Rulani Mokwena: Gruelling travel took its toll on Mamelodi Sundowns

Rulani Mokwena: Gruelling travel took its toll on Mamelodi Sundowns

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena shed light on the challenges endured by his players after their 2-1 setback to Wydad Athletic Club in the African Football League final first leg on Sunday.

Rest is a luxury seldom afforded to The Brazilians, as they embarked on an arduous journey from Egypt to Morocco to face Wydad, merely days after their exhausting goalless draw with Al Ahly in the semi-finals.

The match against Wydad presented the ultimate test for Mokwena's men, who faced a formidable opponent amidst the backdrop of a boisterous 80,000-strong crowd.

READ: Rulani Mokwena lauds Mamelodi Sundowns duo for CAF awards

While the outcome was a disappointing defeat for the Chloorkop-based side, they can draw solace from their achievement of securing a vital away goal – a factor that could prove pivotal in the overall tie.

Speaking to the press following the match, Mokwena acknowledged the taxing travel schedule and its impact on his players. He expressed, "It's difficult. It's very difficult, but the modern player has to get accustomed to playing every three days now.

"The primary challenge, particularly in continental football, is the extensive travelling. The hours spent in transit, moving from one country to another, are considerable.

"This challenge is particularly pronounced when you consider that a significant number of the continent's top teams come from countries like Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. The journey from South Africa to these nations is a substantial contributing factor."

However, Mokwena made it clear that they do not make excuses. He pointed out that modern players must adapt to this demanding schedule, emphasising the importance of preparation, recovery, and injury prevention.

He further explained, "We don't complain about it. You know the modern player has to get ready. The only people who understand it are people like myself who don't step onto the pitch and run for 90 minutes.

"But we experience the travel. Even for me, every two days, I have five games to watch, along with analyzing our previous game and training sessions. It's an intense schedule, but the reality is that most people may not grasp the significance of these demands, as they don't experience it themselves.

"We must find ways to cope with these challenges and ensure that we support the players in their recovery, injury prevention, and preparation for the next match," he added.

Sundowns must now look ahead to the second leg of the AFL final, which will take place at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday.

You can watch the AFL final second leg LIVE on SABC Sport Channel, SABC + and