Mokwena thanks 'yellow nation' as Sundowns win first African Football League

Peter Shalulile and Aubrey Modiba scored as Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa beat Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 2-0 in Pretoria on Sunday to win the inaugural African Football League.

Mamelodi Sundowns players celebrate victory in the inaugural African Football League on 12 November 2023. Sundowns beat Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 2-0 in Pretoria to claim the title. Picture: @Masandawana/X

JOHANNESBURG - Peter Shalulile and Aubrey Modiba scored as Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa beat Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 2-0 in Pretoria on Sunday to win the inaugural African Football League.

Sundowns won the two-leg final 3-2 on aggregate to claim their first African trophy since lifting the CAF Super Cup six years ago.

It was their first success against Wydad in a knockout tie having lost twice to them in the semifinals and once in the quarterfinals of the CAF Champions League from 2017.

This was also the first time more than one goal separated the clubs, with eight of the previous 13 meetings won by a one-goal margin and the other five drawn.

Success was worth four million dollars to Sundowns - the equivalent of winning the South African league five times.

"I am so lucky to be in charge of this magnificent group of players," said Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena.

"My thanks to the yellow nation (Sundowns supporters) for their wonderful support from the first minute to the last.

"It is difficult to talk now. This is a very emotional time for me. There has been so much heartbreak after some previous matches against Wydad. Now there is joy."

Recalled after missing Sundowns' previous five matches in the competition, Namibia captain Shalulile broke the deadlock three minutes into first-half added time.

REACTED QUICKEST

Wydad goalkeeper Youssef el Motie parried a Teboho Mokoena shot from the edge of the box and Shalulile reacted quickest to slam the ball into the roof of the net.

The goal finally gave the capacity 50,000 crowd, which included the presidents of FIFA and CAF, Gianni Infantino and Patrice Motsepe, something to cheer.

Numerous stoppages for injuries, overly physical challenges, and time wasting by the Casablanca outfit combined to deliver an opening half far below what was anticipated.

A wayward Wydad pass in their own half led to Sundowns' scoring again eight minutes into the second half.

The ball was intercepted by Modiba, who eluded the challenges of two Moroccans before lifting the ball over El Motie and into the net.

Needing to score at least once to force extra time, Wydad became more adventurous and captain Ayoub el Amloud had a powerful header off a corner saved by goalkeeper Ronwen Williams.

Defender El Amloud, deputising as skipper for suspended midfielder Yahya Jabrane, proved the biggest threat to Sundowns with another header not far off target.

In previous rounds of the eight-club competition, Sundowns beat Petro Luanda of Angola and record 11-time CAF Champions League winners Al Ahly of Egypt.

CAF, who battled to secure sponsorship for the League, hope to expand it to 24 clubs for the 2024-2025 season.