Author: John AliuRonwen WilliamsThe image of Ronwen Williams and Thapelo Maseko hoisting their individual awards at the African Football League (AFL) amid the sea of yellow at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium will be remembered as one of the most iconic moments for Mamelodi Sundowns in 2023.
Thapelo MasekoBoth players were recognised for their elegant performances from start to finish as Masandawna were crowned the winners of the maiden AFL at a packed Loftus Stadium. The Brazilians won the two-legged final 3-2 over Morocco's Wydad Casablanca with two goals scored by Peter Shalulile and Aubrey Modiba in the final leg.
Maseko, who only joined Bafana Ba Style in July, expressed his desire to help the team finish the season with multiple titles a few months ago. The 21-year-old justified that desire with a statement performance that lit up the inaugural edition of the prestigious competition. He emerged not only as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the tournament but also as the joint-top scorer.

Having stated that "Chloorkop is a place where winning mentalities thrive", in his last chat with the Mamelodi Sundowns Digital Magazine crew, Maseko shared what the AFL triumph meant to him as a professional footballer.

"It's a big achievement for the club, the players, and the management as a whole. It was my first trophy since I turned professional. Winning the AFL title was the result of hard work, dedication, and the winning mentality that characterises this great Club. Everyone on the team was excited about the opportunity to create history in such a massive competition," Maseko remarked.
Thapelo MasekoWhen asked about the two awards he won, Maseko stated, "I didn't expect to win those awards, and I had no idea I would receive them until my name was called. I was extremely surprised when they announced it. Being named the best player still feels like a dream to me."

The pacy winger also highlighted his favourite moments from the AFL competition, saying, "The goal I scored against Al Ahly made all the difference, especially since we drew the second leg 0-0. I will also never forget the feeling I experienced after the final whistle in the championship match. Additionally, it was a privilege to meet both the FIFA and CAF Presidents as we collected the trophy."
Ronwen WilliamsWhile Maseko wreaked havoc up top, Ronwen Williams stood as a formidable figure at the back, providing numerous saves and stoic shot-stopping. The Sundowns goalie delivered a Man of the Match performance in the opening fixture against Angola's Petro de Luanda, during which he saved a penalty in the 2-0 victory.

The Bafana Bafana Captain also saved another spot-kick in the semi-final second-leg clash to deny Al Ahly victory in front of their home crowd at the Cairo International Stadium. Ronwen was ultimately crowned the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament, an award he credited to the entire team.
"It means a lot to me, but it is down to the effort of the team. This award is for everyone, including the technical team, for the hours of work put in behind the scenes. Also, I dedicate this award to the entire team. The aim was to keep as many clean sheets as possible because good defences win titles. We registered five clean sheets out of six games, which was impressive,"  added Williams.

Thanks to an impressive year with Sundowns, the experienced goalkeeper was shortlisted among the five-man candidates for the CAF Goalkeeper of the Year award . The award was introduced in this year's edition of the CAF Awards. CAF seeks to increase recognition of African talent by expanding the winner's network. Ronwen is still of the recognition and sees a bright future ahead.
Ronwen Williams"It is amazing, and an incredible to be recognised. It shows that the years of sacrifice are already paying off. Recognition is always wonderful, but, as I mentioned earlier, it's always a team effort. A whole lot goes on behind the scenes and it's also a result of the sacrifices that are made," the goalkeeper concluded.

The Gqeberha-born goalie spoke about how victory in the AFL will shape the team's mindset in this season's CAF Champions League.

"Overall, the AFL taught us so much and underscored the importance of winning home games. We must ensure we secure wins at home and remain resolute when travelling because the CAF Champions League is known for unexpected results. The AFL gave us a glimpse of what to expect this season, and we are ready for the continental challenge once again," the goalkeeper concluded.
Thapelo MasekoAs the story of Mamelodi Sundowns unfolds in 2024, the club is driven by a winning mentality, dedication, and a collective spirit that continues to inspire the Yellow Nation supporters and players alike. The AFL victory serves as a testament to their commitment to excellence and their readiness for the CAF Champions League campaign that lies ahead.