South African side Mamelodi Sundowns were crowned the first-ever African Football League (AFL) champions after a 2-0 second leg victory over Wydad Casablanca sealed a 3-2 aggregate triumph. Sundowns went into the home leg trailing 2-1 but turned the tide around, thanks to goals from Peter Shalulile and Aubrey Modiba at a raucous Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.
The hosts started slowly as Wydad disrupted their rhythm through intensive pressing and fouls. But Sundowns’ persistence paid off when Shalulile pounced on the rebound after Youssef El Motie parried Teboho Mokoena’s shot in first-half stoppage time. Five minutes after the break, Modiba intercepted a wayward pass before racing through to double Sundowns’ advantage. With Wydad now needing two goals to win the final, Sundowns cleverly slowed the game down.
Multiple players took intentional yellow cards for time-wasting in the tense finale. Wydad almost set up a grandstand finish when Ayoub El Amloud headed narrowly over with nine minutes left. But Sundowns held firm to complete an aggregate victory that makes them the first AFL winners after the new club competition was launched this season.
Sundowns won the two-leg final 3-2 on aggregate to claim their first African trophy since lifting the CAF Super Cup six years ago. It was their first success against Wydad in a knockout tie, having lost twice to them in the semifinals, and once in the quarterfinals of the CAF Champions League from 2017.
This was also the first time more than one goal separated the clubs, with eight of the previous 13 meetings won by a one-goal margin and the other five drawn. Success was worth four million dollars to Sundowns – the equivalent of winning the South African league five times.
“I am so lucky to be in charge of this magnificent group of players,” said Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena. “My thanks to the yellow nation (Sundowns supporters) for their wonderful support from the first minute to the last. It is difficult to talk now. This is a very emotional time for me. There has been so much heartbreak after some previous matches against Wydad. Now there is joy.”
The triumph caps a historic continental triumph for Sundowns who have now become the first champions of the new African Football League (AFL).