FREE State Stars’ new goal-scoring hero, Ayanda Nkosi, was playing amateur football in the University of Joburg’s residence leagues last month.
But on Wednesday he hit the headlines when his stunning header earned Ea Lla Koto a smash-and-grab 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates at a packed Goble Park to propel Stars into seventh place in the Absa Premiership table with 25 points.
Nkosi (23) was spotted by Stars’ new assistant coach Bradley Carnell when he was still coach of the UJ Varsity team, and the former Bafana Bafana defender knows talent when he sees it.
Said Carnell: “When I saw him he was a student, playing amateur football in UJ’s residence leagues. And when I joined Stars with new coach Giovanni Salinas on 2 January, we had a mountain of injuries.
“Our strikers had been decimated. I told the coach about Nkosi and he decided to take a gamble on the student.
“He has worked really hard in the past two weeks, improving his fitness and sharpness, and he really has shown what he can do. We’re delighted with him. But all credit to the coach for taking a gamble on him.”
Carnell, who spent much of his star-studded career in the Bundesliga after leaving Kaizer Chiefs, said the win was massive but added that the club was not getting carried away: “We are looking to get 32 or 33 points, that is our first goal. We’re not putting pressure on the players to qualify for the top eight. This league is really tight.”
Carnell added that as games are coming thick and fast they had to rotate players against Pirates: “We made five changes, not because we had lost 1-0 to Jomo Cosmos in the previous game, but because we want to avoid fatigue. The result against Pirates was massive. But we have to play Chippa United in Port Elizabeth, so we have to keep our feet on the ground.”
Salinas said the win over Pirates was a huge boost for the players: “I’m very happy with our performance. It was a very important three points for us.”
He said he was settling in and getting used to Mzansi: “Football is football, no matter where it is played, but day by day I’m getting more used to the mentality of SA soccer. I’m very happy working in South Africa and I’m happy here at Stars.
“But while this was a big win, we cannot get carried away as Chippa are a tough team, especially playing them away. And then we face Ajax Cape Town at home next Wednesday.”