Trophy lift as 2021 MTN8 Champions© Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixAuthor: John AliuAs Denis Onyango saved his fifth spot-kick in the intense penalty shootout at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the coaches, players, supporters and everyone associated with the Mamelodi Sundowns family raised their arms aloft in relief and utter jubilation. One of the greatest achievements of Masandawana in the last decade was complete. Make no mistake, nothing tops the 2016 CAF Champions League victory nor the 2017 CAF Super Cup triumph, but the MTN 8 victory is a story of perseverance and the overwhelming power of unity.
After 120 nerve-shredding minutes of football, it all came down to the ultimate test of bravery from 12 yards.

This trophy was last won by the Brazilians in 2007; fourteen years of painful waiting which featured two appearances in the final (2008 and 2016), both ending in agonizing defeats to arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Bidvest Wits respectively. In fact, The Brazilians had never won the competition under its current name – ‘MTN8’, last winning the title in 2007 when it was still called the ‘SAA Super Eight Cup’. Before the heart-pounding victory against Cape Town City, the Chloorkop side had only lifted this Cup on three occasions; 1988, 1990 and 2007.
Denis Onyango celebrates saving a penalty during the MTN8 final©  For a team so dominant in South African football, clinching the elusive MTN8 trophy was unsurprisingly one of the key mandates at the beginning of this season.
The Mamelodi Sundowns Digital Magazine crew caught up with a few players after the celebrations. 
“We started planning for this competition right from preseason camp. The Technical Team made it clear that clinching this title, which has been missing from the trophy cabinet for a long time, would go a long way in elevating our morale for the entire season,” Grant Kekana expressed. “It was also an opportunity to win the first silverware of the campaign and my maiden one with the club. I am very excited that this current crop of players will be revered as the generation that pulled this one-off,” the defender added. 
Grant Kekana during the MTN8 Competition© Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixSundowns began this year’s competition with a 3-1 penalty shootout win over Kaizer Chiefs in the quarter-final stage with goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene saving four penalties (and converting the decisive spot-kick himself) after the scores were tied 2-all in regulation and extra time.

Next up on the calendar was a semi-final first-leg trip to Golden Arrows where a late strike by new signing Pavol Šafranko (his first for the club) handed Bafana Ba Style a precious 1-1 away draw.

“It was very nice to score my first goal for the club in an important away game. I still remember that when I first came to Sundowns, I was told that winning this trophy was one of the priorities for the season. Claiming this title will go a long way in boosting our mental strength and we are already looking to achieve more. This trophy was a perfect way to start my career with the club and I am very excited,” an elated Šafranko asserted.
Pavol Šafranko during the MTN8 Semifinal 2nd leg match © Samuel Shivambu - BackpagePixMasandawana switched gears in the second leg by putting three past Abafana Bes'thende. The game witnessed a moment of brilliance from Neo “Billy” Maema, who curled a screamer past the Arrows keeper, Mlungisi Mlungwana, with his right foot.

“I enjoyed that strike. The most important thing to do during an offensive play is to analyse your opponent. I was aware of what Mthokozisi Dube was capable of and I knew he wanted me to be predictable so he could win the duel. I told myself that I was going to cut in and check where the goalkeeper was; and when I did not see him in position, I just had to use my right foot to curl it. I did not notice how beautiful the goal was until I watched the replays. I made a resolution after that to trust my right foot even more,” joked Maema.
The final saw The Brazilians square off against Cape Town City in a match that saw the PSL making a provision for 2000 fully vaccinated supporters to attend. The game ended 1-1 after 120 minutes and was settled by a penalty shootout which saw Onyango set a world record of saving five penalties in a single game.

The Ugandan shot-stopper may have bagged a world record in the final, but his teammate Kennedy Mweene also etched his name into the history books. The MTN 8 victory meant the Zambian celebrated a rare achievement after becoming the only Premier Soccer League player to complete a clean sweep of all trophies he has competed for both in South Africa and on the continent.

Despite never winning the MTN8 trophy, long-serving former Captain Hlompho Kekana, spoke warmly about the club’s latest achievement.

“If that medal was a ring, please bring it to me because I need to get married soon. But if it is not a ring, I will be single forever. I want to thank you guys for winning the trophy because during my 10 years at Sundowns, I have been trying to win this trophy and I did not succeed. I do not know where you got the luck from, because I needed that title in my cabinet. That is the only trophy I am missing; I am even ready to trade one of my medals for the MTN 8 crown because it is important to me,” Kekana said with a smile.
Thapelo Morena celebrates a goal © Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixThe MTN 8 trophy win will go down in history as one of the most enjoyable moments in the ever-growing list of Mamelodi Sundowns celebration archives.

This triumph will be long remembered as a symbol of ‘capturing the evasive crown’ – in true Masandawana style!