Flames and Orlando Pirates striker Gabadinho Mhango has been told to fight for his place just like any other striker by Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi who also claimed that the DSTV Premiership is a bigger stage than the Africa Cup of Nations.
This follows a question from the media in the aftermath of Pirates’s 1-0 victory over Amazulu FC in the Round of 32 Nedbank Cup on Sunday in which Ncikazi was asked the whereabouts of the in-form striker who did well for his national team at the just ended competition.
The Soweto giants’ fans expected to see Mhango in Pirates team but were surprised when the 29-year forward was left out and when asked as to why he wasn’t anywhere near the team, Ncikazi replied:
“Pirates is a big team and we have good Strikers, Mhango being one of them. We also have Zakhele Lepasa and Tshegofatso Mabasa, who was not part of the team. There is Kwame Peprah as well so it is a galaxy of Strikers.”
“The choice was for players who have been preparing for the past few weeks, but Mhango just came back from Africa Cup of Nations. We know he is a good player. It is not because anything is wrong with him, it is just competition,” he was quoted by the Sowetan Newspaper.
He then surprised the reporters when he said Mhango’s omission from his team was also a sign that ‘may be the DSTV Premiership is bigger than Afcon’.
“We chose to go with Peprah and Lepasa. Mhango will have to work hard and wait for his chance. He will wait like all other players. We recognize and acknowledge his performance in Afcon. But maybe the league in South Africa is bigger than Afcon.
“Pirates also have attacking options in the team which, all of a sudden, makes for an embarrassment of riches up front for the Buccaneers. Thembinkosi Lorch is a top player. When I arrived here he was injured and now he is getting better with each game. He is a game-decider. The players have a lot of confidence playing around him,” he said.
But former Pirates striker Andries Sebola was quick to rebuke Ncikazi for his comments on Mhango and his rather bizarre comments regarding Afcon, saying the Malawian international deserves a place in the first eleven and if the coach continues to snub him, the striker better go back to Golden Arrows.
“Mhango is supposed to play because he’s on fire. You can’t say a scoring striker must wait for his turn. As I am speaking to you, I am watching the highlights of that game [Pirates versus AmaZulu] and I can tell you Mhango would have scored if he was selected,’’ Sebola told Sowetan on Monday.
“Mhango is Pirates’ best striker at the moment, so he must start games. Mandla is losing the plot. When he says the PSL is bigger than Afcon, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. When he’s bored with coaching Pirates, he must pack his bags and go back to Arrows (where he coached last season),” he said.
On placing the DSTV Premiership higher than Afcon, Sebola said: “How can the best players in the world in Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah play Afcon if it’s not a big tournament? The PSL is smaller than Afcon,’’ added Sebola.
“Riyad Mahrez won’t come from Manchester City to play for Algeria if Afcon was a small competition. I don’t know what’s wrong with Ncikazi these days. Mandla has never been out of the country to represent SA, that’s why he talks like this about Afcon,” he concluded.
Mhango finished third in the scorer’s chat with three goals at Afcon. His wonderful strike against Morocco was one of the best goals scored at the just ended competition in Cameroon which was won by Senegal.