Ncikazi defends controversial Afcon comments

Premiership

Orlando Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi has defended his controversial comments about the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

Ncikazi courted controversy last week when he suggested that assessments of Gabadinho Mhango's performances at the 2021 CAF Africa Cup of Nations should be balanced by possible differences in quality between the continental tournament and South Africa's domestic league.

"... We recognise and acknowledge his performance at the Afcon but maybe the league in South Africa is bigger than the Afcon, but that is a question for another day," he said, in part of a response to questions surrounding the Malawi star's role in the team.

READ | Kamwendo hits out at Ncikazi over Afcon claims

The Orlando Pirates tactician has since sought to clarify his comments, which he has defended by claiming that there was a gulf in class between nations such Senegal, Egypt and Cameroon and other countries from the continent.

"Let me bring clarity to the whole issue," he said ahead of the club's 2-0 CAF Confederations Cup win over Algerian side JS Saoura on Sunday. 

"There has been a lot of empty noise and maybe lessons for me. We must listen with our ears and not assume things. The question was about why Gabadinho Mhango was not in the team, and in my explanation, I used the Afcon...

"If I was to say it differently, when you look at the teams, the No. 1 goalkeeper from Ivory Coast [Badra Ali Sangaré] is playing for JDR Stars, the goalkeeper for Gabon [Jean-Noël Amonome] is third-choice at AmaZulu.

"The captain from Malawi [Limbikani Mzava], with respect, he can't make the 20 at AmaZulu, the striker of Malawi [Khuda Muyaba] is playing for Polokwane City...just to give you a few examples.

"Now, in relation to the question that was asked, 'Why is Mhango doing well for Malawi and not for Pirates?', I said, 'Maybe, the competition in PSL teams is higher than in some teams at the Afcon.'

Scroll through the gallery to see the highest-ranked African nations after AFCON 2021

"Exluding the four teams that finished in the top four, if you look at those teams, Senegal's captain is [Sadio] Mané who is a regular at Liverpool. Number two was Egypt and [Mohamed] Salah, their captain, is a regular at Liverpool.

"Number three, [Vincent] Aboukakar [of Cameroon], is maybe now he is in the Middle East, but he's a regular in his team. And number four, Aston Villa's [Bertrand] Traoré [of Burkina Faso].

"When you look at what I said before and what I am saying now, the gap is too big. If a player is playing in the national team of some teams, it doesn't necessarily mean that he should be a regular [in the PSL].

"People sometimes don't listen to what is said but look rather at who is saying it. Sometimes we think with our hearts rather than our minds. The facts are in front of us but people are refusing to look at them.

"I'm not going to change what I said because it's what I think and the facts are backing me up."

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