Malawi national football team legend, Ernest Mtawali, has backed fellow Malawian John Maduka to win the Nedbank Cup title with his South Africa Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Bloemfontein Celtic.
Coach Maduka will lead Celtic against newly crowned champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the final at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Malawian took over from Lehlohonolo Seema early last month and is yet to lose in eight matches.
Mtawali, himself a former Celtic player, told sowetanlive.co.za that Maduka has assembled a team that is good enough to beat Sundowns and lift the cup.
“Up to this far, Maduka has done very well for Celtic, you can see the players are more free. They are playing good football and have not lost since he took over. One of his big achievements was beating Kaizer Chiefs in the league 3-1 and that day the team played well with a lot of confidence.
“He has given the players a lot of freedom to express themselves. With the way they are playing now, I think we are going to see a very exciting cup final against Sundowns,” Mtawali is quoted as saying.
He feels Celtic understand Maduka’s philosophy because he had led the team before as captain for several seasons and that he began his coaching career at Celtic.
“It is not easy for former players to get a job in the PSL, but John has been with Celtic since he retired and worked his way up to where he is now. We must also thank Celtic management for believing in him,” Mtawali said.
“I’m very happy to see a former player whom I played with in the national team progress so well. I think the advantage that John has now is that he played football at the highest level, won cups with Bush Bucks [his previous club as a player]. Even better, Celtic has a lot of hungry youngsters who are eager to prove themselves.”
Meanwhile, supersport.com reports that Maduka could make history if he steers Celtic to victory.
The report states that Maduka could become the first coach from the African continent, and outside of South Africa, to lift the Nedbank Cup competition trophy since the tournament was first played in 1971.
“If Maduka is successful, it will mean a coach from a 13th different nation has lifted the trophy, with the likes of Brazil, Chile, Romania, Germany, Russia and Serbia already represented,” part of the report reads.
Celtic have since been drawn as the home team in the crunch tie which is the last piece of major silverware in what has been the longest season in South African football history.
Maduka’s charges are gunning for their first win in the competition since 1985 and first trophy since they lifted the Telkom Knockout in 2012 when they defeated Sundowns 1-0 in the final under coach Clinton Larsen.
Celtic have been in excellent form since the season resumed and are unbeaten in the bio-bubble under Maduka.
Sundowns are seeking a third piece of silverware this season after lifting the league title and the Telkom Knockout. The champions have been in ominous form after a slow start to the season restart.
Having had a week of rest and preparation for the game, there should be no talk of fatigue for Sundowns who will go into the match as favourites.
Should Pitso Mosimane’s charges win, they will join Moroka Swallows and SuperSport United on five all-time competition wins, but will still be behind Kaizer Chiefs (13) and Orlando Pirates (8).
Sundowns’ last success in the Nedbank Cup came in 2015 when they defeated a young Ajax Cape Town side on postmatch penalties after a 0-0 draw in Port Elizabeth.