Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
GRITTY Warriors midfielder Danny Phiri is set to be handed his ABSA Premiership debut tonight when his new club Golden Arrows face Soweto giants Orlando Pirates at the Orlando Stadium.
Phiri sealed his move from domestic Premiership champions Chicken Inn last month with the captain of the home-based Warriors inking a two-year deal.
At Golden Arrows, Phiri will also reunite with fellow Zimbabwean and former Chicken Inn teammate — winger Kuda Mahachi — who has been retained by the Durban outfit after his initial loan spell from Mamelodi Sundowns had expired.
But there is no doubting the spotlight in the Arrows against Pirates clash, will from a Zimbabwean perspective, fall on the country’s players at the two clubs with reigning Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year Phiri likely to take his bow in the ABSA Premiership after being included in the squad that flew to Johannesburg last night.
Phiri’s manager Gibson Mahachi confirmed yesterday that the combative Warriors midfielder had secured his work permit in time to be included in Golden Arrows’ season opening fixture.
“Deco seems to have quickly settled in at his new club and now that he managed to secure both his international clearance and work permit on time, I understand he is in line to play tomorrow.
“In fact all the players who moved during this transfer window, Augustine Mbara, Edmore Chirambadare, Knox (Mutizwa) and Michelle Katsvairo have now received their permits which means it is now up to their respective coaches to use them,’’ Mahachi said.
While Arrows are set to benefit from Phiri’s industry in their midfield, the club he led to a maiden Premiership title on the home front Chicken Inn have struggled for consistency since losing their star players and championship-winning coach Joey Antipas to the South African leagues.
The Gamecocks are currently ninth on the log table and virtually out of the reckoning to defend their league title.
Now under the guidance of former Warriors coach Rahman Gumbo, Chicken Inn, who face leaders FC Platinum at Mandava on Saturday, have managed 27 points from 20 games and are 15 behind Norman Mapeza’s platinum miners.
Apart from Phiri, Chicken Inn also lost the attacking pair of Chirambadare and Katsvairo who were snapped up by Kaizer Chiefs.
Chicken Inn’s faltering campaign is set to be further dented with what now appears an imminent departure of centre back Teenage Hadebe to Amakhosi.
Hadebe impressed Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Khompela and his men and Mahachi said negotiations with Amakhosi for the 21-year-old Warriors defender’s possible move had begun immediately after the former Bantu Rovers man returned home from his trial stint on Sunday night.
“We have since opened negotiations with Chiefs and we are hoping that by the end of this week we should have finalised on a deal. What is important is that he performed well during trials and impressed, which paved the way for negations to start.
“Teenage also has age on his side and left-sided centre backs are also not easy to come by and that should also work in his favour,’’ Mahachi said.
Chiefs were forced to go scouting for a defender before the transfer window closes next week following the injury of towering centre back Eric Mathoho who faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after tearing his ankle ligaments during the Olympic Games.
While Phiri will be looking to impress on his Arrows debut, Pirates’ coach Muhsin Ertuğral will be hoping to get the former champions off to a flying start to their championship campaign.
According to reports from Johannesburg, Ertuğral has been applying the final touches to his side’s preparations ahead of his first taste of competitive action when Pirates host Arrows.
“Well I don’t take any team lightly; we respect all our opposition and we are aware that the match against Arrows will be a tough one,” Ertuğral told his club’s website.
“A team of Orlando Pirates’ calibre has to start very well so we will definitely be on the hunt for all three points tomorrow.”
Having joined the club on their pre-season preparations just over a month ago, the former Kaizer Chiefs mentor explains that there are still some adjustments being made, but is confident in the team’s preparations thus far.
“There are areas where there are a lot of changes and through these changes the team will have different patterns of play and organisation through the different aspects of the game, so the boys will have to adjust to all these elements constantly,” Ertuğral said.
“But, nonetheless, I think we have prepared very well, especially over the last camp, which was vital to show us where we stand.”
“We overcame a few challenges in the beginning, particularly with how we wanted the players to approach the game, which is normal under the circumstances (of a new coaching staff and new players), but the good thing for us is that we have such a great squad and I am confident that they can get the job done.”