saturday.

Deep in the bowels of Loftus Versfeld, Mokwena, who had red eyes, sat with his shoulders up straight and his hands folded, and while he usually lights up during his press briefings, engaging up close with the media, he responded to most questions with caution and a low tone.

MAMELODI Sundowns were crowned champions for a seventh consecutive season on Saturday. BackpagePix

It could have been that he was exhausted from the celebrations and victory lap after his troops hoisted the Premiership trophy after yet another brilliant season. But his emotions largely told a story of his disappointment that they couldn’t complete an ‘invincible’ season after losing their last game of the season to Cape Town City.

Jaedin Rhodes scored a solo goal in the second half in Tshwane to hand Sundowns their only blemish and loss in the league season after going 29 games unbeaten. Mokwena conceded that he was engulfed by mixed emotions in his opening remarks after seeing their incredible run come to an end.

“It’s a bitter-sweet moment,” a dejected Mokwena said. “We would have loved to have done it in a different way.

“But one wise man once told me that man plans, but God decides. So, the Almighty decided that it should end like this. We’ve got to respect that.

“We’ve got to congratulate Cape Town City for the victory because we mustn’t forget that there was a football match that took place. They are the only club that beat us (this season), so a big congratulations to coach Eric Tinkler and his entire team.”


But while Mokwena was gracious in defeat, he still lauded his troops for an incredible campaign.

The No 7 is synonymous with the Brazilians. It’s also the club’s signature sign, and emblem which is on top of ‘The Sky's The Limit’ mantra on their jersey.

So, as Mokwena lauded his troops, he flashed out the famous sign, explaining the importance of their win in relation to the club’s symbol.

“I said to the players in the changeroom, though they were sad, don’t forget that winning and losing are imposters and you’ve got to treat them the same,” he said.

“I am very proud to deliver the most iconic (title). For generations to come, when Sundowns players do this (the No 7 sign) with their supporters, they’ll have an iconic meaning to it.

“They were the first group to win seven league titles in a row. It will never, ever be done again, so this group needs to be praised for rewriting history.”

Divine Lunga of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates during the Dstv Premiership 2023/24 match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City at Loftus Stadium, Pretoria on 25 May 2024 ©Phakamisa Lensman/BackpagePix

Sundowns’ incredible milestone might be double-edged for the universal observer. It could be praised and regarded as ordinary because it could be argued that the deep pockets of owner Patrice Motsepe, and the foundation laid by Mokwena’s predecessor Pitso Mosimane, has led to Sundowns’ success.

Moreover, the fact that the team have failed to win the CAF Champions League since 2016 meant another below-par season from Mokwena and his troops.

Mokwena doesn’t have time to entertain detractors, though. After all, he’s still on course to win a treble in his first full season in charge of the team.

Sundowns face Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup final in Mbombela on Saturday on the back of Saturday’s Premiership coronation and winning the African Football League in December.

“One thing that I have come to realise – not only with the media, fans or public – is that I can’t control the narrative, but it’s also just impossible,” Mokwena argued.

“Modern society with technology and social media is incredibly impossible to control, so I don’t even try. So, people believe what they believe, and see what they see. There are so many things I have given up on trying to convince people.

“I am just a weird character. I have accepted that I am a weird character. If there are those who believe that we aren’t making any progress, I can’t change that narrative at all.”