South African DStv Premiership side Orlando Pirates have backed their coaches over the continued sidelining of their Malawian forward Frank Gabadinho Mhango amid growing pressure from fans.
Pirates administrative manager Floyd Mbele was quoted by South African tabloid Sunday World as having said team fielding is at the discretion of coaches.
He said: “One fundamental decision is that the coaches work with the players and that the coaches’ decision is final and we must respect that.
“If you remember, Mhango was not a regular before the Afcon. Coach Mandla [Ncikazi] explained and addressed the issue, but the media were too quick to crucify and criticise him before they could interpret what he was saying.
“The media did not interpret what Mandla was saying, they just went for the headlines.
“He was explaining that the other three PSL players who played in the Afcon were not regulars at their clubs and that maybe the competition in the PSL teams is higher than the competition in some teams at Afcon.”
After starring for the Flames at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Cameroon earlier this year where he was one of the standout performers, the 29-year-old has only featured twice for the Buccaneers as a substitute.
Mbele said they cannot dictate to Ncikazi and his fellow co-coach Fadlu Davids to field the 2019/20 PSL joint golden boot winner as they would be accused of interference.
“There is no administrative issue with the player, it’s just a technical staff and coaches matter and a question of the player having to fight for his position, just like other players in the team,” he added.
“If we tell the coach to play a certain player, then we will be accused of interfering. The coaches decide.”
In an attempt to explain why Mhango did not feature in a Nedbank Cup match against AmaZulu FC on February 6, Ncikazi stated that the Premier Soccer League is perhaps bigger than the Afcon finals, a claim which caused a stir after seemingly belittling the continental tournament and the highly-rated player.
Mhango yesterday declined to comment on the issue, saying: “For now let it be. I am trying to give out the best I can and we’ll see what comes up as we go along.”
National Football Coaches Association chairperson Aubrey Nankhuni accused Pirates coaches of being unprofessional in the way they have been handling Mhango.
“They are torturing the player mentally and slowly killing his career and it is not fair. Hopefully, they will release him at the end of the season so that he can join a team where he will be assured of game time,” he said.