Mamelodi Sundowns coach Berdien racks up another Afcon achievement

The 38-year-old coach had previously helped Botswana and Togo qualify for the 2011 and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations tournaments respectively

Mamelodi Sundowns’ strength and conditioning coach Riedoh Berdien’s remarkable list of achievements has grown longer after he recently helped Gambia reach the Afcon finals for the first time.

His latest achievement was made all the more rewarding by Gambia’s status as footballing minnows in Africa and the fact that they were in a tough qualifying group which also included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Gabon.

In the end it was Gambia who finished top of the group, with Gabon qualifying for the Afcon in Cameroon next year as well by finishing second.

“This qualification with Gambia is extremely special because no one gave us a chance during the qualifiers,” Berdien told the City Press, as quoted on the News24 website.

“We were in a tough group with Angola, Gabon and the DRC, and to come out as group winners is truly amazing,” the Cape Town-born fitness coach continued.

“I feel really excited, but more for the people of Gambia. If you had been in Banjul [the capital of Gambia] at the Independent Stadium, you’d certainly get what I’m talking about. Just to bring joy to other people actually gives you more joy as an individual.”

Berdien has been employed as a consultant by the Gambian FA for the past two years, having initially juggled his duties with working for Tanzanian club Young Africans, and later Sundowns, whom he joined in November last year – replacing the outgoing Kabelo Rangoaga, who went with Pitso Mosimane at Al Ahly.

Berdien has been assisting Gambian head coach Tom Saintfiet, the pair having first worked together at Free State Stars.

“He’s an African football coach who understands the culture and the continent well,” Berdien commented. “I understand his methodology. Also, he has the ability to bring the best out of players, especially out of smaller teams.”

Berdien has also been employed by Chippa United, Cape Town All Stars and Bloemfontein Celtic. Internationally, as well as Botswana, Togo and Gambia, the 38-year-old has had stints with Banyana Banyana, Bangladesh, Trinidad & Tobago.

The Capetonian says he’s enjoying working at Sundowns and feels the club has been a good fit for him.

“Obviously, when a club like Sundowns approaches you to work for them, there is a lot of pressure, but good pressure. It’s a chance for one to be successful both on the domestic and international fronts.
“Getting the call-up to Sundowns was obviously something massive for me. Sundowns is a big club. They understand football periodisation [systematic planning of training] and methodology very well,” Berdien concluded.

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