Fairy Tale Mamelodi Sundowns on the cusp of history

The South African club are in the final of the CAF Champions League against all odds

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"People said we went in the back door. Yes, the back door - but now in the final. How nice!" Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane beamed on Saturday, after his team chalked an admirable feat: a place in the CAF Champions League final.

"It's sweet! It's good for the boys. It's good for history. It's good for Sundowns. I am happy to be part of the history at Sundowns,» he added.

Sundowns, the South African champions, booked an unlikely place in the final of the 2016 CAF Champions League by beating Zambia's ZESCO United 2-0 in Pretoria on Saturday. This result, coming on the back of a 2-1 loss back in Ndola, meant the Brazilians qualified for their second ever Champions League final on a 3-2 aggregate score.

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This achievement though, would have never happened but for a last ditch decision: the South Africans who only qualified for the Group phase of the Champions League via a dramatic 'boardroom' route.

Earlier in April, at the pre-group phase round of the Champions League, Sundowns lost on away goals over two legs to Congolese giants AS Vita Club, a result that signaled elimination and subsequent demotion into the less fancied CAF Confederations Cup.

In the Confederations Cup, their woes were compounded via the Away Goals' rule again, losing to Ghanaian F.A Cup winners Medeama SC after a 3-3 aggregate draw.

However, four days after that disappointment, they received good news: they had been reinstated into the CAF Champions League after Vita Club were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.

This out-of-the-blue second chance would be an opportunity they would grab with both hands. They went on to top their group - which contained Egypt's Zamalek, Nigeria's Enyimba and Tunisia's ES Setif (disqualified) - by three clear points, booking a semi final with ZESCO United, a club they eliminated on Saturday. 

Now, standing between them a a fairy tale first African title are five-time champions Zamalek. Although many experts consider them favourites for the trophy following their back to back wins over the Egyptians in the Group phase, Mosimane warns that it will be a different ball game, and that they are in no mood to be complacent. 

"It would be the biggest mistake [to underestimate Zamalek] we could ever do because Zamalek is more complex than ZESCO," he insisted.

"When you play Zamalek you are up against Hefny, Hosni, Shikabalala. They are unbelievably good, so it will be totally different. We need to just now forget the tactics we have used against Zesco and look to bring back how we played against Zamalek."

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The former Bafana Bafana coach however remained bullish about their chances of becoming only the second ever South African club - after Orlando Pirates - to win Africa's Premier Club competition.

"Let's be honest, Zamalek will not be happy to play us either," he said.

Meanwhile, the club's bankroller, mining magnate and millionaire Patrice Motsepe, has called for focus ahead of the team's date with history.

"The most important thing is we still have a long way to go," he said.

"It's correct to say Pitso did wonderful work. The players have made all of us very proud but nobody remembers number two. Nobody remembers you were in the final. The most important thing is to motivate them.

"When you play in Africa it is a great honour to make a humble contribution towards showcasing and representing the country. We have won the league many times. The league is for the supporters but representing the country is a greater honour for all of us."

Sundowns will host he first leg of the final on October 15 in Pretoria, before jetting off to Cairo for the decider a week later.

The seven-time South Africa champions made their Champions League final debut 15 years ago, when record holders Al Ahly of Egypt gave them a baptism of fire: a 4-1 score over two legs.

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