MAMELODI Sundowns will open their 2016 Fifa Club World Cup Japan account with a clash against the winner between Auckland City of New Zealand and Japan’s J-League champions in Osaka on 11 December.
Sundowns qualified for the Club World Cup following their historic 3-1 aggregate Caf Champions League victory over Egyptian giants Zamalek on Sunday.
The Japan tournament, scheduled for 8-18 December, will also feature Mexican champions Club America, Spain’s finest Real Madrid, and Atletico Nacional of Colombia, the winner of the AFC Champions League.
Sundowns arrived at OR Tambo airport this morning, where throngs of supporters welcomed them back. The occasion was marked with speeches and presentations by club boss Patrice Motsepe and Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Sundowns are the second Mzansi club to have been crowned African champions after Orlando Pirates, who achieved the same feat back in 1995. Downs, however, are the first to play in the Club World Cup.
Their coach Pitso Mosimane is also the only local coach to have won the Champions League in Mzansi.
With the Champions League trophy and R21 million in prize money already in the bag, the Brazilians have now turned their attention to the local cup game, the Telkom Knockout Last 16. They face Polokwane City at their slaughterhouse, Lucas Moripe Stadium, tomorrow night (6pm).
Downs cut short their celebrations in Cairo on Monday to start training for the Knockout tourney and will have another afternoon session at their Chloorkop base to prepare for Luc Eymael’s charges.
Three days later on Sunday, the Brazilians host Cape Town City at the same stadium in their second Absa Premiership match of the season.
Captain Hlompho Kekana said he was looking forward to the Fifa Club World Cup in December to see how far they have come as a team.
Kekana conceded that winning the Champions League was not an easy feat, particularly in Egypt.
“I am happy we managed to win to make the country proud, but it was a mission out there,” he said.
“We knew the situation would not be easy for us, with all sorts of intimidation expected, but we stuck to our game plan, which was not to allow them to score an early goal.
“We knew if we could stay focused for the first 15 minutes, we stood a good chance.”
Kekana will cherish Sunday’s moment of glory for the rest of his life, revealing that it was a long held dream to follow in the footsteps of his hero Mark Fish, who won the trophy with Pirates.
“Mark was my hero. I was still at school when he won the Champions League and that inspired me to win it too some day. I looked up to him and I am happy to have won it too,” said Kekana.