Arwuah, Sylla beef up United’s ‘spine’

2007-12-20 00:00

JOHN Arwuah and Mbemba Sylla, two West Africans who almost joined Maritzburg United in the past, have become established regulars and are adding a touch of class to the national First Division Coastal Stream league leaders.

Both have become important players in United’s “spine” down the centre of the park in the club’s 10-match unbeaten start to the season.

Arwuah (22), who says his name has been incorrectly spelled as “Aruwah” in the SA press, is a skillful, combative central midfielder with an accurate pass.

Accustomed to playing in attacking midfield, the Ghanaian has been converted into a defensive midfielder by coach Ian Palmer.

Central defender Sylla has been instrumental in a back four that has conceded just six goals.

At 25, the Guinean international has nine years’ experience being based in Europe, where he joined the youth programme of French club Metz as a 15-year-old, played for Belgian second-tier club RFC Liege and first division side Mons and spent two seasons at Romania’s National Bucharest.

Both players almost joined United previously. Arwuah was part of the Tembisa Classic Premier Soccer League (PSL) franchise that was sold to the owners of United two seasons ago, but was rejected for the final Maritzburg Classic squad by coach Trott Moloto. He joined Durban Stars where he was in good form in-between some serious injuries.

Sylla was on trial with United at the beginning of last season under Kosta Papic, but picked up a four-month injury in the last pre-season friendly against Moroka Swallows and could not make up one of the five foreigners.

Arwuah — who came to South Africa via a Ghanaian academy, a season in Malaysia, and his papers not coming through at Black Leopards — says Palmer making him captain in recent games has boosted his confidence.

After the disappointment of not making the Classic squad two seasons ago, the Ghanaian is still waiting to play in the PSL. With United’s good form, he may not have to wait too long. “Now that I have come back to United things are different. When the coach has trust in you, you end up giving your best. Palmer gave me my chance and now I’m really enjoying my time here,” Arwuah says.

“The club told us from the beginning that we are not in this league to add numbers, we’re playing to win promotion. We have a good technical team, the management support us and offer good incentives and the players are also working very hard, so it is possible.”

Ghana U17 cap Arwuah says his partnership in the middle with SA junior international Lynch Pule is “brilliant”.

“Whenever I am not playing with him I feel like something is missing. He knows how to cover me and I cover him very well — it’s like we have played together for a long time.”

Sylla — who played with Guinea’s Pascal Feindouno, the destroyer of Bafana Bafana in a 2-0 win to Guinea at the last African Nations Cup, at junior and senior national level — agrees United have a growing chance of being promoted.

He says of United’s almost water-tight defence: “Firstly I have to thank [assistant coach] Ashwin [Sutton]. If I do something wrong he tells me.

“And the defence play like brothers, we cover for each other and work very hard. If we win 3-1 the defence are still not happy because they have conceded a goal.”

He adds: “At this moment we do think about the PSL, but we are focused on the first division. If we start thinking about the PSL too soon, our performance will drop.”

United’s last game before the NFD breaks for a month is against third-placed Ikapa Sporting at Harry Gwala Stadium tomorrow night.

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