JOHANNESBURG - Zambia national team coach, Wedson Nyirenda, describes Orlando Pirates’ new signing Augustine Mulenga as magical.
The 28-year-old winger, who can also play as a centre-forward, could turn out to be the Buccaneers’ best buy this season, despite having also roped in players like Xola Mlambo, Musa Nyatama, Wayne Sandilands and Diamond Thopola to move away from last season’s disastrous campaign.
While those signings have added value to the club, the Buccaneers needed a reliable goalscorer - a person who could have helped them overturn their nine Absa Premiership draws into wins, which would have made them genuine title contenders and perhaps league leaders even with nine matches to go.
“South Africans must brace themselves for great dazzling skills from the young man,” Nyirenda said.
“Augustine will add some much needed flavour to Pirates and South African football at large. The young man is magical. He can turn any defence around. He is really a good buy.”
Mulenga is Zambia’s reigning Footballer of the Year. He showed his magic in the African Nations Championship (Chan).
Mulenga led Zambia to finish at the top of their group by scoring half of the six goals the local-based Chipolopolo side netted in the tournament in Morocco before bowing out in the quarter-finals.
The reigning African champions, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, and Egyptian giants Al-Ahly were among the teams that courted “Diego” before he opted to sign for the Buccaneers.
'Watched him grow'
“He is a player that I know (very well),” Pirates’ coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic said.
“I belong to the group of football people on the continent who not only love African football but also have witnessed how kids are growing up right in front our eyes.
"I remember him when he was at Nkwazi (his first professional club) before going on to play the Caf Champions League with Zanaco FC.
"I have watched him grow and I followed him even when he had the hardest possible thing happen in his life before they played Nigeria in the World Cup qualifiers, he lost his daughter just before that match.
"I know that clubs in France and in North Africa wanted him but he chose to come to us. We welcome him in our family with open arms.”
Sredojevic continued: “The Orlando Pirates football family is very accommodating and has big space and big heart for everyone. We expect the amount of talent he showed against Ivory Coast in Chan (where he scored a brace to help Zambia win 2-0).
"South African football lovers and our fans will see something in that fashion.
"South Africa loves football in a special way that I love so much. His arrival here, as the best player in Zambia, makes him an asset to our football and us as a football club. He will add value to the team.”
Mulenga’s biggest challenge will be to handle the fanfare that surrounded his signing for a team that hasn’t had a prolific finisher in years.
Bernard Morrison had a similar reaction upon his arrival from AS Vita. But the Ghanaian forward failed to live up to the expectation.
He ended up trying too much to please, wanting to do everything on his own and forgetting that he had 10 other teammates on the field.
The Buccaneers will need all the firepower they can get in a bid to battle it out for the championship with qualification for continental football next year as the second prize, should they fail in the league race.