Rulani Mokwena: Mamelodi Sundowns have won a lot of Moroccan hearts

Rulani Mokwena: Mamelodi Sundowns have won a lot of Moroccan hearts

Wydad Athletic Club will again look to draw inspiration from their passionate fans, known as the “ultras”, when they host Mamelodi Sundowns in the African Football League final first leg on Sunday evening.

They have been known over the years to create a hostile environment for the visiting team at Mohammed V Sports Complex – a feeling Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena is all too familiar with. 

READ: Rulani Mokwena lauds Mamelodi Sundowns duo for CAF awards

Speaking in Casablanca ahead of the 20:00 kick-off (SA time), Mokwena recalled how their performance in last season's CAF Champions League semi-final at the same venue won over respect and admiration from the home crowd.

"Last we came here and played in the [Champions League] semi-finals, and one of the most important things we had to deal with, apart from just the pitch and the tactics, was, of course, the influence of the crowd – what you'd call the 12th man," said Mokwena.

"It's very vibrant, very supportive of their team, but I think the moment Sundowns left the pitch, we won a lot of Moroccan hearts, not only in relation to how our players behave on and off the pitch, but I think with the type of football that we displayed.

"And also because of how warm the Moroccan people are – we found that Moroccan people are good people, with good hearts, so we were received, of course, by a hostile crowd because of their passionate support for Wydad, but I think we won a lot of hearts."

There has also been a coaching change at the Botola giants since the last time the two sides met, with Adil Ramzi having replaced Sven Vanderbroeck, and Mokwena is wary of the potential tactical differences they might face.

"This is more or less the same team, apart from the fact that, of course, there's a different coach who comes with some different ideas, particularly [coming] from PSV," noted the coach.

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Catch the African Football League final first leg LIVE on SABC Sport on DTT, SABC + and from 20:00.