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Was Orlando Pirates coach Ncikazi offside with Mhango comments?

10:57 GMT+3 08/02/2022
Mandla Ncikazi Orlando Pirates.jpg
The Sea Robbers won the game 1-0 thanks to a Deon Hotto goal, but also missed several other good chances to add to the scoreline

Orlando Pirates coach Mandla Ncikazi has come under fire for his explanation for the absence of Malawi striker Gabadinho Mhango in Sunday’s Nedbank Cup game against AmaZulu.

After some scintillating performances for Malawi at Afcon, it seemed perhaps as if Mhango would be able to invigorate his Bucs career, having been battling for game-time for over a year now.

One reason that Ncikazi gave for Mhango being left out of the squad, was that he had joined his club teammates late for training after returning from Afcon, and therefore could not leapfrog the queue.

That’s understandable, to a point. However, when Pirates played AmaZulu, it had already been 12 days since Malawi were eliminated.

And the other issue is man management. Pirates know that Mhango has been down and out and struggling for confidence. They also know what he can do when he’s feeling loved and happy – like when he fired in 16 league goals for the Sea Robbers two seasons back.

Different players need different handling – that’s part of the man management aspect of football. Rather than playing everything by the book, perhaps the Pirates management could have made an ‘exception’ in Mhango’s case.

Sport and football are a lot about momentum and confidence, and by leaving Mhango out of the match-day squad altogether, he may quickly go back in to his shell.

Low profile better?

It’s usually better for coaches not to be too outspoken, and not to give journalists fodder for headlines, or fans reason to criticise on social media.

Instead, Ncikazi’s comments over Afcon possibly being weaker than the PSL did the opposite. The comments were disrespectful to the continent – even more so in a period in which Bafana Bafana have underwhelmed - and simply not necessary.

As it is, the likes of Pirates and Chiefs fans are already suffering in Mamelodi Sundowns’ dominance, and have been the target of jokes on social media for some time now. Ncikazi just gave the critics more ammunition.

And it wasn’t his first spiky comment of the week – a few days prior, Ncikazi revealed that he’d been irritating his own bosses:

“I was told in the meeting by the management that I complain too much. Let me try not, but I want to. I still don’t have the opportunity of having a full squad,” he told reporters.

Again, it wasn’t necessary for him to reveal all of that.

Sentiment counts - club bosses are aware of what’s been said online and once the supporters turn against a coach, it can make his job increasingly difficult.

Reflecting on the last week, Ncikazi may feel he let his emotions get the better of him. The uncalled for outbursts can only make one wonder if all is well in the Pirates camp.