WELL-travelled Zambian international Collins Mbesuma joined an exclusive club of players who have played for South African football’s biggest clubs when he was announced as the latest Orlando Pirates signing on Thursday.
The 28-year-old striker has played for Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Moroka Swallows and has joined the Bucs on a three-year contract.
"I thank God that I have been able to play for all the biggest teams in South Africa," Mbesuma said. "It means a lot for my career."
Pirates coach Augusto Palacios said the burly striker could make an early debut when the Bucs face SuperSport United in an MTN8 semifinal first-leg clash at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Sunday, if he is able to pass a late fitness test.
"I followed him during the preseason matches and we will see what happens (during the fitness tests today)," Palacios said.
Mbesuma has not been able to replicate the scintillating form that saw him finish top scorer in the premiership with 35 goals while with Chiefs in 2005.
After spells with English side Portsmouth, Portugal’s Club Sport Marítimo and Turkish team Bursaspor, he returned to South Africa and joined Sundowns in 2008.
He did not set the scene alight at Sundowns and was released after just one season. He joined Swallows in 2009 but also did not last long at the Birds and was shown the door the following year.
He was accused of carrying too much weight and remained without a club until he surfaced at Golden Arrows in what was believed to be a last chance to resuscitate his ailing career in December 2010.
The Zambian managed to rediscover some semblance of his former form but it was seemingly enough to convince the Pirates management to sign him to the star-studded premiership champions on Thursday.
He joins a Pirates squad that is led by the evergreen veteran Benni McCarthy, and the Zambian conceded on Thursday that he had a tough task trying to force his way into a well-oiled machine that won the league title, the MTN8 and the Telkom Knockout last season.
"It will not be easy (winning a place in the line-up) because they have quality strikers. I can only promise to do my best for the team. But I know my capabilities and I will do what I know best. The coach (Palacios) knows best and he will take it from there."
Palacios said the Bucs were struggling with an injury crisis and this was one of the factors that could force him to throw Mbesuma in at the deep end, before he has had time to settle into the side.
McCarthy, Thulasizwe Mbuyane and Andile Jali are all nursing injuries and are doubtful for the encounter against SuperSport.
Several other players have flu and Palacios will hope they can shrug it off by Sunday.
"Benni has a problem with his calf and is doubtful for the match. We will see with the others."
In the other semifinal, Sundowns host Swallows at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday night.
Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens has talked up a good fight all week and believes his star-studded but underperforming squad will finally come good this season.
The Dutchman said this first tournament of the season was as good a time as any for his charges to signal their intentions in this new campaign. The four sides will meet again on the weekend of August 25-26 for the second-leg matches that will decide the clubs that will go into the MTN8 final.
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