BY GERALD MUTSVAIRO
Dynamos coach Lloyd Chigowe has backed Congolese striker Ngandu Mangala to hit the ground running in the 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season, suggesting he could surpass the impact made by the club’s last import, Cameroonian striker Christian Ntouba Epoupa, two years ago.
The 25-year-old Mangala is one of the three foreign players signed by Dynamos ahead of the new season together with former Cameroon Under-20 World Cup player Hervé Vincent Mbega and unheralded Ghanaian Robert Sackey.
Mangala was born in the DRC, but grew up in Zimbabwe and has previously played for lower division sides Ruwa Gunners and Prime Rangers before joining Zifa Eastern Region Division One side Green Fuel for the second half of last season.
Although he was not giving much away after being asked if he believed Mangala would be able to match the success enjoyed by Epoupa, Chigowe appeared bowled over by the player’s physical type of play.
“You see, this guy is different from Epoupa, he is a different breed,” Chigowe told StandardSport in an interview last week.
“He’s very strong and more physical; we are expecting big things from him this season. We will look to exploit more from his strength. So far he has settled very well and is really combining well with his team mates.”
Chigowe’s comments were echoed by Mangala’s previous coach Taku Shariwa, who mentored the Congolese forward during his stint at the Chisumbanje-based Green Fuel side last season.
The former Shabanie Mine technical director backed Mangala to shine in the Premiership if he plays to his strengths.
“Mangala joined us during the second half of the season from one of the teams in Division Two and I was impressed with him,” Shariwa told StandardSport in an interview yesterday.
“He is a very powerful Didier Drogba-like centre forward who uses his physical presence to challenge the opposition defenders for the ball, hold up the ball and then lay it off for his strike partner or the attacking midfielders.
“He’s also a natural goal scorer, but my advice for him and also to Dynamos is that he should play according to his strengths otherwise if he doesn’t it might be difficult for him given also the pressure of playing for such a big club.”
Dynamos have enjoyed success with foreign players before with former Ghanaian international forward George Owusu the first to make an impact before the turn of the millennium.
Owusu was one of the top centre forwards who played a key role in their CAF Champions League campaign in 1998 where they defied the odds to reach the final before losing to Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast.
Dynamos also had a good season in 2017 after they signed Epoupa, who helped them to a second place finish after he top-scored for them with 12 goals, four behind the eventual PSL Golden Boot winner Dominic Chungwa.
However, their relationship with the Cameroonian broke down over contractual issues culminating in the player terminating his contract.
Now the spotlight will be on Mangala and the West African duo of Mbega and Sackey.
While Mangala is not new to Zimbabwean football, Mbega and Sackey are in unfamiliar territory, but Chigowe reckons they will settle well.
“The other two guys (Sackey and Mbega) are also doing well. They are committed and are really enjoying training, they are up for a fight and we are really expecting them to give their best for the coming season. I am happy.” Chigowe added.
Mbega (25), who was born in Yaoundé, curiously never played professional football in Cameroon, but was on the books of Spanish side Mallorca II in the Segunda B, which is the European country’s third-tier league, between 2010 and 2013.
However there is no information on which clubs he played for since he left Mallorca II besides unconfirmed reports that he has been involved in the lower divisions in Spain.
He was nevertheless part of the Cameroon Under-20 team at the 2011 Fifa U-20 World Cup in Colombia, where the West Africans reached the round of 16.
The other new signing at Dynamos, Ghanaian midfielder Sackey, also has a curious background.
Although he claims to have played for teams such as Denizlispor in Turkey, the Ghanaian football website ghanasoccernet.com reported that Sackey only trained with Turkey second-tier side Kayseri Erciyesspor Kulubu on a trial stint in the 2010/2011 season, but failed to land a deal.