THOHOYANDOU – Black Leopards announced on Wednesday that Frenchman Lionel Soccoia will take over the reins as coach.
After managing only 13th spot on the SA Premiership standings in the last campaign, Leopards are determined to avoid yet another season of struggle.
As such, the Thohoyandou-based club hastily moved to assemble a new technical team, after the departure of English coach Dylan Kerr, as well as two top-class, experienced signings to beef up the squad.
Soccoia will be assisted by former Kaizer Chiefs defender Patrick Mabedi. Morgan Shivambu is the second assistant coach and Sam Banda the goalkeeper coach.
Mlungisi ‘Professor’ Ngubane, well-known as a player during his days with Bush Bucks, is the new team manager.
As for the playing personnel, Leopards have acquired the services of Thuso Phala and Mokgakolodi Ngele.
This will be Soccoia’s first time in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
But he has experience of coaching on the continent, with clubs such as Coton Sport in Cameroon, AFAD Djékanou in the Ivory Coast and Gabon’s FC Mounana.
He was, in fact, in charge when Mounana reached the quarter-finals of the Caf Confederation Cup.
The Frenchman will have support on the bench, though, as he negotiates his first season in South African football.
As a player, Malawian Mabedi spent eight years at Chiefs and two years at Moroka Swallows, and he also enjoyed a spell as an assistant coach at Amakhosi.
He knows the PSL inside out, which is why Soccoia will lean heavily on Mabedi while he finds his feet in his new surroundings.
Soccoia won’t only have Mabedi to assist, but Ngubane is just as well-versed with the inner workings of football in South Africa.
The former midfield star is still popular for his breath-taking ball-manipulating ability.
He is now 63-years-old, but remains an admired figure in the local game.
Black Leopards New Technical Team and New Players Team Manager: Mlungisi Ngubane
Head Coach: Lionel Soccoia Assistant Coach: Patrick Mabedi
He has coached quite a few teams across the country, and his experience will also be vital for new coach Soccoia.
In Phala and Ngele, Leopards have two players who will certainly add quality to the squad.
The 33-year-old Phala has played for Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Platinum Stars and SuperSport United, and was a member of the Bafana Bafana squad for the 2013 and 2015 Africa Cup of Nations campaigns.
Ngele, a 28-year-old from Botswana, is also a seasoned campaigner, having played for Platinum Stars, Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United.