Mamelodi Might Have Won, But Yanga’s Display of Heart is the Real Victory

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Mamelodi might have won, but Yanga stole the hearts of football lovers across Africa and beyond. This is the tale of the biggest game of the weekend, the clash of the titans, the historical face-off between ‘wananchi’ and the yellow-shoe-shine, the chameleons. It doesn’t get any better: this is the Champions League, the cream of African football.

While the game might have ended on the pitch, its impact is alive and kicking, triggering sparks of fire erupting online and offline, electrified by fans across Africa. Voices from Soweto to Dar es Salaam, Casablanca to Nairobi, from city to city and cities to towns, people dropped their silence to talk about the biggest game of the weekend. Some couldn’t sleep, some almost fainted, all in pain and confusion.

The frozen frame of Aziz Ki’s shot appears to be bounced inside the goal line.

Arguing about the biggest question: did the ball cross the line, or didn’t? In case you missed the theatrics, here is the brief timeline.

What Really Happened?

It’s the quarter-finals of the CAF Champions League 2023/24 season’s most anticipated game, the box office. After CAF’s draw, which tabled the fixture between Yanga and Mamelodi Sundowns, fans from across Africa got excited to witness how this game will turn out, inspired by observing the dramatic qualification of Yanga beating CR Belouzidad 4-0 in Dar es Salaam and Mamelodi, the Brazilians being the most decorated performance of the group stage.

Based on the recent history of continental quality and accolades, Mamelodi Sundowns was preferably the favourite towards the game as it is the most dangerous and heavily invested club across Sub-Saharan Africa.

But this didn’t stop Tanzania’s most decorated club, Yanga of Dar es Salaam’s big parade, Yanga of the score-board billboards, who boasted that they would dominate Sundowns both at home and away.

MUDA DAY — Fan engagement strategy of packaging Yanga’s international game as a platform to package their players “Muda day — for Mudathir’s day”. Photo courtesy of MuVibe.

But How Were They Even Planning to Do That?

In the most carefully decorated statement by the team through Yanga’s media and communication spokesperson, who delivered a solidarity statement to the fans that the team will approach this game in solidarity coined solidarity statement that “Kwetu kwetu, na kwao kama kwetu” translated to we will dominate them at home as our home and in their home is our home.

Papa Wawa of Kaizer Chiefs with a Yanga fan in Loftus — photo courtesy of social media fans

To Dramatise the Excitement

In the build-up to the game, during the press conference for the 1st leg in Dar es Salaam, Sundown’s coach, Rulani Mokwena, answering reporters, confidently elaborated how he has studied Yanga’s style of play by mentioning nearly an entire squad with their position in an attempt to intimidate his understanding of their style.

Read Related: Heading to the Yanga vs. Mamelodi CAF Game, Our Leaders’ Statements Will Trip Us Up.

But we both know football is beyond words and strategic approach, it’s a battle of live theatrics against alternating tactics live in action within the ninety minutes.

Rulani Mokwena during a press conference in Dar es Salaam, photo courtesy of CAFCL

Words Can Be Powerful, But Action Matters the Most

Now, in the most thrilling experience in Dar es Salaam, Yanga fans turned up in thousands, filling the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium to the roof; a 60,000-capacity stadium was packed to the corridors, all painted in green, yellow and black with yellow dominating the ambience as this was a historical a face-off between two yellow brands.

The last time something like this happened with Mamelodi vs Yanga it was 23 years ago, priceless moments like this worth every penny just to witness this experience in flesh.

Despite Yanga missing three of its highly essential and most versatile first eleven players, Yanga’s lineup was a little surprise to the fans, but based on their passionate love and admiration for the club and the infamous Miguel Gamondi “Masta Gamondi” fans remained vibrant and vocal in singing and cheering.

Yanga fans in Dar es Salaam by thousands before entering the stadium

In just the first minute of the game, Yanga’s Mzize got an opportunity to attempt and landed Yanga’s first shot on target, which was nothing serious to Williams.

The chameleons, being the favourites in the game, were seen to slow down the tempo led by Williams before they started to transition to play their colourful Brazilian game slowly.

But unlike their common experience today, all their tricks struggled to penetrate Yanga’s midfield. Gamondi’s decision to put Mkude, Mudathiri, and Max in the midfield position helped intensify Yanga’s first line of defence while allowing Mamelodi to dominate possession on their half but not get any closer to Yanga’s box.

This game was a pure tactical face-off, which Gamondi was proudly showing-off to Rulani how he can make his team of dangerous midfielders and stickers seem toothless.

Aziz Ki is giving Sundwon’s midfielders a hard time. The photo is courtesy of CAFCL.

In just 35 minutes in, Yanga had already made two advances in Sundown’s box and landed multiple shots on target while Sundowns were still not able to penetrate Yanga’s great wall of Jangwani. It wasn’t until the 41st minute that they mixed a few tricks and bagged their first attempt at Yanga’s post.

Throughout the second half, Mamelodi tried to expand the playing field to pull Yanga outside to ease penetration, but the wall was thick and packed. Even in the few times they penetrated, they faced a serious backline of Job, Bacca, and Mwamunyeto, who managed to pocket Shalulile to a nearly total neutralization.

The clock was ticking, tik-tik, and it was high time Rulani had switched strategies, making triple subs, which slightly changed their pace but didn’t alter the cause of the game because he was already lost in his strategic approach. Perhaps he talked too much than what he could do. Towards the end of the game, Yanga almost missed some good chances to win the game through its surprise counterattacks.

As the first leg ended with a goalless draw, Sundown fans were walking chest-up in confidence by promising to make a slaughter at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria. Leaving most of Yanga’s fans promising to remain vigilant and defensive and to use every chance to send a ball to the net and make it harder for Sundown through the away goal advantage.

A goalless draw in Dar es Salaam photo courtesy of CAFCL.

In the first half of the second leg, Sundown now rejoined with their favourite midfielder, Tembatshwane, who was believed to be the answer to help them advance position and create more chances for the strikers. This time, Sundown was in better shape than in Dar es Salaam as they could move beyond the midfield and play their samba in Yanga’s half, exerting pressure but only causing minimal damage.

While they thought that position was to their advantage, it looks like Yanga’s strategy was to pull them closer and create a better opportunity for counterattacks. Regardless of their advancing closer to Yanga’s goal, Sundowns faced a serious “Jangwani wall” that was absolutely impossible to penetrate with half-space penetration. This made them resort to the aerial options of crosses, which were easily neutralized.

Even in the few times they made it through they faced the man of the hour, Djigui Diarra, a.k.a “the screen protector” the man with a thousand hands making sure Yanga’s post is completely and heavily protected.

Cards switched in second half, the last 45 minutes of the 180 minutes of play where Yanga unlocked their arsenal of counter attacks ready to finish the game. Just few minutes in at around the 57th minute, the most beautiful counter attack of the tournament so far, driven by Yanga’s Aziz Ki “the master key” the MVP, who created the most colourful and perfect attack of the game leaving Williams completely blinded by the speed and brilliance of the shot which bounced in the inner post, dribbling in and bounced outside.

Heavily guarded and surrounded by three men, Aziz Ki received and set up for himself before landing an impeccable shot that went straight in only to bounce on the inner post.

Aziz Ki dominates the space. Photo courtesy of Yanga

Surprisingly, the footage from SABC only replayed a feed from one particular angle ONLY where it looked like the ball was in, and it bounced inside the line. I’m not sure if that was the only camera angle available or if the switcher preferably only used that for whatever reasons.

However, as Aziz Ki was still celebrating the goal “alone,” the referee insisted it was not yet a goal and was still discussing it with the VAR team. At this moment, I expected his teammates to have joined him in celebrating the goal to add pressure to the VAR team, but somehow, they seemed a bit passive or lost in translation.

In an awkward moment of silence and suspense, more Yanga players approached the referee, requesting to preview the VAR so he could review everything for himself. Still, somehow, they didn’t look very persuasive, and he didn’t entertain any of their comments. There was a glitch there!

Yanga’s captain is trying to talk to the referee during the VAR moment. The photo is courtesy of CAFCL.

In the most unbelievable style the referee disqualified the goal and rule out a drop ball to Sundown goalkeeper something am still processing. This moment was the most devastating moment of the game. This was a horrible decision which turned football fans across Africa to sympathise with Yanga’s circumtsnaces.

But Like in Real Life Situations

The game had to continue, and in just a few minutes, Yanga created another beautiful counterattack, which landed a clear chance to finish the game with a brilliant assist from Master key-Aziz. Still, unfortunately, Mzize failed to land the ball to the post.

Also, Read Simba Vs Yanga: More Than Just a Game, It’s a Billion-Shilling Business.

At this point, it was just a matter of time. Everything was boiling up to a draw and a possibility of a penalty shootout. This is the part where Yanga’s research team should have done more research on the Sundowns goalkeeper because Williams played penalties on the global stage twice two months ago, in January and February, during the Afcon23.

The videos of his reaction to all those penalties are widely available for public review and assessment as it was a continental stage and everything was live televised.

Yanga squad before penalty shoots — photo courtesy of CAFCL.

Regardless of him being a great penalty catcher, if further analysis is made into his video library both in the DStv Premiership league and in Afcon23, it looks like there is a pattern which has been established that “Williams will always jump, he will either jump to left or right but one thing FOR SURE IS WILLIAMS WILL ALWAYS JUMP SIDEWAYS.”

This was the secret ingredient that helped the Nigerian team knock him out in the Afcon penalty shoot. The two penalties he scored all were shot at the central position, where he always leaves and jumps to the side. Even in the penalties, Yanga scored. One by Okrah was a penalty shot to the central position.

However, Yanga, from their experience in Community Shield and Mapinduzi cup and this one, calls for a serious strategy to invest in getting better at kicking penalties. As Yanga is now a regular in big tournaments, it’s a call that big tournaments have more chances of reaching a knockout stage, and it will be a great investment to explore that area to increase Yanga’s success rate.

Williams penalty with DRCongo during Afcon23 — photo courtesy of AFCON 23
William during Afcon penalties — photo courtesy of AFCON 23
Photo courtesy of the article by Sports Brief
A quote from William’s conversation with Nigerians — photo courtesy of SPORTS BRIEF

Yanga might have missed the semi finals but Sundown has given yanga the best platform to RE-ADVERTISE itself in the scene of African football.

Regardless of whether you are a Yanga fan or a Sundown fan, or even the Sundowns coach himself, everyone else stood in awe and admiration of the quality of football brilliance displayed by the MVP of the game, Aziz Ki of Young Africans, the man who displayed the most brilliant moments of the game.

Mokwena talking to Aziz Ki during the first leg in Dar es Salaam — photo courtesy of AZAM TV footage.

Fans across Africa have been mentioning the Yanga sticker with black boots and tint hair, the guy with a jersey number 10, that guy is not the quality to play for the continental football he deserves to be in Europe and beyond.

This is clear that Yanga has elevated a stage to all great talents across Africa that, if you have a talent and you are looking to make your mark in the cream of African football, Yanga offers you a platform to showcase and amplify your talent to attract the global opportunities while earning them more trophies. A win-win!

Aziz Ki, the master key photo courtesy of LK from X

Yanga’s miraculous rise to the cream of Africa’s commercial football scene changes daily, from last season’s incredible climb to the final of CAFCC to this season’s incredible display of quality performance. Yanga is on a rising trajectory. Yanga, also known as Young Africans, is a team from the infamous Dar es Salaam, the oldest team in Tanzania, which emerged from the streets of Kariakoo, the most populous market in East Africa.

Yanga has been an infamous team in Africa since the 1930s. It was the first Tanzanian team with a full locals-square playing team, which inspired its name. Being at the forefront of the Pan-African spirit at the time, the team was also known for being a hub of supporting Southern African liberation struggles, which were pioneered by Africa’s great leaders such as Nyerere, Kaunda, Karume, Mandela, etc.

So, from decades to decades, Yanga has always displayed a fighting spirit of “young Africans” to fight for their place in the African scene. Although they have been falling short for multiple reasons, it looks like finally, with their new management, they have found their spark.

Yanga’s first eleven squad for the 2023/24 season

Since 2018, the team has taken time to restructure everything by consulting multiple consultants and advisory boards, which have guided them towards their transformation journey.

Following those efforts, we see a newly rejuvenated team with fresh thinking and a unique approach to the football business while tapping into multiple monetizing opportunities to help the club meet its operational responsibilities. In just the last three seasons, we have seen them in a new face as a team, which is more committed, structured and organised in their display of performance and leadership.

Congratulations to Yanga, the team, members, fans and supporters across Africa and beyond, I am looking forward to see Yanga’s next performance in the coming season of the CAFCL—the club, above all, is Yanga Africa, Mbele Daima, Nyuma Mwiko.

This is just the beginning of a beautiful storyline, Africa’s unique case study. Follow me as we unpack these small milestones of the changing face of the African commercial football scene. Cheers!

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23 days ago

This is marvelous

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