Mamelodi Sundowns have reached the final of the inaugural African Football League (AFL), heroically taming Egyptian giants Al Ahly with a 0-0 second leg result in front of a hostile crowd in Cairo on Wednesday night.
After the Springboks won the 2023 Rugby World Cup by beating the All Blacks in Saturday night’s final in Paris, and with the Proteas seemingly in rampant form in the Cricket World Cup in India, Sundowns are again flying the flag for South African football.
Caf president Patrice Motsepe, whose brainchild, along with Fifa president Gianni Infantino, the super-lucrative AFL is, will watch the club he owns compete in the two-legged final to be played on Sunday and November 11.
Downs – who won the first leg 1-0 at Loftus Versfeld, meaning that was the aggregate score – will meet Moroccan nemesis Wydad Athletic, who narrowly knocked them out of last season’s Caf Champions League semifinals, in that final.
Wydad beat Esperance de Tunis on penalties in the earlier semifinal (1-1 aggregate).
In the hostile cauldron of a packed Cairo International Stadium, in front of Ahly’s fanatical, chanting supporters, the Brazilians rode some luck in the first half. They produced a polished, stifling defensive display in the second 45 minutes to reach their first continental final since winning the Champions League in 2016.
Downs ended the game with 10 men after substitute Junior Mendieta’s 83rd-minute dismissal.
For Al Ahly, the most successful team by far in the Champions League with 11 titles, establishing a similar grip on Africa’s newest continental club competition – which has the potential, given its staggering prize money, to become an even bigger tournament – will be a priority.
But, after they beat Tanzania’s Simba on away goals in the quarterfinals, Downs denied Swiss coach Marcel Koller’s team further progression.
The Red Devils seemed flat in the second half. Sundowns’ organisational patterns also kept Ahly at bay. – TimesLIVE