I chose Mamelodi Sundowns over Wydad Casablanca, says Yannick Zakri

The King of Titles are hoping to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit against the Brazilians and progress to the semifinals

Mamelodi Sundowns take a slender advantage into their second leg Caf Champions League encounter against Wydad Casablanca, after Yannick Zakri struck in the first leg in Tshwane.

It could have been all so different had the Ivorian chose to join Wydad prior to his move to Chloorkop. The 26-year-old was previously a target of several of the continent’s biggest sides, but he admits that the progress of his fellow countrymen Siaka Tiene, who eventually went on to play for French Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain is what made him make the move the Tshwane giants.

“I was influenced to come here, enjoy my football and then go to Europe by seeing Siaka Tiene do that at Sundowns,” Zakri told The Star.

“Al Ahly, Zamalek and even Wydad wanted to sign me but I didn’t want to play in those parts. I wanted to come here and play for Sundowns. I saw their videos and what the South African league is about and I was impressed. I liked how Sundowns play and saw that I could fit in here. I told my president (at Asec, Roger Ouegnin) that I wanted to come here to get experience and then go to Europe,” Zakri added.

Meanwhile, Zakri is all too familiar with the Kings of Titles as he has played against them on a number of occasions previously, and he has warned that Sundowns will be in for a hostile reception when they take to the field in Rabat.

“It’s fire there. Fire! Arab teams are totally different when they play at home,” Zakri said.

“I know it will be very difficult. I have played Wydad three times. I know every player there. I know how Wydad play, how they attack and defend. I know everything, but every game you play isn’t the same. As much as I know them, they also know me. Maybe they are working on how to stop me,” he continued.

Although, Zakri has scored previously in Rabat and is slowly making a name for himself in South Africa, he remains fully focused on the big prize.

“The most important goal of my career will come in the final. I trust my team. I know we will reach the final and defend our trophy. That goal (in the first leg) was important for us because I know that Sundowns play very well away. We will get a good result there to go to the next stage,” he explained.

Nonetheless, reports suggest that the mind games and hostilities have already begun in Rabat. Sundowns arrived in the Moroccan capital on Tuesday, but were left without a training venue, and the Brazilians have subsequently written a letter to the South African Football Association (Safa) asking for urgent intervention from Caf.

“As you are aware, the Sundowns’ advanced team has been in Morocco since last Thursday to check the training venue and arrange accommodation and logistics in Rabat. Despite communicating with the WAC (Wydad) delegation incessantly and on daily basis, we have still not been told which facility will be put at Sundowns’ disposal to train. We have tried and made all attempts possible to reach out to WAC officials and the officials of the Moroccan FA to assist us but we have received no assistance and have been shunted from pillar to post,” the letter read.