Pi­rates...

The Star Late Edition - - SPORT - MOHAU RAMASHIDJA

The well-trav­elled 31-year-old for­ward will carry a big­ger load in the ab­sence of Yan­nick Bo­lasie who will miss this tour­na­ment be­cause of a knee in­jury. Mbokani’s shoul­ders are big enough to carry that load. He is a typ­i­cal No 9, tall, strong and packs a pow­er­ful shot. Mbokani has had sev­eral fights with the DRC man­age­ment, quit­ting the na­tional team at one point. Yet he gives his all when­ever he dons the jersey. The holder of a Mas­ter’s De­gree in Eco­nomics has done well for him­self in the DRC with lim­ited re­sources. He dou­bles as the na­tional team and AS Vita coach. Ibenge guided Vita to the fi­nal of the 2014 CAF Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal and took the DR Congo to third place in the 2015 Africa Cup of Na­tions. Last year he won the Africa Na­tions Cham­pi­ons, a tour­na­ment for lo­cal-based play­ers. His eyes are now on the big one, the Af­con. DRC are among the dark horses of this Africa Cup of Na­tions cam­paign. They fin­ished third in the last edi­tion af­ter they lost to even­tual win­ners Ivory Coast in the semis be­fore beat­ing hosts Equa­to­rial Guinea in the third place play­offs. The Leop­ards are in a re­build­ing phase. There will be a lot of eyes on Zaha, es­pe­cially af­ter he turned down Eng­land to play for his coun­try of birth. He r e p r e s e n t e d Eng­land at ju­nior level and played two friendlies with the se­nior team be­fore Ivory Coast per­suaded him to switch al­le­giances. The 24-year-old, who was born in Abid­jan, is an ex­cit­ing tal­ent who has lit up the English Pre­mier League. He will fill the void left by Gerv­inho on the flanks. The French coach has a tough act to fol­low, tak­ing over a team that Herve Re­nard guided to con­ti­nen­tal suc­cess. Dus­suyer proved him­self when he led a lowly Guinea side to the last eight of the last Africa Cup of Na­tions. He was Henri Michel’s as­sis­tant in 2006 when the Ele­phants reached the fi­nal but lost to Egypt who were play­ing in front of their home crowd. The Ele­phants are in a tran­si­tion phase af­ter fi­nally lift­ing the Africa Cup of Na­tions with their golden gen­er­a­tion that was on its fi­nal legs. A new gen­er­a­tion has taken over. There are only five sur­vivors from the squad that were vic­to­ri­ous in Equa­to­rial Guinea two years ago. The trick will be blend­ing the new play­ers while re­main­ing com­pet­i­tive to re­tain their crown. GIO­VANNI SOLINAS’S res­ig­na­tion as Free State Stars coach yes­ter­day has some­how given cre­dence to spec­u­la­tion that he will be tak­ing charge of Or­lando Pi­rates.

The Buc­ca­neers have been coach­less since Muhsin Er­tu­gral’s de­par­ture in a huff fol­low­ing the hu­mil­i­at­ing 6-1 de­feat they suf­fered at Su­perS­port United in Novem­ber.

And among the names that have been bandied about as pos­si­ble re­place­ment for the club that is un­der the tem­po­rary guid­ance of Au­gusto Pala­cios has been that of the Ital­ian, who was in his sec­ond spell at Ea Lla Koto.

Pi­rates’ ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Floyd Mbele, how­ever, pleaded ig­no­rance.

“The last time I checked, Solinas had a con­tract with Free State Stars,” he said yes­ter­day. “It’s only now that I’m hear­ing from you that he has parted ways with them.”

Mbele said Pi­rates’ con­tin­ued search for a new coach to lead the team go­ing into the sec­ond round didn’t rely solely on any spe­cific in­di­vid­ual be­ing sud­denly avail­able for the post.

“It’s a work in progress (the search for a coach),” Mbele said. “I can­not tell you who we are hop­ing to rope in at the mo­ment, but I can as­sure you we have more than one coach on our list. Un­for­tu­nately I can­not give names.”

In what seemed an at­tempt to dis­count Solinas, Mbele spoke of Pi­rates’ stature while giv­ing the pro­file of the coach they need.

“The thing is, Pi­rates is a big club,” Mbele said. “The per­son who comes here must be ca­pa­ble of han­dling the pres­sure that comes with the job and also fight to pro­duce re­sults go­ing into the sec­ond round.”

The Sea Rob­bers have been strug­gling to pro­duce re­sults this sea­son. In their last 13 league matches, they have man­aged just four wins and six draws, which has them ly­ing 10th on the league ta­ble with 18 points.

Mbele added that who­ever gets the Pi­rates’ coach­ing job will have to hit the ground run­ning as the club would like to cel­e­brate their 80th an­niver­sary with some sil­ver­ware in their cabi­net.

“The sea­son is not over yet,” Mbele said. “We still have a long way to go. This is an am­bi­tious team. We go for what­ever is on of­fer year in and year out. We never limit our­selves to just one tro­phy.

“Sure, we’ve al­ready missed out on win­ning ei­ther or both of the MTN8 and the Telkom Knock­out ti­tles, but we can still push for some­thing this sea­son. We still have a fight­ing chance.”

Mean­while, Ser­ame Let­soaka will re­place Solinas at Stars. Let­soaka, who made his name as a player with Stars, ex­pressed de­light at re­turn­ing ‘home’: “I’m com­pletely over­joyed,” he said.

PIC­TURE: BACKPAGEPIX

MI­DAS TOUCH: Re­nard Herve, coach of Morocco, is go­ing for his third Africa Cup of Na­tions crown af­ter lead­ing Zam­bia and the Ivory Coast to the ti­tle. He has a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence on the con­ti­nent.

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