GU is one of the most respected outfits in the country, having been a dominant force, especially in the 90s. Even the players who used to be signed by the club knew the importance of donning their famous red and white shirt.
Some of the players who made the Reds a fearsome outfit included Zimbabweans Mandla Balandla and Marco Tshuma who wore the GU shirt in the 90s. Their exploits at the time made one to watch GU every time they were in action. Since then, the Reds have never brought a foreign player who set the local scene alight.
Some of the foreign players who came in the last decade have only managed to set the scene alight in a season, only to disappear. This has been blamed on the officials who prefer to sign mediocre foreigners who are paid huge salaries at the expense of local players. The recent arrival of Zimbabwean strikers Dylan Chivandire and Baloni Chiseko did not help the situation as the duo failed to convince their supporters and media that they were indeed quality. While Chivandire was familiar to GU supporters having faced them playing for Dynamos FC in the Champions League three years ago, Chiseko was completely unknown in football circles. It was only after the intervention from angry GU supporters that the management bowed to pressure and released Chivandire and Chiseko before the 2011-2012 season reached the halfway mark.
“The problem is that our officials (not only at GU) sign players without checking their track record. It’s very important to dig deeper about the player before you bring him on board,” said one analyst. When the be MOBILE Premier League resumes next month, all eyes will be on Sakala who has been signed from Zambian giants ZANACO this month. This is because those inside GU camp believe that he is the man who is going to solve their scoring problems.
This season, the Reds have only managed to find the back of the net 27 times in 16 games, unlike pacesetters Mochudi Centre Chiefs who have scored 56 goals.
At Sunset Stadium in Lusaka, Sakala was a darling of ZANACO supporters having been brought from rivals Lusaka Dynamos almost three years ago. When ZANACO lost their key striker Given ‘Freedom’ Singuluma to TP Mazembe in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009, they did not waste time in settling for the lanky Sakala. Since then, he has won the hearts of ZANACO supporters. At times, he has formed a deadly combination with Ignatius Lwipa. Coach Wedson Nyirenda at times opted to use Sakala as a lone striker who still delivered the goods for ZANACO.
Sakala has risen from football obscurity to feature for the Zambian national team, winning seven caps. During the 2009 African Nations Tournament (CHAN) which was played in Ivory Coast, Sakala came off the bench twice to make a cameo appearance. Though some commentators here have raised alarm bells about his age, having turned 30 last year, those who have watched Sakala excel in the Zambian League over the years believe that he still has goals in his boots.
Speaking from Lusaka, former Zambian Under-23 assistant coach Dean Mwiinde showered Sakala with praises.
“He is an old-fashioned type of centre-forward. He is very aggressive and good in the air. He is likely to create lots of problems for the defenders out there,” he said. Mwiinde added that to get the best out of Sakala, it will depend on the technical team at the Reds.
GU secretary Herbert Letsebe said that they have satisfied themselves before signing a two-year contract with the Zambian striker. He pointed out that they did not want to commit the same mistake like they did when they signed Chiseko at the beginning of the season.
“We consulted a lot of people, especially in Zambia, before bringing him on board. I want to believe that we’ve covered all areas and it’s up to him to deliver. The good thing is that he was honest with us especially that he’s 30. Age is not a problem because there are lots of players who are still delivering at the highest level yet they’re considered to have reached their peak,” a confident Letsebe said.
The GU official added that Sakala’s experience has played a major role in their decision to bring him to the Reds’ nest. Letsebe pointed out that some of the youngsters like Pako Moloi can learn a lot playing alongside the Zambian hitman. He has already featured in a number of friendly games for the Reds since the beginning of the year. Whether he is what GU supporters have been looking for, only time will tell.