Watching Orlando Pirates Football Club being run ragged by the lowly Free State Stars on Saturday [01/04/2017] I could not but hang my head in shame. Later, for the love of football I watched Kaizer Chiefs taking on Mamelodi Sundowns at the FNB Stadium.
After watching what was arguably the game of this season’s PSL campaign I was left more despondent about the sudden fall from grace of the former Double Treble and African Champions.
This on a day where it was confirmed that the once Mighty Birds from Dube, Moroka Swallow was relegated to the fourth tier (SAB League) of South African football. Just the thought of Pirates also slipping out of the top flight (to the National First Division) made my heart skip more than just a beat. Pirates are in the relegation zone and things don’t look rosy at all.
Free State Stars dominated and outclassed Pirates for the entire game and despite not having the bulk of ball possession they used the little they had to score three goals in the first half and eventually running out 3-2 victors. Pirates looked completely disorganized, sloppy lacking direction and leadership.
On the other hand watching the master class dished out by the stars of Sundowns and Chiefs one could not help but realize that Pirates have fallen on hard times. Both teams on display at the FNB played football of the highest quality. Perfect game plans that were well executed and the fact that the final result had to come from a glaring mistake proved that it was a titanic struggle.
“A game of low margins” as man of the match Bernard Parker put it. Both teams has class and quality throughout the pitch and the leadership amongst both clubs were off the highest standards. Pirates, on the other hand, lacked this leadership.
What is the problem with Pirates? The presence of Rooi Mahamutsa in the match, dishing out a performance for Stars that took any Pirates die-hard to some of the best times he enjoyed at their club. One had to ask a question, why his contract was not renewed at Bucs? (Happy) Jele and (Ayanda) Gcaba proved to be big liabilities in terms of the leadership and organization in the central defensive areas.
This comes from the fact that both players are not natural centre backs. They do not have the capacity to marshal the defence and if one looks at the Erick Mathoho and (Lorenzo) Gordinho it is clear who is the leader and communicator in that defense. This was also evident from the downs central defensive pair of (Ricardo) Nascimento and Soumahoro (Bangaly).
However, the role played by Itumeleng Khune in organizing the defense of Chiefs cannot be ignored. He was once again on top of his game and so was (Kennedy) Mweene. Pirates had this kind of leadership during the times of Slimkat (Moeneeb Josephs) and the late Senzo Meyiwa.
However, the current crop of goalkeepers fail dismally in this area of the game. Brighton Mhlongo was once again at sea in this match. Caught out of position and failing dismally to marshal the defenders in front of him, Mhlongo proved that Bucs needed a keeper change sooner than later.
Fortunately it has been eluded that the Nigerian Olympic team goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel has been registered. Pirates have become toothless because the spine of the team is weak as the combination of (Oupa) Manyisa and (Abbubaker) Mobara leaves a lot to be desired.
It seems that Manyisa has been burdened by the captain’s armband and his game is completely down. He is ineffective in both attack and defence and often leads to Mobara being overworked. The immediate replacement for this pair, Issa Sarr, is also completely off form and is currently offering little to the club. This combination pales to the (Hlompho) Kekana and (Samuel) Mabunda partnership at Downs or even the (Willard) Katsande and (George) Maluleke one at Chiefs.
The new arrivals Theminkosi Lorch and (Dove) Wome seems to be the only midfielders willing to drive the club forward but sadly they need assistance. I am sure Kjell Jonevret is hoping the season ends with Pirates retaining their PSL status so that he and the powers that be can go on a buying spree. A central defender in James Okwuosa was signed and has not yet been given a lengthy run in the team. Players in the mould of Rivaldo Coetzee, Andile Jali and another goal-scoring striker is badly needed.
All I know is that Dr (Irvin) Khoza would have to wield the axe and be willing to open up the purse strings in order to bring in quality and not quantity.
Unless this is done then Pirates might just face the prospects of following the once Mighty Birds to the lower leagues. A major reshuffle is also needed at Pirates and urgently too.
By Andile Namntu