Oupa Manyisa

Kick Off - - INSIDE - BY LOVE­MORE MOYO

The former Or­lando Pi­rates cap­tain re­veals all about the dif­fi­cult last few months at May­fair, and what he’s look­ing for­ward to most at new club Mamelodi Sundowns

Oupa Manyisa doesn’t mince his words when ad­mit­ting join­ing Mamelodi Sundowns was ne­ces­si­tated by his de­sire to avoid sink­ing deeper into the com­fort zone he had be­come sucked into at Or­lando Pi­rates where game-time was al­ways guar­an­teed. The mid­fielder in­sists he is up to all the chal­lenges that are now fac­ing him at Sundowns – break­ing into the first team, rais­ing his game to lev­els pre­vi­ously reached after a rough ride at the tail end of his Bucs stay, win­ning tro­phies and get­ting back to Bafana Bafana. KICK OFF: Oupa, you have con­tin­ued to defy your fam­ily’s choices by join­ing Mamelodi Sundowns, which must be ir­ri­tat­ing for them ... Oupa Manyisa:

[Laugh­ing] At home no one sup­ports Sundowns or Pi­rates. They all sup­port Chiefs. It is like I am fight­ing against them, but I told them that this is part of life. They can­not choose where I should go. The peo­ple at home ask me why I didn’t go to Chiefs, but I told them I am fine where I am. They keep ask­ing why I keep go­ing to all the ri­val teams they don’t like, and in re­sponse I tell them to keep sup­port­ing the team they like while I do a job where I am em­ployed. This is a job.

Does it feel a bit awk­ward hav­ing made this move after nine years at Or­lando Pi­rates? We still re­mem­ber the day you made your de­but against Golden Ar­rows on Au­gust 30, 2008 ...

I am very happy to be do­ing what I love, which is play­ing. A lot of things have hap­pened since then, both good and bad, yet the only thing that keeps me go­ing is my fam­ily. They al­ways keep en­cour­ag­ing me be­cause they love me un­con­di­tion­ally. I grew up in a fam­ily that plays foot­ball, so this game is in my blood.

Since your de­but, you worked un­der eleven dif­fer­ent coaches at club level. How was that for you, and what have you learnt?

It is all about lis­ten­ing to the coaches, be­cause I have never be­haved like a per­son who knows ev­ery­thing. I am the kind of per­son who wants to learn ev­ery day. I first worked un­der Owen [Da Gama] and up to now I am still learn­ing. Owen is a coach that loves foot­ball and loves play­ers that work very hard. With him it was all about hard work and that prin­ci­ple has stuck with me up to this day.

Part of your growth in­cluded play­ing as a right-back dur­ing your early days in the PSL. How did you feel about that po­si­tional change?

That was the time when Ruud Krol was the coach at Pi­rates. He told me straight to my face that yes, I could play foot­ball, but there was some­thing lack­ing in my game, which was de­fend­ing. He then switched me to right-back. I took it as a learn­ing process be­cause I knew I was a player who only wanted to play when I had the ball at my feet. I didn’t want to track back at all. After he played me at right-back I could feel the changes in my game, and I am glad to say it was an ex­pe­ri­ence that ben­e­fited me.

You joined Pi­rates from the Africa Sport Youth De­vel­op­ment Academy as a teenager at the be­gin­ning of 2008. How did it feel leav­ing Pi­rates after so long?

It was emo­tional, but I told my­self that this is part of foot­ball and I needed to go some­where and work. How could I not be emo­tional about leav­ing Pi­rates when I had spent my en­tire pro­fes­sional ca­reer there? It is like I had spent all my life there. I came there as a young boy and they taught me a lot of things about foot­ball and life in gen­eral.

Why did you leave Pi­rates?

I wanted to go some­where and com­pete be­cause I felt like I was sink­ing into a com­fort zone at Pi­rates. I was too com­fort­able and needed a new chal­lenge be­cause in life you must con­stantly chal­lenge your­self to gauge your true progress and how far you can go. Com­ing to Sundowns was the chal­lenge I needed be­cause I was too com­fort­able at Pi­rates.

So you were com­fort­able at Pi­rates in the sense that you knew you were go­ing to play?

Some­thing like that! How do you deal with know­ing that yes, I am go­ing to train­ing and come week­end, I am guar­an­teed to play? Where does the mo­ti­va­tion then come from? For me it wasn’t that nice be­cause at the end of the day I could see that there

were other guys com­ing be­hind me want­ing to play. I then sat down and told my­self that maybe it was time I go and com­pete else­where and give some other guys the chance to play.

You are no longer in that com­fort zone here at Sundowns?

No, not any­more. I have to work for my place.

Do you feel that you are be­ing chal­lenged to bring out your best yet again?

Most def­i­nitely! I feel I am be­ing chal­lenged yet again.

This move to Sundowns was ini­tially on the cards at the be­gin­ning of 2015 and came as a shocker when it fi­nally hap­pened now with Pi­rates chair­man Irvin Khoza mak­ing the sur­prise an­nounce­ment on the day he also con­firmed Mi­lutin Sre­do­je­vic as the new coach…

This one hap­pened be­tween the two club pres­i­dents [Irvin Khoza and Pa­trice Mot­sepe]. Those are the only two peo­ple that knew what hap­pened be­hind closed doors. Some things in life you don’t have con­trol over.

What re­ally hap­pened Oupa? You should have al­ready had some kind of dis­cus­sions with the Iron Duke about the pos­si­bil­ity of leav­ing ...

As I said, it was a meet­ing be­tween the two club pres­i­dents. I think the chair­man [Khoza] saw that there was some­thing I needed in life and I also told him that I needed a chal­lenge … so that is how ev­ery­thing went. I never ap­proached the chair­man to ask him to let me go. We were al­ways talk­ing, as a fa­ther and child speak, which is when I made him aware that I needed a new chal­lenge. As you know, he is a good man. He loves pro­tect­ing his play­ers and so when I told him, I think he went back home and thought about it. You need to un­der­stand that he and I were al­ways talk­ing. It is not like we spoke on that one par­tic­u­lar oc­ca­sion and then ‘boom’, it led to this. If ever there was some­thing which didn’t sit well with me I was al­ways able to go and see him. I hope you un­der­stand this fa­ther-and-son kind of chat.

What has been the re­sponse from the Pi­rates fans con­sid­er­ing the kind of jibes they threw at you to­wards the end of your stay at the club?

Most of them keep ask­ing me why I left and I al­ways tell them the truth, that in life you have to chal­lenge your­self and that you must never ever get too com­fort­able where you are be­cause you will never know what might hap­pen the fol­low­ing day. Some of them are fine it while some pre­tend as if they are fine. But there is noth­ing more I can do now be­cause life goes on.

How dif­fer­ent is the vibe here at Sundowns in com­par­i­son to Pi­rates?

There is not much of a dif­fer­ence be­cause I know most of the guys as we played against each other be­fore, while I have been with oth­ers in the na­tional team. To be hon­est, there has not been much of a dif­fer­ence and it hasn’t been dif­fi­cult for me.

You mean be­ing at a dif­fer­ent club for the first time in your pro­fes­sional ca­reer hasn’t felt awk­ward?

There is noth­ing you can do when this hap­pens. You can­not be at­tached to the past when there is still so much to work for. You can’t be com­plain­ing and com­par­ing when you still have to wake up the next day and go to work. A job is a job at the end of the day.

What has Pitso Mosi­mane told you, con­sid­er­ing he has wanted you at Chloorkop for a while now?

The coach told me that I have to come and play foot­ball. He said I need to be free be­cause foot­ball is some­thing that I love. What most peo­ple don’t know is that he was the first coach to take me to Bafana Bafana, which is im­por­tant to me. It shows he has been track­ing my ca­reer all along. I re­ally don’t know what hap­pened on the pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions. What I heard was that the two clubs were talk­ing to each other, and I don’t know what hap­pened in the end. So I stayed and it didn’t af­fect me in any way.

You are turn­ing 30 next year … how much did that in­flu­ence your de­ci­sion in

“I FELT LIKE I WAS SINK­ING INTO A COM­FORT ZONE AT PI­RATES.”

“I HAVEN’T FIN­ISHED WHAT I STARTED.”

mak­ing this big move?

Age is just a num­ber, as long as you are tak­ing care of your body and you know what you want in life.

You won ev­ery do­mes­tic tro­phy dur­ing your time at Pi­rates, but then missed out on both the Cham­pi­ons League and Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup. Do you feel you had reached the ceil­ing at Pi­rates in terms of lo­cal tro­phies?

There was still some­thing to achieve at Pi­rates be­cause you never get sat­is­fied of win­ning tro­phies as a foot­baller. Ev­ery game we played, we still wanted to win it. Foot­ball is not about what you won in the past, but rather what is still there to be won. I am glad I now have this chal­lenge of push­ing to win again here at a dif­fer­ent club. I still want to win all the tro­phies I won with Pi­rates here at Sundowns. As foot­ballers we al­ways dream about win­ning tro­phies and I am no dif­fer­ent; the rea­son we wake up and come to train­ing is be­cause we want to win tro­phies.

De­scribe the chal­lenge of cap­tain­ing Pi­rates through the dif­fi­cult pe­riod the club went through over the last year?

It wasn’t a nice feel­ing, but the only thing that we told our­selves was to keep sol­dier­ing on. It wasn’t a nice feel­ing be­cause most of the guys were look­ing up to me for so­lu­tions and would come to me and ask ‘what is hap­pen­ing?’. I would then tell them that this is all part of foot­ball so they need to be strong as ev­ery­thing will even­tu­ally come right.

Had the load of also be­ing cap­tain at Pi­rates be­come too heavy to carry for you?

Per­son­ally my per­for­mance wasn’t re­ally af­fected. Wear­ing the arm­band was a way of show­ing that on the field I was the one who had to talk to the ref­eree. For me I con­sid­ered all of us on the field as cap­tains be­cause we were all play­ing.

The neg­a­tive crit­i­cism that rained on you to­wards the end of your stay at Pi­rates can­not be ig­nored. What was re­ally hap­pen­ing?

I was pre­pared t take those bul­lets for the sake of the team. I am never one to shy away from tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity. I was never both­ered about the crit­i­cism be­cause I took it on the chin. My team­mates used to ask me how I man­aged to wake up in the morn­ing and still go to train­ing when peo­ple were talk­ing like that. I would tell my team­mates that I would take the bul­lets for them all be­cause this is foot­ball. One day it will be some­one else who must also do the same thing as a leader. If you are a leader, you can­not chicken out and say you are not go­ing to the game be­cause peo­ple are crit­i­cis­ing you. That would be wrong. What about the other guys? How are they go­ing to re­act if you show signs of giv­ing in?

Did you feel your game had dropped from the stan­dards that you had set at your peak, hav­ing made 196 ap­pear­ances in five years at Pi­rates?

The fans for­got that I got in­jured for about a year, yet they still ex­pected me to then come back and give them even more. I tried my best and was com­ing back slowly, but peo­ple wanted to see the same per­son that they had seen be­fore. So psy­cho­log­i­cally it can mess your mind up if you al­low it. Mind-set is very cru­cial in foot­ball, but luck­ily for me, when I ar­rived at Pi­rates, I fell into the hands of Joseph Makhanya and Ger­ald Mod­abi who both told me I needed to be strong in foot­ball. They told me I shouldn’t show my weak­nesses be­cause peo­ple will jump on my back, but rather keep push­ing to give a bet­ter per­for­mance un­til I came right.

How do you feel about the way your in­ter­na­tional ca­reer has pro­gressed since you broke into the se­nior team six years ago?

What can I say re­ally? I am fine. For now I am okay, but I haven’t fin­ished what I started. I will still be go­ing back. I am not done yet with the na­tional team. I will still be do­ing more for the na­tional team but for nownow, just let me work here t the club first. I will be back.

Above: KICK OFF jour­nal­ist, Love­more Moyo, speaks to Manyisa after a Sundowns train­ing ses­sion.

MANYISA’S OR­LANDO PI­RATES CA­REER: 234 starts, 30 goals HON­OURS: 2010/11, 2011/12 Premier Soc­cer League cham­pion; 2011, 2014 Ned­bank Cup win­ner; 2011 MTN8 win­ner; 2011 Telkom Knock­out win­ner

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