Local News - Issue 292

Wits Sign English Striker James Keene 

Joint table-toppers Bidvest Wits have been swift to move in the January transfer window, announcing the signing of England striker James Keene. The 30-year-old, who has plied his trade for a number of clubs including Portsmouth, Djurgardens and most recently Halmstad in Sweden, was on trial with the Clever Boys in November, before putting pen to paper with the club, as confirmed today. “The transfer window officially opened today and we've been busy! English striker James Keene has signed for Bidvest Wits. Welcome to the family James,” read a statement on Wits’ website. Keene had previously tried his luck with Kaizer Chiefs in March last year, but failed to earn a move to last season’s Absa Premiership champions. 

Bloemfontein Celtic forward Vuyisile Wana is set to start full training with the team next month after recovering from injury, according to coach Serame Letsoaka. Wana, who was signed from Moroka Swallows on a three-year-deal with Lantshane Phalane at the start of this season, has been nursing a knee injury since June. Letsoaka, who lost his first game in charge against Chippa United just before the festive break, says in all likelihood Wana will begin training with the team next month. "He will start full training in February and I think he will be ready by that time as he is going through rehab," says Letsoaka. "The injury has been very bad for the player and team as well. We invested a lot of money in him and the whole of last year we didn't get anything out of the player. It's not good for the club as well." The 28-year-old played 26 matches for the Dube Birds scoring six goals. Bloemfontein Celtic will resume their league campaign away against Ajax Cape Town at Athlone Stadium on Friday.

Mpumalanga Black Aces have decided against the immediate signing of Latvian defender Renars Rode due to anticipated delays in the issuing of his work permit. Mushin Ertugral, the Aces coach, who was behind Rode’s recent trial stint at the club says that they will now only consider the 26-year-old for next season.  “If we sign him now chances are that we will have to wait for his work permit until sometime next month. So that we will play about 9-10 games between January and February it would have meant we sign him but then he gets to miss a sizeable portion of games that we will be playing beginning this weekend. "I actually think it is wiser that he comes back in May to familiarise himself with this environment which is very different from where he comes. Then we start the new season we will know that his papers are also ready and he is also familiar with everything here. “Also, with us, we are not really desperate to make any additions to our squad now in January because we are happy with what we have. We also have some youngsters coming up from our ranks who we feel deserve a chance,” says Ertugral. Rode – who has played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League – will most likely sign a short-term deal in Latvia for now.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane says even though the transfer window period opens today he is not looking to bring in any new players unless they are better than what he has in his current squad. Sundowns have been in fine form of late and going into the Christmas break are sitting on top of the league table with 26 points after twelve games, ahead of second placed Bidvest Wits on goal difference. Mosimane says that he is very happy with his squad and is very unlikely to venture into the transfer market this January. “Transfers in January are very difficult because you have to bring in better players than what you have. We have moved away from signing lots of players in a year and I think you have seen that” says Mosimane.  “We will only bring in any players that are better than what we have and that is only if we are pressurised to do so, and only then we will only bring in new players,” he added. The Brazilians kick off their first league match of the New Year against Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

Mark Mayambela has turned down an offer to renew his contract with Chippa United in favour of a move to Gauteng. Mayambela's contract with Chippa was set to expire in June this year, with the midfielder already being linked with a move to either Mamelodi Sundowns or SuperSport United. According to sources close to the Chilli Boys, the club wanted to offer the 28-year-old a new contract but the player has made his mind that he will leave the Port Elizabeth-based side. However, the former Orlando Pirates winger refused to comment on his future, and insists he will see out his current contract with his employers.

Ivorian defender Ben Adama Banh is on his way to South Africa and has been linked to Chippa United ahead of the transfer window period. Banh is not new to South Africa having captained Guinea side AS Kaloum during the CAF Confederations Cup game against Orlando Pirates at the Bidvest Stadium in June. The 29-year-old left back was reportedly wanted by Zambian side Zesco United but decided against joining as he would rather try and play in the PSL. Banh's agent Dennis Idrissa confirms that his client will arrive in South Africa on Saturday with the intention of signing with one of the PSL sides. "We spoke with Pirates after they saw him play during the CAF game but they wanted him to come down for a trial," says Idrissa. "There are few options and Chippa United is one of them," he added. 

Safa president Danny Jordan says he is pleased with what the football association’s teams have achieved in 2015, and aims to continue their success into next year. Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba and his technical team including Owen da Gama, Thabo Senong and Molefe Ntseki guided the younger age-group teams who competed at their highest level in various competitions this year. Da Gama's national under-23s side qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games  in Brazil by finishing third in the Under-23 Afcon championships in Senegal, while Vera Pauw's Banyana Banyana also qualified for the event for the second time in succession, meaning for the first time, South Africa’s men and women’s teams will participate simultaneously in the Olympics Games. Mashaba earlier this year guided Bafana Bafana to the Afcon finals in Equatorial Guinea, which was the first time the national team qualified for the biannual event since 2008, yet they failed to progress from the group stages. However, Bafana Bafana rounded off the calendar year with a 4-1 aggregate victory over Angola in the second phase of 2018 World Cup qualifiers to join the 19 nations in the African zone for the next round of qualifiers. Jordaan feels with all those achievements, it was great year for South African football, yet even greater challenges lie ahead in 2016. "This year it has been very successful year,” says Jordaan. “On the continent, we are the only country that will send two teams into the Olympics, both men and women, which is a huge achievement for this country as well.  "As far as our performance of our national teams this year is concerned, we are very happy with the performance of our teams. The financial performance was also good and we managed to grow our base to over R285 million as an asset because we now own The Safa House and Fun Valley [Safa’s new technical centre] … so we now have properties that will provide financial stabilities in the long-term. "We have all the national teams well-developed and they have already proven that they can compete on the global stage,” he continued. "I think the reconstruction of South African football is there for everyone to see. We now must strengthen our youth success, LFAs, regions and also provincial structures and that is the challenge for 2016."

Free State Stars have appointed Italian tactician Giovanni Solinas as their new head coach, with former Bafana Bafana international Bradley Carnell as an assistant. The 47-year-old, who has coached across the continent, most notably at Algerian side ES Setif, takes over from Ernest Middendorp, who has taken over the reins at Maritzburg United. “Free State Stars FC is delighted to announce the appointment of Giovanni Solinas as the new head coach, subject to a work permit,” read a statement on the club’s website. “Solinas will be assisted by former Bafana Bafana international Bradley Carnell, whose knowledge of the South African game will be invaluable to the new coaching set-up.” Work permit issues are still being attended to by the club, yet general manager Rantsi Mokoena says Solinas was the ideal candidate for the job. “We had to move quickly and fill the void left by Ernst Middendorp’s sudden departure. Giovanni was the standout candidate and ticked many boxes,” Mokoena said. “He is the calibre of coach we were looking for – young and ambitious. His credentials speak for themselves. He is a keen student of the game and it helps that he has worked on the continent before. That experience should stand him in good stead for his latest challenge. “We welcome Solinas to the club and wish him well in his new role.” Should his work permit have been issued, Solinas’ first task for tenth-place Stars will be a fixture against Golden Arrows on 9 January.

Former Bafana Bafana international Bradley Carnell says he is humbled by his appointment as assistant coach at Free State Stars. The ex-South African defender has been named as assistant coach to Giovanni Solinas, who was today announced as the replacement for Ernst Middendorp, who resigned from the club to join Maritzburg United. Carnell, widely applauded for his in-studio analysis on television, has previously worked with the University of Johannesburg’s Varsity Cup football team, and says he is excited for the challenge ahead with Ea Lla Koto. “It’s a great opportunity for me as I have been working towards this for past three to four years, working behind scenes,” says Carnell. “I was also involved with development at UJ and I think this is the right timing. “I got a call from Rantsie (Mokoena) and had a chat with my family. I am excited and looking forward for the challenge ahead,” he added. Stars currently lie tenth in the PSL standings, and face Golden Arrows in their first League fixture of the new year.

Luthando Zibeko has been appointed team manager of Chippa United. Zibeko had been employed by Chippa United in previous seasons and returned to the club at the start of this season to fill the role of head of media and communications – a post similar to one he held at Kaizer Chiefs some years back. Zibeko’s previous post “will be vacant” according to Mpangesi, but Zibeko will continue to act in that capacity too aided by Lukhanyo Mzinzi, the COO of the club. United were recently given the green light by the PSL to play four home matches at Buffalo Park in East London, although their next Premiership match, at home to Bidvest Wits will continue as scheduled at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on January 10. 

More offers are pouring in for wanted Mamelodi Sundowns star Bongani Zungu as the midfielder enters the last six months of his contract at Chloorkop. Zungu has already mentioned his dream of playing in Europe next season, with the Bafana Bafana midfielder linked with move to Victoria Gumaraes in Portugal next year. However, Zungu has now revealed he has received widespread offers from across the European continent, including an unnamed team in England. "I am getting a lot offers. I can’t mention names, but they’re also in top leagues,” he said. "There is also an offer from England,” he added. Zungu says he is looking rather at the opportunity of creating his own legacy in Europe than the good money he would receive if he remained with The Brazilians."I can get better money at Sundowns”. “But to me it’s not about money, but growth and the love of football, and competing with the best in the world.”

Kaizer Chiefs centre-back Erick Mathoho has started training with the Amakhosi squad again after a spell on the sidelines. The Bafana Bafana international missed the club's last two games of 2015 - including the Telkom Knockout Final defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns - with an ankle injury. However, he will be pushing to make his return when Chiefs resume their Absa Premiership campaign against log leaders Sundowns at the weekend at FNB Stadium, according to the Soweto side's website. Glamour Boys goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune has also recovered from the knee injury that he sustained in October, while attacker Bernard Parker should be able to resume full training in the new year. Parker picked up a knock in the 2-1 League win over Bidvest Wits on December 19.

Orlando Pirates are a preparing to make another bid for the services of national Under-23 midfielder Siphelele Ntshangase. Pirates were keen to bring in the talented forward during the past transfer window period, but his current club Black Leopards insisted their prize asset was not for sale. However, according to sources close to Bucs, the Soweto giants are ready to submit another offer to Leopards boss David Thidiela in a bid to lure Ntshangase, who has scored twice in the NFD so far this season, to Gauteng in the new year. "Pirates are very interested in him (Ntshangase). He remains top of the wanted list during the transfer window period in January,” said the source. Pirates, who have scored 10 goals in their 10 PSL matches thus far this season, currently sit 13th in the League standings, 15 points adrift of joint table-toppers Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits. 

National First Division side FC Cape Town have announced the appointment of Johnny Ferreira as the club's new coach. Ferreira had a previous spell in charge of the struggling outfit, which is languishing in the relegation zone with nine points from 13 games. "We are proud to announce the appointment of Mr Johnny Ferreira as head coach with immediate effect," read a statement from the African Beasts. "Mr Ferreira returns to the club he knows well. He coached the club to playoff success in 2010 and brings along vast experience not only with PSL knowledge but astute tactical knowledge of the NFD."We take this opportunity to wish him all the success as he guides FC Cape Town to a playoff position." 

Maritzburg United have hired goalkeeper coach Arthur Bartman to serve as an assistant to the club's new head coach Ernst Middendorp. Bartman will work alongside Fadlu Davids, who stayed with the Absa Premiership strugglers after veteran mentor Clive Barker was sacked at the beginning of the month. "Arthur Bartman and Mahier Davids also join the Maritzburg United technical team for the remainder of the season," Maritzburg announced on Twitter.