Mokwena explains disappearance of Mauricio Affonso from Mamelodi Sundowns

Mamelodi Sundowns striker Mauricio Affonso celebrates scoring during the Telkom Knockout against AmaZulu at Lucas Moripe Stadium on October 20 2019 in Pretoria.
Mamelodi Sundowns striker Mauricio Affonso celebrates scoring during the Telkom Knockout against AmaZulu at Lucas Moripe Stadium on October 20 2019 in Pretoria.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

After a long-term injury Mauricio Affonso is close to a full return to training‚ Mamelodi Sundowns’ co-coach Rulani Mokwena said when asked to explain the disappearance of the big striker from the first team.

Mokwena finally gave a full explanation for the 12-month absence of the big Uruguayan striker‚ who last kicked a ball for Sundowns on February 1 2020, in a 1-0 2019-20 Caf Champions League group win against Wydad Casablanca at Lucas Moripe Stadium.

After signing from Alianza Lima in Peru in July 2019 Affonso, 29, had shown classy touches and scored four goals in his six Premiership‚ four cup and three Champions League outings. These included the brace in the 2-1 2019 Telkom Knockout final win against Maritzburg United in Durban.

But the 1.92m centre-forward has not been seen since needing groin surgery in March 2020.

“He’s got — I wouldn’t say chronic‚ because I think chronic could be a bit more severe from a medical perspective — but he’s got a few muscle-related issues‚” Mokwena said ahead of Sundowns’ 2020-21 Champions League Group B opener against Sudan’s Al-Hilal at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

“And we are trying to make sure we resolve the problem. Because it’s one thing to rush his rehabilitation and get him back on the pitch‚ but it’s another to make sure that you are thorough with your recovery.

“Like the club did with Rivaldo Coetzee‚ and with Thapelo Morena. And we’ve got a very good medical department that’s able to assist in making sure that you don’t just rehabilitate from an injury‚ but you also heal completely.

“Then the next thing is the rehab work that needs to be done to prevent recurrence of injuries.

“So that’s Affonso for you. He’s going through a very extensive rehabilitation process. The good thing is he’s started with a bit of light football action in relation to being part of the training.

“And that’s the first point of departure in terms of following the processes in terms of the principles of a return to play. Or return to train‚ in fact‚ because that’s the first point.

“He’s at that stage where he’s been given the green light to take part in light training and be involved in some of the technical exercises. So that’s a good sign and hopefully he’ll be back on the pitch.

“Because he’s a very good striker‚ he offers the team a different profile. He’s got the physical profile to assist us with the low-sitting blocks.

“Because sometimes when you play teams who sit back with reinforced defensive blocks‚ like TTM this season for example‚ you need a profile of a striker able to retain possession in tight areas and develop play in and around the box.

“He gives us that dimension and hopefully can come back and assist the team in the last few games.”

Sundowns are also drawn with Democratic Republic of the Congo’s TP Mazembe and CR Belouizdad of Algeria in Group B.

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