Black Aces unveil 15 new signings
Mpumalanga Black Aces have made a staggering 15 new signings and have cleared out a similar number of players as the club is determined to turn the corner and become a force in South African soccer in the future.
The 15 new players were paraded for the media in Johannesburg on Wednesday where Aces CEO Marc Grune outlined his club's ambitious new plans for the coming season.
Aces are putting a tough 2009/2010 season behind them where they fought tooth and nail to avoid being relegated.
"We learnt tough lessons from last season and are determined not to repeat them," said Grune.
Included in the new line-up are former Orlando Pirates captain Lehlohonolo Seema, Wits midfielder Marawaan Bantam who played a major role in helping the students win the Nedbank Cup last season, striker Brice Aka from Martizburg United, two experienced international goalkeepers Denis Onyango from PSL champions Supersport United and DR Congo's Francis Chansa from Wits.
Also on board is a seasoned, German-born central defender Marc Eberle who, apart from playing in Germany, Belgium, and Holland also played under Aces coach Aki Ayiomamidis in the Cyprus First Division for Aris FC.
"I made up my mind to join Aces after having played under the coach (Ayiomamidis) in Cyprus," said the 30-year-old defender.
"Apart from watching a brilliant 2010 World Cup in South Africa, I know nothing about what to expect in the PSL but I have plenty of experience in Europe to bring to my new team.
"The coach explained his plans for the future and I decided I wanted to be part of this new-look Aces. I am looking forward to a tremendous challenge."
Grune said while he and his board of directors are not expecting overnight success, he hopes Aces finish in a realistic middle-of the table position at the end of 2011.
Aces found life tough and fought hard to retain their PSL status last season after they were promoted in 2009.
"We have learnt a lot of hard lessons from last season," said Grune.
"The long term goal is to grow Aces into a top-five club in this country. We have the ability and the driving ambition. We are still looking to secure a sponsor. What we have done with these new signing is to show prospective sponsors and our fans that we are serious about taking the club to new higher levels in the future."
Grune said while Aces struggled to stay in the PSL last season Aces were the third best supported team at home in the PSL.
"Statistics show we had the third best attendance figures for home matches. That was encouraging and we are determined to make Aces grow into the best supported club in the country. But that and making Aces into a top side in the PSL will take time.
"However, we have shown we have a fantastic fan base which we aim to grow countrywide."
Grune said the first priority for Aces is to win enough telephone votes for them to compete in the annual PSL season pipe opener the Telkom Charity Cup at Soccer City on August 7.
The four PSL sides who get the most votes qualify.
"At present we are fourth behind Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns. It would be brilliant for the new-look Aces to test themselves against the top clubs in the country and use the Charity Cup as part of our preparation for the new season."
The full list of new signings is: Brice Aka (Martizburg), Denis Onyango, Siphiwe Nkosi (both Supersport), Bafo Biyela, Joseph Henyekane (both Golden Arrows), Lehlohonolo Seema (Pirates), Bongani Thwala (Mamelodi Sundowns), Francis Chansa, Marawaan Bantam (both Wits), Marc Eberle (Aris, Cyprus), Nicolas Killas (played in Cyprus, free agent), Lottie Phiri (Zambia), Thulani Nkosi, Director Khanyile and Junior Nkosi (all promoted form Aces Vodacom feeder side).