Playing in the Caf Champions League has helped me grow, says Denis Onyango

Masandawana's No.1 is relishing the opportunity of once again being involved in the group stage of the Caf Champions League

Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango credits his participation on the continent with the Tshwane giants for his personal growth.

The Uganda international is arguably one of the best goalkeepers on the African continent and this was reinfoced in 2016 as following the Brazilians’ Caf Champions League winning run, Onyango was named Best African-based Player.

Onyango, who joined Sundowns in 2011 though, believes that playing in the Champions League is behind his growth that has also seen him star for his national team.

“As an individual, playing in the Champions League has helped me grow because it was my dream to play in this competition,” he told The Star.

“My initial dream was to be in the group stage of the Champions League. But I have done more than that and I want to do even more now. That has kept me going all the time. There are lot of challenges and pressure that I face which means I need to perform every time I step into the field. I know that anyone can do my job, but if I do it with distinction I can stand out,” he added.

Furthermore, Onyango reiterates the belief that African football is not for the faint-hearted.

“When you play on the continent, you need to show your experience because the pitch might not be proper and the opponents might use mind games to rile you up,” Onyango said.

“There are a lot of challenges, beyond just playing football. But you shouldn’t focus on that, you should just get the result and go back home. That needs a lot of experience and mental strength. That affects certain players but it doesn’t affect me. I have played in many hostile environments in the continent and managed to come out of stronger. I do everything in my power to help the club. I know that as a foreign player I need to help the club when it comes to continental football,” he explained.

Sundowns have qualified for the Champions League group stages for the third successive year, where they will need to fend off the likes of Togo-Port, Horoya AC and Wydad Casablanca – a team who eliminated Sundowns in the quarterfinals last time around.

“It’s always nice to be in the Champions League because you get to meet different teams and see different countries,” Onyango reflected.

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“It’s a great feeling for us to be at this stage of the Champions League as players. Getting into the group stage was very important for us because being knocked out of the quarter-finals last year hurt us,” he expressed.

"We needed to go again and do better because the people who knocked us out last year went on to win the Champions League. This drives us because it shows that we were knocked out by a good club. It’s routine at Sundowns now that we have to play Champions League football all the time,” he concluded.