Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates’ co-coach Mandla Ncikazi has insisted that the South African league could be bigger than Afcon following their decision to leave Gabadinho Mhango out of the squad that faced AmaZulu in the Nedbank Cup last 32 on Sunday.
Mhango was the standout player for Malawi in the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations as he inspired 'The Flames' to the last 16. Such that many expected him to jump into the starting line up at Pirates when the local season resumes.
However, those hopefuls were shocked when Mhango was left out of the squad during the Bucs 1-0 win over Usuthu at the Orlando Stadium - where Deon Hotto's goal in the 53rd minute ensured that they qualified for the round of 16.
Ncikazi, though, has lifted the lid on the striker’s exclusion from the match-day squad, while he pointed out that they have other marksmen – such as Kwame Peprah and Zakhele Lepasa – who are capable of scoring goals as the 29-year-old.
“Pirates are a big team. You’ve got strikers. Mhango is one of them. You’ve got Lepasa, Mabasa who was not part of the team and you have Peprah. So, it’s a galaxy of strikers, although others were injured,” Ncikazi said after the match.
“So one may be with respect, the choice at Orlando Pirates, where players have been preparing for the past weeks and Mhango has come back. We know he is a good player, but not because anything is wrong with him, it’s just competition.”
Before flying out to Cameroon with the Malawian national team, Mhango was starting to gradually come back into the team after a number of off-the-field issues. But Ncikazi says he’ll have to work his way back into the team like other players.
“He’ll will get his opportunity in due course, he just has to work hard like other players are doing. Mabasa was not part of the team, he couldn’t make the 20 and being a top player, being a player that plays in the national team,” Ncikazi said.
Ncikazi concluded with a bold remark, saying: "But he will wait like the other players. We recognise and acknowledge his performance in the Afcon. But maybe the league in South Africa is bigger than Afcon, that’s a question for another day.”