A strong finish the aim

2015-01-08 00:00

WHILE the country’s football spotlight is on Bafana Bafana and their quest for Afcon glory in Equatorial Guinea, Maritzburg United are quietly going about their business preparing for a strong finish to the season in 2015.

The Team of Choice were back at training this week, focusing on physical conditioning and fitness ahead of their next league clash at home to Wits on February 10. The tactical and technical elements will be incorporated from next week.

United have impressed in 2014/15 so far. Under Steve Komphela they have played attractive, fast moving and fearless, yet responsible attacking football. It has resulted in them becoming one of the most respected outfits in the league. But after collecting just two points from their final four fixtures of the year, United have slumped to seventh on the log. Given the club’s history, that is still reason for optimism, but not when one considers how high the club was flying after their shock 2-1 win at Orlando Pirates on December 2. That was five games ago now, and a top four place at Christmas then seemed more of a probability than a possibility.

“I would say that it was [disappointing],” Komphela told The Witness yesterday when recalling his side’s finish to the year. “By our standards, we didn’t take advantage of the position we were in. But maybe it is an opportunity for us to look back, reflect, and realise that nothing will ever be given to us.”

There would have been a couple of long faces in the United dressing room this week after Bafana hopefuls Mondli Cele and Kwanda Mngonyama failed to make the final 23 that will travel to Afcon. But Komphela said the duo had responded to the news remarkably well.

“There is obviously a small disappointment but no need for depression,” he said. “At least they were in the squad. They had a taste of it and they have accepted that there will be more opportunities going forward.”

What this lengthy PSL break also does for Maritzburg is allow on-loan Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Sibusiso Kumalo a chance to recover from injury. The 23-year-old has not featured for United this season and underwent knee surgery in October, leaving Komphela hopeful that the player will be ready when the league resumes.

“We want to have him back. We have this time with the fitness coach and we have a perfect opportunity in the next three weeks to try and have him ready,” said Komphela.

United have been one of the quieter clubs this transfer window, with few stories breaking. One rumour that did surface last month was that long-serving goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters was a target of KZN rivals AmaZulu, but that story has since fizzled out.

Komphela would not deny any transfer movement yesterday, but instead spoke of the complexities of getting a player out of an existing contract.

“Trying to do that can be a difficult process and we should only do that in extreme emergencies,” he said. “We are not quiet. We have to monitor what is going on. There are one or two things that we are looking at, but in football it is better to do than to say.”

Meanwhile, centre back Mohammed Awal has made a Ghanaian squad of 26 that will have a camp in Spain before their final 23 travel to Afcon.

Offering a word of encouragement to Bafana, Komphela said that they should not view themselves as underdogs.

“All 16 teams are there on merit,” he said. “If you want to be champions of the continent, then you have to overcome all of the teams. In our group, if we are worried about them [Ghana, Algeria, Senegal] then they should also be worried about us.”

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