Sundowns’ 2016 CAFL Victory Still Haunts Ibenge Years Later
Florent Ibenge has acknowledged that the Mamelodi Sundowns’ triumph in the 2016 CAF Champions League still deeply affects him today. At that time, he was the coach of AS Vita, and they progressed to the second-round qualification after defeating Mafundzo (Tanzania) and Ferroviário Maputo (Mozambique).
They were then pitted against Mamelodi Sundowns. AS Vita secured a 1-0 victory in the first leg through Richard Mbombo’s 90th-minute goal in Kinshasa. Although they lost 2-1 in the second leg at the Lucas Masterpieces Moripe stadium a week later, they advanced to the group stages based on the away goals ruling.
Filled with confidence and poised to make their mark in the group stages, AS Vita received the disappointing news one month later from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) that they had been disqualified from the competition. This was due to them fielding an ineligible player during their preliminary round win in Zanzibar.
After being reinstated into the competition, Mamelodi Sundowns emerged victorious in Group A, finishing ahead of Zamalek, Enyimba, and ES Setif. They then went on to beat ZESCO United in the semi-finals and the White Knights in the two-legged encounters to secure their first continental title under former head coach Pitso Mosimane. It’s a classic case of “the rest is history.”
When asked if the infamous administration fumble by the Vita management still haunts him, Ibenge admitted that it does. He believes that AS Vita was a strong team that season, and if they had not been disqualified, they could have won the Champions League. However, he also acknowledged that Sundowns returned to the competition with a different mindset and were able to win it.
Despite his impressive CV, which includes four Linafoot titles and the African Nations Championship (CHAN) and CAF Confederation Cup triumphs, the coveted Champions League trophy still eludes the 61-year-old coach.