Riveiro welcomes goalkeeping conundrum

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  • Post published:September 19, 2023

Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro has a welcome problem this season, writes Mazola Molefe.

Orlando Pirates coach José Riveiro has some tough decisions to make between the sticks this season, with four “exceptional” goalkeepers fighting for the No. 1 jersey at the club.

In his maiden campaign, the Spaniard lost less sleep than he is likely to during the 2023/24 term. With the initial first choice Richard Ofori (centre left) injured and Siyabonga Mpontshane (centre right) not quite at his best, it was Sipho Chaine (far left) who became first choice and hard to replace.

But the Buccaneers have now signed Melusi Buthelezi (far right), a member of the TS Galaxy side with the third best defensive record last season.

Now that Ofori is fit and had played the bulk of the friendly matches in preparation for the opening DStv Premiership fixture away to Stellenbosch FC, the fact that Chaine was named in the starting line-up indicated just how small the margins will be in deciding who will be the Pirates regular.

“We are in a fantastic space about the goalkeepers – the squad is very strong, and that department is not an exception. We have four exceptional goalkeepers, all of them ready to deliver,” was Riveiro’s response on having Ofori, Mpontshane, Chaine and Buthelezi all competing.

There is a feeling the Soweto giants were not that desperate to add another goalkeeper, having addressed concerns over cover when Chaine was signed on the final day of the first of two transfer windows in September last year.

He joined from Chippa United and did not make his debut until four months later in a 2–1 defeat away to Cape Town City, subsequently retaining his place over 20 more games that followed.

Riveiro praised Chaine several times in his press conference and even Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos admitted he had had the 26-year-old on his radar as an option for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at the time.

So why pursue Buthelezi?

“Obviously it’s important that we have solid keepers because we are a team that is used to spend most of the time on the ball. The participation of the keepers in this type of team is key because they are asked a few times in the game to appear, that’s why they are all excellent in that sense,” he explained.

Pirates were also returning to continental football, having qualified for the African Champions League as runners-up behind Mamelodi Sundowns in the DStv Premiership back in May.

A demanding schedule needs depth.

“They (goalkeepers) are ready to play and all of them have different characteristics, but we are more than quiet and calm when they are
in goal. What I expect is for them to continue making steps forward in their performances and the way that they contribute to the team in every phase of the game – not only in the defensive phase,” Riveiro elaborated further.

“They will also help us to play with 11 players when we are in possession. It’s an interesting challenge for the keepers nowadays to participate in both phases. They are all high-profile goalkeepers in different moments of their career, but they are all excellent professionals and helping us a lot.”

Photo by Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix