Author: Erica MathyeThe year 2023, was a momentous one for the Mamelodi Sundowns DStv Diski Team, as they cemented their name as one of the title contenders in the DStv Diski Challenge (DDC). With only a few months of play under their belt, the newly recruited players in the the Diski Team have been having a good run of form in the league, mirroring the blossoming reputation that both the Sundowns Senior Men's and Ladies have forged.
Sinethemba Badela, the Diski Team's Head Coach, lauded his players for their outstanding performance, highlighting their remarkable streak of form. This achievement is even more impressive considering the relatively recent initiation of their collaboration, showcasing the team's adaptation and rapid progress.
"I'm proud of the manner in which the team has come along. We started a brand-new team, with only three players that have played in the DStv Diski Challenge in the past season. They have done so well within a short space of time. We've only been together for six months and we've seen a lot of improvements, and we are extremely proud of the entire team," he said.

The Diski Team's outstanding performance in 2023, coupled with several man-of-the-match accolades, did not go unnoticed by the senior team coaches. This success has translated into a couple of call-ups for some players, who have delivered stellar performances in the senior team. Coach Themba, as he continued to commend the exceptional quality of his squad, expressed pride in witnessing the Diski players being invited to and making impactful contributions in the first team. The dedicated efforts of the youth coaches are clearly paying off in preparing the players for such significant opportunities.
Siyabonga Mabena with Coach Themba"The main goal is to help the players transition from youth football to senior team football. Most of the players have been with the club from a young age and the youth coaches have done a fantastic job. We are given the responsibility to help them bridge the gap tactically, physically and psychologically. I always get happy when I see some of the players receiving invitations to train with the first team during the FIFA breaks or play matches with them. Seeing the likes of Ntando Nkosi (Diski Team Captain) making his CAF Champions League debut in the beginning of 2023 made me happy. Ultimately, the main objective has been to improve the players individually and the team, as well as instilling the winning mentality," Coach Themba proudly stated.

After a solid start to the season, Bafana Ba Style is setting the pace in the DDC division. Mirroring the success of the first team, they held an impressive unbeaten run for the majority of the first half of the 2023/24 season. While they narrowly fell short of extending this streak, experiencing their first two defeats in the league games, the Diski Team mentor credited the club for instilling a winning culture in the team.

Embedded in the DNA of Mamelodi Sundowns is a winning culture, a collective ethos that extends beyond the first team. Coach Badela attributes part of the success to the strong structures established by the Chairman and everyone involved in encouraging this culture that has brought success to the Club. This shared understanding has become a guiding principle for success, making it easier to replicate across different teams, including the youth and women's teams.
"I unfortunately cannot take credit for that because it's a Club culture. When you are in a club like Mamelodi Sundowns, you have to be aware of the winning culture. In a Club of this caliber, awareness of the winning culture is vital. What's truly satisfying is witnessing our players embrace this mindset. They understand that success is non-negotiable, and achieving it requires minimising mistakes and capitalising on opportunities." he explained.

Expressing gratitude to Coach Rulani and the technical team of the first team, the mentor emphasised the invaluable opportunity granted to the Diski Team. This unique access allows effective communication and learning from the senior team, aiming to narrow the gap between the DDC and the elite level. The mentor believes that this interaction aids his players in grasping the essential principles required to reach the level of the senior team.

"We have been fortunate enough to have the first team open its doors for us. Big thanks to Coach Rulani and the technical team. We are able to communicate with them and learn from them, so we can try to bridge the gap between the DDC and the senior team. I believe that this will help our players in understanding the principles that are needed for them to be on that level the senior team is in,"
Before wrapping up 2023, Masandawana capped off their season with a silver medal from the OBC Ubungane Cup, engaging in a fierce battle until the end. Progressing to the final with only one loss, which came against the reigning champions Kaufe Celtic FC. However, Kaufe FC successfully defended their title despite a gripping encounter ending in a thrilling penalty shootout.
Even though Masandawana couldn't secure the fairytale ending they had hoped for, the Sterkspruit-born tactician expressed pride in his team. He remains committed to delivering outstanding performances that will captivate Mamelodi Sundowns supporters. This journey served as a valuable learning experience for the team as they continue to script their narrative, ensuring the Masandawana torch keeps burning brightly.
"We want to be an exciting team to watch. When people come to watch us for the first time, they should be excited and look forward to watching more of our encounters. In 2024, we will still be carrying on with the aim of making the Mamelodi Sundowns supporters fall in love with our team. This will only happen when we continue trying to be as close as possible to how the first team do things and how they conduct themselves on and off the pitch," he explained with much optimism and pride. For the Coach, the conviction.
Coach Badela expresses optimism, emphasising that aligning with the first team's approach on and off the pitch is key. The resounding belief is that the future of Sundowns is in great hands, poised for continued success.