Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mbazo set for pastures new?

If sitting on the bench every week wasn't bad enough for a player with 107 caps for his country, the news that the company who own Portsmouth have gone into administration must have made up Aaron Mokoena's mind for good.

Following last week's arrest of Vladimir Antonov - the main shareholder of Convers Sports Initiatives - the 2008 FA Cup winners find themselves in deep financial trouble once again and face the prospect of a 10-point deduction as well. Manager Michael Appleton says that wages are 'OK in the short and medium term' but with a shortage of prospective new owners on the horizon, there is no telling how long that will be the case.

His club's perilous position makes it even more likely that Bafana Bafana's former captain will be leaving the south coast very soon. For Saturday's 1-1 draw with Leicester City, Mokoena warmed the bench alongside fellow Africans Benjani and Nwankwo Kanu, with Israeli Tal Ben Haim - all big-wage earners who can expect to be the first to be off-loaded by the administrators.

I met up with Mokoena last week before the news of Antonov's arrest had broken and he seemed determined to fight for his place in the first team under new boss Appleton. But he also hinted that his future may lie elsewhere if things didn't work out at Portsmouth, although he ruled out a return to South Africa like his old Blackburn Rovers team-mate Benni McCarthy.

The Middle East, USA and China are all potential destinations for a player who received widespread media exposure as the captain of the first African hosts of the World Cup last year. A short spell in any of those leagues would no doubt also help to boost the coffers of the thriving Aaron Mokoena Foundation - now supporting three youth teams in his home township of Boipatong.

That would probably be the end of his hopes of representing his country again but coach Pitso Mosimane had effectively brought the curtain down by dropping his skipper ahead of the crucial African Nations Cup qualifier against Egypt in March.

Mokoena's charity work has already seen him awarded the Freedom of the City of London - only the second South African after a certain Nelson Mandela. Thanks to an ancient bylaw, that means he is permitted to drive sheep across London Bridge, although 'Mbazo' admitted he has yet to take the opportunity.

The way things are going, he'd better get a move on.

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