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‘Set Gabadinho free’

Orlando Pirates coach remarks anger locals

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BACKING GABA—Nyirenda

Football analysts have advised Flames striker Frank Gabadinho Mhango to develop mental strength to safeguard his career at DStv Premiership side Orlando Pirates in South Africa.

The in-form forward has also been urged to push for a loan move to get game-time elsewhere to avoid frustrating his career, which seems to have picked up following a stellar performance at the just ended Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon.

The analysts made the calls following sentiments from Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi, who placed the Malawian down in the pecking order.

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“Pirates is a big team; [it is a place where] you have [many] strikers [and] Mhango is one of them. You have [Zakhele] Lepasa and Mabasa who was not part of the team. You have [Kwame] Peprah. So is the galaxy of strikers although others were injured,” the coach justified Mhango’s omission from the starting line-up to the media after the side defeated Amazulu on Sunday.

Ncikazi was also not bothered with Mhango’s impressive performance at Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon, where he scored three goals in as many games including a stunner against Morocco.

“The choice [dilemma] at Pirates where others have been preparing for the past weeks and Mhango just came back. We know that he is a good [striker]; it is just [about] competition. Currently, we choose to go with Peprah and Lepasa. He will get his opportunity in due course. He just have to work hard. So Mhango will work just like all other players. We recognised and acknowledged his performance in the Afcon. Maybe the league in South Africa is bigger than Afcon; that is a question for another day,” he said.

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Flames coach Meck Mwase, who was assistant to Football Association of Malawi Technical Director Mario Marian Marinica, tipped Mhango to remain focused.

“He must not challenge the coach but continue working hard. It will be good if he can switch teams. It is unfortunate that the coach is belittling Afcon when South Africa didn’t qualify,” he said.

National Coaches Association Chairperson Aubrey Nankhuni shared the remarks.

“It just shows that some officials do not want him at Pirates. This was a time to get the best out of him. The best Gaba can do is to continue working hard and, at the same time, request his manager to secure him a move, even if it be a loan move,” he said.

South Africa-based Malawian senior soccer analyst Benjamin Nyirenda said Mhango deserved to be given another chance at Pirates.

“Well, I think the coach has his own views on Mhango. But looking at how he performs every time he is given the chance, he should be given the chance. Look, he didn’t have much game-time before the Afcon and he did very well, which means that he should be able to do well for Pirates as well,” he said.

Nyirenda also suggested that Gabadinho should consider other options.

“Looking at how they are treating him right now, the best thing for him is to move and find a team where he can have more game time. But it won’t be easy because he is still contracted to the team.

“He has about 18 months remaining on his contract and the team won’t let him go just like that. So, for now, he has to wait for his chance to play again. But the excuse the coach gave is not valid at all. He was playing for the national team and it’s not a problem for him to jump into club action,” he said.

Local analyst George Kaudza-Masina was not amused with Ncikazi’s comments.

“Much as Orlando Pirates is a big team, comparing their league with Afcon is sarcasm of the highest order. What this implies is that Mhango’s exploits are not worthy to guarantee him playing time at a ‘big’ team like Pirates,” he said.

Masina advised Ncikazi to treat his players equally and fairy.

“As a coach, he has to understand that his survival depends on his players and such pronouncements might not go well if they lose a game minus Gaba. As for Gaba, let him remain steadfast and fight for his place in the team and take his Afcon form to the club if he is to win back the heart of his coach and the Buccaneers supporters at large. Otherwise, his reflection on Gaba is uncalled for,” he said.

The forward did not respond to our questionnaire.

Mhango won joint golden boot award in South Africa for 2020 season but he was overlooked last season. Injuries and off-pitch incidents also cost him game time at Pirates.

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