Awal on his way out

2015-02-03 00:00

MARITZBURG United were one of the quieter sides in this PSL transfer window, with no major players moving in or out as coach Steve Komphela’s charges prepare for the second half of the league season.

It is an understandable policy from the Team of Choice, given that the current group of players have impressed in 2014/15. Their current log position of seventh perhaps doesn’t reflect the good football they have played, with back-to-back losses against Mamelodi Sundowns and Polokwane City bringing 2014 to an end.

Two points from their last four matches of the year followed a 2-1 win at Orlando Pirates — a result that had suggested that United looked good for a top four place at Christmas. But they have slipped back into a congested mid-table, and will need to hit the ground running when they host Wits next week Tuesday at Harry Gwala stadium.

One transfer issue that remains concerns Ghanaian international Mohammed Awal. The 26-year-old is currently with his national side at Afcon 2015, where they have progressed to the semi-finals, and has attracted interest from clubs in Saudi Arabia and Russia.

“He [Awal] has made his intentions clear that he wants to leave South Africa and play overseas,” Maritzburg chairperson Farouk Kadodia told The Witness yesterday. “He is contracted to stay with us until the end of the season, and we do have an option to extend that by another two years, but we don’t want to keep any player here against his will.”

Kadodia added that it was not clear whether or not Awal would make the move abroad when he returns from Afcon or at the end of the season.

Central defence is one area where Maritzburg are fairly well stocked, with Ghanaian veteran John Paintsil, Kwanda Mngonyama and David Booysen all having shone there so far this season.

The biggest speculation at the club has, once again, centred on Komphela’s future. The coach, linked with Chippa United at the start of the campaign, was reportedly a target of Orlando Pirates when the Soweto giants parted ways with Vladimir Vermezovic in early December immediately after their loss to Komphela’s Maritzburg.

But caretaker coach Eric Tinkler looks set to remain in charge of Bucs until the end of the season, temporarily extinguishing any rumours linking Komphela to the job.

“We know that Steve, like any coach, has ambitions to coach at the highest level,” said Kadodia. “But we have bent over backwards to accommodate him and Maritzburg and we are confident that we can keep him here.”

Last week it appeared that Maritzburg were set to secure the services of Bongolethu Jayiya on loan from Mpumalanga Black Aces, but that deal fell through after the midfielder failed a medical at Harry Gwala with an ankle injury plaguing his chances of playing first-team football.

“The coach looked at the situation, but the earliest we could have had him playing was at the end of April,” Kadodia confirmed. “We were reluctant to go into the market for players who were not getting regular game time — it is a challenge to get them fit.”

The club are also looking at securing Mngonyama and right back Abel Mabaso on permanent deals at the end of the season. They are both currently on loan from Sundowns.

In movement the opposite direction, Kadodia confirmed that there had been interest from KwaZulu-Natal rivals AmaZulu over goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters. The former Bafana Bafana squad member has battled to get into Komphela’s starting 11, with the manager favouring Namibian international Virgil Vries, but Kadodia says that United “were not in a position” to entertain that negotiation.

Turning his eyes towards the future, Kadodia had stern words for his technical team and players.

“With the investment that has been put into the club, we can’t afford to be patient any longer. We demand that we have a top-eight finish,” he said.

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