birds pin their hope on zobel

Moroka Swallows have signed former Bayern Munich midfielder Rainer Zobel as their new coach and Zambian international striker Collins Mbesuma.

Moroka Swallows have signed former Bayern Munich midfielder Rainer Zobel as their new coach and Zambian international striker Collins Mbesuma.

Described as "a red letter day for the club" by Leon Prins, the Swallows CEO said the two acquisitions were viewed as potentially major influences in the quest to annex the Premier League title in the coming season.

Prins yesterday said Zobel will arrive in the country this morning.

"We will tie up a few ends and head for Bloemfontein tomorrow to prepare for a four team tournament," he said.

Zobel, who replaces Brazilian Julio Cesar Leal, was signed after Prins had been on a hectic five-day mission in four European countries in an urgent search for a suitably qualified coach before the start of the Premier League programme next month.

"After much deliberation in weighing up several candidates," said the Swallows CEO, "We felt Zobel's mix of experience, impressive qualifications and proven flexibility made him the ideal choice."

Before embarking on a career in soccer management at the age of 38 in 1987, Zobel appeared in 66 games for Hannover 96 and 180 for Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga - helping Bayern to the Uefa Cup title in the 1970s while playing alongside such players as Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Rumenigge and Gerd Muller.

He has coached teams in the German Bundesliga, as well as in Asia and Africa - impressively guiding Egyptian giants Al Ahly to three successive league titles from 1998 to 2000.

Zobel also holds a Uefa Professional Licence and the highest Football Teachers' Qualification available in Germany.

One of Zobel's main tasks, no doubt, will be to help Mbesuma, pictured, regain the form that made him the scourge of Premier League defenders five seasons ago when he set up the PSL record of 35 goals in a season.

The Zambian's career took a downward spiral with English Premier League club Portsmouth and during a lacklustre period with Mamelodi Sundowns last season.

But Mbesuma is still only in his mid-20s and a return to his old form would be like manna from heaven for a Birds' team seeking honours. - Sapa (extra reporting by Sello Rabothata)

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