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Caf Champions League: Orlando Pirates' Ncikazi undecided on Mhango ahead of JS Saoura clash

4:21 PM GMT+8 13/02/2022
Frank Mhango, Orlando Pirates, August 2021
The Buccaneers coaches recently stirred controversy when they dropped the Malawi international and defended that with some unpopular remarks

Orlando Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi has stuck to his words, saying Frank Mhango’s scintillating performances at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals do not guarantee him a place in their team.

The decision to include Mhango in Sunday’s Caf Confederation Cup Group B clash against JS Saoura was to be based on Saturday’s training session.

After a good personal outing at the recently-ended Afcon, where the forward was one of the tournament top-scorers with three goals, it appeared he had done enough to prove he deserves regular game time at Pirates.

But he was a surprise omission in the Buccaneers match against AmaZulu last week, in what angered Pirates fans.

Ncikazi, however, was quick to defend the decision not to include Mhango even on the substitutes bench, a position he still sticks to.

“If a player is in the national team of a certain country, it does not really necessarily mean that he should be a regular [at his club]. And people sometimes don’t listen to what is being said but look at who is saying it,” Ncikazi told the media.

“Then sometimes we think with our hearts than our minds. The facts are in front of us but people are just refusing to look at the facts and I’m not going to change from what I said because it’s what I think and the facts are backing me up.

“The issue fo Mhango is just here, he is ready, it’s competition. Will you see him tomorrow [Sunday]? We still have a training session and it will be based on the session and we will make a decision thereafter. If he is in, good for him, good for the team. If he is not there, other players will represent the team with pride.”

For a player who has proven himself in the Premier Soccer League, where he was joint top goal-scorer two seasons ago, there have been high expectations that Mhango will feature regularly.

This comes as Pirates have been struggling up front, with their top-scorers Deon Hotto and Kwame Peprah having managed four league goals each so far this season.

Despite questions surrounding the Mhango issue, Ncikazi is not backing down and he further explained their stance on the player.

“Let me put clarity on the whole issue which has made a lot of empty noise without being informed. We must listen with our ears and not assume but use the facts in front of me,” added Ncikazi.

“On Gabadinho Mhango, the question was why he was not part of the team and in my explanation, I used the Afcon [analogy]. If I were to say it again, when you look at most teams, a goalkeeper from Ivory Coast, their number one [Badra Ali Sangare], is playing for JDR Stars [in the National First Division].

“The goalkeeper from Gabon, their number one, is number three at AmaZulu. The Malawi captain [Limbikani Mzava], with respect, can’t make the 20-man squad at AmaZulu. The Malawi striker [Khuda] Muyaba is playing for Polokwane City [in the National First Division], just to give you a few examples.

“So, relating to the question that was asked; why is Mhango doing well for Malawi and not at Pirates. I said maybe the competition at PSL teams is higher than in some teams at Afcon.”