'Sky is the Limit' as Sundowns boss Tlhopie Motsepe scales dizzy heights with Jay-Z and La Liga
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CAPE TOWN - FOR a club that subscribes to the mantra ‘The Sky is the Limit', the new fresh-faced chairman Tlhopie Motsepe is making all the right moves to ensure Mamelodi Sundowns continue to scale to dizzying heights.
Motsepe summed up his latest ground-breaking initiatives by saying: “Our motto 'The Sky is The Limit' reminds us that no dream is too big and by working together with like-minded organisations, we can go further and inspire those around us.”
He is the eldest son of South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe. He has taken over the reins at Sundowns, the undisputed kings of South African football, who have won a record 11 league titles.
The change came about when his father was elected president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and handed the baton to Tlhopie. The position does not allow a sitting president to own a club or be part of a federation. Hence Patrice Motsepe was forced to step aside.
Recently, the 32-year-old, attracted banner headlines when he announced a partnership with Roc Nation, one of the world's foremost athlete management and entertainment companies. It was founded by the famous American rapper Jay-Z, who enjoyed a stellar career as a songwriter, businessman and media proprietor.
Last week, Tlhopie pulled off a coup in securing the services of two leading LaLiga Uefa Pro Licensed coaches for an exclusive workshop for 20 members of Sundowns' technical, academy and scouting staff at the club's headquarters in Chloorkop, South of Pretoria.
The gurus - Toni Alvarez and Luis Martinez - nlaid bare some of the secrets of LaLiga, which has been the bedrock of Spanish football for many years. Spain won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and LaLiga clubs have won the Uefa Champions League title more than teams from other countries. Spain occupied the No 1 slot on the Fifa world rankings many times.
Alvarez and Martinez were accompanied by LaLiga Southern Africa Managing Director Marcos Pelegrin, and the emphasis was on coaching, football methodology and the development of the game model.
Some of the technical staffers who attended included the head of Sundowns Academies, Sam Mbatha, and former players who are now part of the club's coaching and scouting structures such as Surprise Moriri, Isaac Shai, Michael Manzini, Esrom Nyandoro and Godfrey Sapula.
“We are thankful to Mamelodi Sundowns and the club’s chairperson, Tlhopie Motsepe, for extending the invitation to share ideas and information between our LaLiga coaches and the Sundowns technical team," said Pelegrin afterwards.
"It is part of LaLiga’s express desire to contribute to the growth and development of football in the Southern African region. We hope to have similar visits and exchanges with other PSL clubs and with football bodies in the Cosafa region, which are extremely mutually beneficial.”
Motsepe was excited about the “very positive and well-received” exchange of knowledge between LaLiga and Sundowns.
“One can never learn enough,” said Motsepe. "There is always an opportunity to better yourself and improve our knowledge of the game, so we are very appreciative of the exchange of ideas with LaLiga.
"There’s so many cultural elements of the game that are different around the world.
"The Spanish style was dominant in world football for a long time. There is a beautiful connection we South Africans have with Spanish football, which we are very proud of, in that they won their first Fifa World Cup in our country.
“Football development is crucial for us as a club, and for us as a nation. We’re a hungry nation for football. We love the game. The talent and the ability are there. We owe it to ourselves to always better ourselves when it comes to the game, which is why sessions like these are so important.”
Sundowns’ relationship with Spanish football runs deep since the Chloorkop-based club hosted LaLiga giants Barcelona on two occasions in 2007 and 2018.
"The Barcelona connection with Sundowns is a very special one," Motsepe explained. "Their visits here have been two-fold. Firstly they came in 2007 to honour Nelson Mandela.
"Madiba's message resonates to this day. Barcelona were the greatest football club in the world at the time, and they wanted to come here and honour him. It was a powerful gesture, and it was a special moment for us at Sundowns.
"The second time Barcelona came to play us here in 2018 was also incredibly special.
"I remember seeing the faces of young kids from all different backgrounds, kids from the townships mixing with kids from private schools. There was so much excitement and joy having Barcelona here.
"It showed we can all come together and enjoy football as a game for everybody. And here we have a South African team playing against the best team in the world, seeing Tiyani Mabunda playing against Lionel Messi, and inspiring kids to believe that one day they too could be playing in games of such magnitude.
"We hope to bring more special and exciting teams such as Barcelona to South Africa in future," Motsepe added.
Sundowns legend and current head of scouting, Nyandoro, said: "The LaLiga presentation was really good. It opened up our minds to a lot of new developments in the game currently."
Before the Sundowns engagement, the Spanish coaches staged a LaLiga Camp in partnership with the international youth football organisation IBERCUP. More than 160 boys and girls from Under-10 to Under-18 were mentored at St Stithians College in Johannesburg.
Motsepe previously had expanded on the Roc Nation partnership, saying it will be a "dynamic collaboration underpinned by values of humility, excellence, and respect" by two giants in their field.
"This partnership, with one of the leading sports agencies in the world will contribute to the club’s vision of becoming one of the best football clubs in Africa,” said Motsepe.
“We are excited to share this relationship with our most important partner, the supporters, who join us on this journey as we reach new heights in innovation, entertainment, and success."
Roc Nation has already established a footprint in Mzansi and signed up Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, rugby stars Cheslin Kolbe, Sbu Nkosi and retired legend Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira. They have also snapped up SA cricketers Lungi Ngidi and Temba Bavuma.
Over the weekend, his tenure saw another jewel added to the Sundowns crown. Sundowns were crowned inaugural winners of the 2021 CAF Women’s Champions League Qualifying after defeating Black Rhinos Queens of Zimbabwe in the final in Durban.
With this win, Sundowns booked their ticket to the CAF Women’s Champions League in Egypt, in November.
There is a growing sense of anticipation in the ranks of the women's team that they can emulate the men's team by winning the continental title. Sundowns won the CAF Champions League title in 2016.
There is also the romanticism of the famed star that comes with winning the Champions League. Now the women are dreaming of claiming a famed star of their own.
Safa President Danny Jordaan said an African club has never won both the continent's premier (men and women) club titles, before.
"It would be a brilliant achievement if Sundowns Women won the finals in Egypt," said Jordaan. "No African club has won both men and women Champions League titles before.
"Elsewhere in the world, it has only been achieved once, and that honour belongs to Barcelona.
"Now we're backing Sundowns to go all the way in the continental championships and become the first women's team to be crowned African Champions League champions. They showed great potential during the Cosafa qualifiers."
Indeed, there is no end to the winning ways at Sundowns. As they say in the classics: 'The Sky is the Limit'.