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SUNDOWNS, ZAMALEK SET FOR EPIC FINAL

Mamelodi Sundowns will be making their second attempt at lifting Africa’s most sought after club trophy after stumbling at the last hurdle against Al Ahly back in 2001.

Reaching the final of Africa’s biggest club competition still feels like a dream for the 46-year-old club that was established in the Marabastad township of Tshwane in the South African capital by a group of youngsters who had a passion for the game. The club became a professional outfit in 1970 and was first affiliated into the professional league three years later. Upon admission, Mamelodi Sundowns reached their first final in a Coca-Cola sponsored tournament where they lost 5-3 against Berea United.

The journey of the ‘Brazilians’ as the club is affectionately known due to its playing style was quite illustrious in their early years of inception. The club was once relegated and fought their way back to the then National Professional Soccer League after five years. It was in the same period that the club decided to move to the Mamelodi Township where it established its core fan base in the township that is located North East of Tshwane.

Upon gaining promotion to the National Soccer League (now Premier Soccer League) in 1985, managerial issues resulted in the club struggling to a point of liquidation before being rescued by Angelo and Natasha Tsichlas in 1988. Under the new leadership of Tsichlas, Sundowns enjoyed tremendous success in the National Soccer League. It was during that year that Sundowns won their first league title and a Bobsave Superbowl Cup (Now MTN 8) with Angelo Tsichlas at the helm as head coach.

From then on, the club dominated South African football, lifting the league and cup trophies that saw their support grow from the Mamelodi Township to different parts of the country.

Noticing the great potential and value of the club, South African mining and business mogul, Patrice Motsepe purchased the club from the Tsichlas family and has since pumped over R150 Million (over 10 million US Dollars) into the club, bringing in some of Africa’s best players to the Tshwane outfit.

To date, the club’s trophy cabinet boasts 10 league titles, four FA Cups, three league cups, three Top 8 cups and a number of preseason trophies. However, being crowned champions of Africa will be the ultimate return on investment for the club President.

Former Sundowns striker, Daniel Mudau who retired few years ago is confident that the Brazilians club will go all the way this time as they head back to Egypt in what he sees as a repeat of 2001 when Sundowns faced Egyptian giants, Al Ahly in the final.

Mudau, the Brazilians all-time leading goal scorer with 172 goals to his name says the strength of the current generation has been their resilience and ability to come back from behind.

“The coach (Pitso Mosimane) has instilled a ‘never say die’ attitude in the squad and give it their all up until the last minute. Teams that win against us really need to dig deep. Our boys always play with their hearts on their sleeves and this is because of the quality of the technical team that has been assembled at the club.

“It will definitely be tough but I believe this is the perfect Mamelodi Sundowns generation to make history,” says Mudau who is now the club’s Supporters Manager.

Among its great achievements, Sundowns is also one of the very few clubs in South Africa that have a professional women’s side, which is also the reigning queens of South African women’s football and contributes key players to the national women’s sides.

SIXTH HEAVEN BECKONS ZAMALEK

Zamalek Sporting Club was founded in 1911 under the name ‘Qasr El Nil Club’ by Belgian lawyer, George Marzbach, who was the club’s first ever chairman. The name was changed two years later, in 1913 to ‘El Mokhtalat Club’.

Few years later, it metamorphosed to ‘Farouk Club’, in honour of the then King of Egypt, King Farouk in 1941. The name was changed for a fourth and last time following revolution of 23 July 1952 to ‘Zamalek Sporting Club’.

In 1959, when the club moved to their current headquarters in central Cairo, Egyptian President at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser, made a famous pronouncement.

“I call on Zamalek members; go and build your new great club,” Abdel Nasser declared.

During its days as ‘Qasr El Nil Club’ and ‘El Mokhtalat’, the club chairman was Marzbach, who reigned from 1911 to 1915. He was replaced by Frenchman Nicolas Bianchi until 1917, when Dr. Mohamed Badr was chosen as the first Egyptian chairman for the period 1917-1919.

Through its 105-years of existence, Zamalek has witnessed 20 different chairmen, with some enjoying more than one stint. They are now chaired by Mortada Mansour, who is having his third stint at the helm.

Nicknamed the White Knights, their rivalry with Cairo fellows, Al Ahly, count among the biggest derbies in global football.

They have laid their hands on almost all the major trophies domestically and on the international front. They have won the Egyptian League 12-times, 26 shy of their rivals Ahly. For the domestic knockout cup, they have been crowned champions for the last three seasons taking their tally to 25.

On the continental scene, they won their first title, African Cup of Champions Clubs in 1984 and have gone on to win four more titles; 1986, 1993, 1996 and 2002. Zamalek also annexed the CAF Super Cup in 1994, 1997 and 2003.

It was during the captaincy of the legendary Hazem Emam, one of the most talented players in the history of Egyptian football, that Zamalek won the last of their fifth premier continental club championship trophies, beating Raja Athletic Club of Morocco 1-0 on aggregate in the final.

Emam, 41, recently elected to the Board of Egyptian Football Association recalls events of the final in 2002.

“As captain then, I held several meetings with the players. I tried to soothe them and tell them how much the Egyptian people wanted this trophy.

“I didn’t play the first leg in Casablanca. The coach (Carlos Cabral) told me ‘I need you in the second leg, not now (referring to the first leg). In Cairo, we dominated the first half till the 45th minute. When the ball came to Tamer Abdel Hameed (scorer of the winning goal), I told him not to shoot.

“Fortunately enough, he didn’t listen to me and shot, and scored. It was how we won our fifth African trophy,” Emam said.

“I can’t believe its 14-years already. We are on our way to the sixth now. Definitely it’s going to be a tough mission against Mamelodi Sundowns, but I believe the players have got what it takes to add a sixth star to their trophy cabinet.”

Some notable members of the Zamalek ‘Class of 2002’ are the Hassan brothers (Hossam and Ibrahim), Tamer Abdelhamid and Walied Abdellatif.
© CAF Online
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