JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns’ saviour in the Caf Champions League isn’t your typical superhero. Wayne Arendse doesn’t have catchy lines, he doesn’t steal the show and isn’t flashy.
Despite that, you’ll always find him at the right place at the right time when the Brazilians need him.
His superhero status even put Sundowns in trouble. Coach Pitso Mosimane and his technical team erroneously put Arendse in the starting XI against Wits in October last year after Thapelo Morena picked up an injury during the warm-up.
Arendse wasn’t in the matchday squad that day, and any changes to the starting XI after the provisional team sheet had been submitted should have been made with players on that team sheet.
The Brazilians were found guilty on the matter, and today they will learn their punishment when the matter is deliberated by the PSL’s disciplinary committee. Thousands of kilometres away, in Alexandria, Arendse will be preparing to put on his cape tomorrow to help Sundowns advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League against Al Ahly.
Arendse will be playing at the Borg El Arab Stadium for the first time in the competition. He missed out on the second leg of the 2016 Champions League final against Zamalek because he was suspended.
“I played against Zamalek at home, when we beat them 3-0,” Arendse said. “The atmosphere that day was just something else. It was similar to the game against Al Ahly. The stadium was packed and that makes a huge difference.
“For me, playing against Al Ahly brings out the best in me as well as the other players because you know the quality that they have in that team.
“They have eight or nine international players who play for their national teams. It just brings out that extra motivation from you. If you want to win the Champions League, you need to play against these teams – the best in Africa.
“But that doesn’t mean that you have to take the other teams for granted. But you must do well in your home game. Playing against these big teams brings out the best in us.”
Even though the Brazilians carry a 5-0 advantage from the first leg, they are wary of Al Ahly’s attacking threat. If there’s a team that is capable of overturning such a large deficit, it is Caf’s Club of the Century.
Al Ahly’s administrators are doing all they can to help their team. They moved the game from Suez to Alexandria and asked the Interior Minister to allow fans into the venue with intentions of selling tickets for as little as just over R8.
“Al Ahly have done this before, they came back from 4-0 down to win that game,” said Arendse. “We just need to look past that result because if we can score five goals in one game, they can do the same. We just need to keep our focus, and tell ourselves that the job isn’t done. We will go there to try and score, and not go in a defensive mode. We will play our normal game and try to score early.”
The Egyptians giants have been rattled by last week’s humiliating scoreline.
“This result, in the pursuit of our second star, is very important because you’re putting your name on the map,” Arendse said. “To beat Al Ahly 5-0 sends out a message, not just to our supporters, but also the rest of Africa so that they know that Sundowns is a team to be reckoned with.”