After the disappointment of last season, Orlando Pirates have made major moves in the transfer market in an attempt to remain title contenders alongside big spenders Mamelodi Sundowns, Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United. And captain Oupa Manyisa says ther
Can this Bucs trio help bring back the glory days of the sleeping Soweto giants?
The return of Orlando Pirates skipper Oupa Manyisa from long-term injury almost equates to a new signing for the Bucs – such was he missed during his near year-long absence from the side. Now fully recovered and wearing the captain’s armband once more, the 28-year-old believes he can guide the Soweto giants to trophy success this year, especially given the unusually forceful foray into the transfer market made by club owner Irvin Khoza.
A new coach
in Muhsin Ertugral and 17 new players has seen a major overhaul of the Pirates squad, but central to any success they may have will be the industry and intelligence of Manyisa. He has already shown in the early stages of the season that his ability to pull the strings in midfield and control the tempo of games makes him crucial to the Pirates cause. And he is confident that, unlike the last campaign, Pirates will be a force this season. “I think we can challenge everyone,” he tells KICK OFF. “It’s not only about trying to beat Sundowns, but every team in the PSL. It’s important that we re-establish ourselves as title contenders, and the only way we can do that is by beating every team. “It’s obviously disappointing that we aren’t playing in Africa again, but it might also be a blessing because we can focus all our attention on the PSL. In recent years we have had to split our focus between domestic and continental competitions, so now is our chance to readjust our focus on winning something at home. “We need to be more together this season and really fight for one another. Last season was difficult after the disappointment in the CAF Confederation Cup final, and we lacked that togetherness afterwards. “If we turn our attention to team spirit and chemistry, then everything will start coming right for us.”
But aside from
winning trophies, Manyisa also maintains that the Bucs can entertain with their style of football, for which he credits Ertugral. “He is very passionate and has come in and encouraged us to play
football,” Manyisa says. “This club’s culture is about playing good football, so I think he fits in well with the club’s philosophy, and with his approach I’m sure we can do well.” Manyisa says he feels a responsibility as captain to ensure the new arrivals and Ertugral have all the support they need from the remainder of the group. “The key focus is to ensure the new coach and players all feel welcome at the club, and make sure they get support so that the team can work towards one common goal,” he says. “I think the new guys have adjusted very well. Some of them have obviously played against us before so we know them and we are aware of their strengths and what they can bring to the team.” Manyisa says the pressure of playing for the Soweto giants is always there and perhaps more so for this current group, who are expected to emulate the team that completed the ‘Double Treble’ between 2010 and 2012. “We’ve had a few different coaches through the years, but we cannot complain about that and we just have to soldier on,” he says. “But we can’t put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to try and emulate what a different team, with a different coach [Ruud Krol], achieved in the past. We have to focus on the present and try to restore the pride of the badge. “Orlando Pirates is a big team and the main goals and targets – to achieve and win trophies – never changes. The coach only comes in to drive the players towards that, and so each and every player is expected to contribute his best for the sake of achieving and winning silverware.” Pirates will celebrate their 80th anniversary next year, and Manyisa is determined to celebrate the club’s milestone in style. “We have to give more, but we cannot only think of it from the perspective of making history. The club’s 80th birthday is important and I think we can celebrate with at least two trophies.”
After such a
long time on the sidelines, it will have been pleasing for The Ghost to see how quickly Manyisa has returned to peak form. He admits it has been challenging, but that the hours of sweat on the training pitch have been worth it. “I’m feeling really, really good because I can feel that I’m getting back to tip-top shape again. It’s been a while so I have to start from scratch and just take it one game at a time, and try to improve,” he says. “My target is to fight my way back up to the top of my game; it’s about improving with every game and making sure I pull my weight. They say ‘if there’s no competition, then there’s no progress’, so I think the competition in the team is at a healthy level again and I’m ready to challenge for my place.”
Manyisa’s presence in midfield has been missed by the Bucs