Orlando Pirates’ assistant coach Rulani Mokwena has appeared to cast aspersions on Kaizer Chiefs striker Leonardo Castro’s commitment to his clubs ahead of the Soweto derby at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Mokwena was involved in a strange exchange with a journalist at a pre-derby press conference for Pirates at Rand Stadium on Monday.
Given a rare chance to address the media – a task normally reserved for head coach Milutin Sredojevic‚ who will speak later in the week – Mokwena was asked about the destructive Chiefs partnership of Khama Billiat and Castro‚ who has returned from injury this week.
Referring to Castro’s return to training this week‚ Mokwena appeared to raise questions over the issue over the player’s alleged tendency when he was at Mamelodi Sundowns – also the Bucs assistant’s previous club – to return home to Colombia when he was injured.
“It [the Billiat-Castro partnership] won’t be too important in this match because Castro is injured‚” Mokwena initially said.
Asked if he was sure of that‚ Mokwena responded: “Well‚ unless there is a miraculous recovery.
“And knowing Castro from the time we spent at Sundowns‚ when Castro says he’s injured believe you me‚ Castro is injured.
“And he will tell you‚ as the coach‚ that‚ ‘I am injured’.
“In fact‚ Castro will even go as far as booking a flight to Colombia to spend time with his wife when he is injured.
“So I wouldn’t be surprised that Castro is not in the country.”
Pointed out that‚ according to information furnished by Chiefs‚ Castro was due to start full training on Monday‚ Mokwena responded: “He starts training today. And he arrives when?”
Told that Castro has been in the country‚ Mokwena said: “He’s been in the country. And is the wife in the country?
He continued: “OK‚ I’m just … guys I know Castro very well. I know the pressures that Castro has to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
“And obviously to field a Castro who has been out for the last couple of months is a big risk for Kaizer Chiefs‚ to be honest.
“And if they have him‚ good luck to them. He brings a different dimension. He’s got a synergy between him and Khama Billiat that obviously makes the attack a lot stronger.
“But I’ll speak to you after the match about Castro.”
Pirates host Chiefs in the first Soweto derby of the season in Saturday’s already sold-out Absa Premiership clash.