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Thu Apr 17 00:49:28 SAST 2014

Pirates bring back 'bad boy'

CHUMANI BAMBANI | 26 June, 2012 06:130 Comments
Onyekachi Okonkwo
Image by: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images

ORLANDO Pirates revealed six new signings on Monday, with the standout addition being the return of Nigerian international Onyekachi Okonkwo to the club.

Okonkwo's first stint with the Buccaneers started in 2004 before he left for a spell with Swiss club FC Zurich.

The Nigerian, who has nine international caps, has spent the last two years in Qatar playing for Al Kharitiyath.

The striker indicated the three-year contract he signed with Pirates could be the last stop on his football journey, but emphasised that his return to South Africa was not because of a failed career abroad. "I did not fail [overseas]. I spent three good years in Switzerland and the last two in Qatar since I left Pirates. I just decided to come back home. This is where I started my football," said Okonkwo.

The 30-year-old has a record of ill-discipline from his previous spell in South Africa, including threatening referee Daniel Bennett after being red-carded in a 2006 Telkom Charity Cup game against Bloemfontein Celtic.

Before his departure for Europe, the striker was accused of going awol from Bucs, but he and club chairman Irvin Khoza denied there were any hard feelings.

Khoza said the club had been in talks with the player for a while.

Okonkwo admitted to have been keeping a close eye on the club and is aware that a place in coach Augusto Palacios' starting XI will not be handed to him on a silver platter, but he will be fighting for his place with, among others, Benni McCarthy. He also added that he was saddened by the departure from the club of his close friend, Isaac Chansa.

"I am just happy to be back with the side. I will miss Chansa, but for me everything is still the same at the club. I know that I will have to fight hard for my shirt," he said.

With the Bucs having failed in their continental campaign in the African Champions League, the side will have another chance to rectify matters this season after clinching the Premier Soccer League title.

Okonkwo's experience could be an added boost for the side as the player twice won the African Champions League with his former club Enyimba, in 2003 and 2004.

Orlando Pirates added another five players to their squad for the new season, with the signing of former Free State Stars defender Ayanda Gcaba and midfielder Manti Moholo, ex-Wits defender Patrick Phungwayo, former Black Leopards midfielder, Khetowakhe Masuku and newly promoted University of Pretoria's former midfielder, Aubrey Ngoma.

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