Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena is ready to take on the criticism he’s received as he lauded the mentality of his players during their congested schedule.
Sundowns have missed out on the first two domestic trophies on offer in the form of the MTN8 and Carling Knockout but hold a seven-point lead over Golden Arrows in the DStv Premiership having won eight of their opening eight games.
That dominance cannot be ignored, with Sundowns competition in the African Football League, holding a 2-0 lead over Petro de Luanda in the quarter-final and in the group stages of the CAF Champions League.
“I want to thank you for exposing the truth, because there’s a school of thought that is also contrary to the feelings that we are dominant and we’re playing well, winning games and we’ve come under a lot of criticism, I’ve suffered greatly,” Mokwena said.
“But like the players, and maybe also far less than some members of the football club for the last three, four weeks, but like I always say, I give a lot of praise and credit to the players, they work hard and understand to be a top football player, it needs to be for 40, 50, maybe even 60 games with extra competitions.
“This is what is happening worldwide, that’s why the top coaches in the world are saying it’s too much football… when you look at the things, play too many games it causes fatigue, the accumulation thereof, less training time.”
The Nedbank Cup title and Africa Cup of Nations on the horizon offer another added aspect of their incredible workload for the 2023/24 season, as seven Masandawana players featured for Bafana Bafana in the most recent FIFA international break.
“I spend far too little time with the players on the training pitch because it’s always rest and recovery – and there’s so much work we have to do to try and improve players. There’s also the unfortunate science from a physiological perspective that speaks about the lack of consistency derived from physiological and physical fatigue,” Mokwena continued.
“You talk about these players, important for the club but important for the national team – but heavy is the head that carries the crown and if you wanna be a top footballer in the modern game, you have to be a player that uses days off very well. Have a good social life, look after your diet and the company you keep.
“Part of the responsibility is not just to look after your talent but manage your career, that’s the space we operate in – we have players that understand that clearly responsibility.”
Sundowns face off against the Girabola giants at Loftus Versfeld this evening at 19h00.