Many­isa moved to prove his crit­ics wrong

Saturday Star - - SOCCER - NJABULO NGIDI

THE death threats Oupa Many­isa and his team­mates re­ceived four years ago, when he was with Or­lando Pi­rates, re­main vivid in his mem­ory.

A re­laxed Many­isa, at his new home in Chloorkop as a Mamelodi Sun­downs’ player, opened up about his ex­pe­ri­ences of play­ing con­ti­nen­tal club foot­ball with the Buc­ca­neers. Many­isa reached two finals with the Sea Rob­bers, the 2013 CAF Cham­pi­ons League and the 2015 CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup.

He fin­ished on the losing side on both oc­ca­sions but the ex­pe­ri­ence he gained makes him a per­fect fit with the reign­ing African cham­pi­ons, who con­tinue their bid to re­tain the Cham­pi­ons League to­mor­row at Lu­cas Moripe Sta­dium against Morocco’s Wy­dad Casablanca in the first leg of the quar­ter-finals.

“I will never forget the trip to Egypt for the fi­nal of the Cham­pi­ons League in 2013,” Many­isa said. “We were up against all odds. The AlAhly play­ers told us it’s ei­ther they win and we go home or we win and die here. At first it was too dif­fi­cult to han­dle that state­ment, es­pe­cially see­ing the large crowd at the sta­dium with some even sit­ting on top of the score board. It un­set­tled us.

“But once we found our com­po­sure the at­mos­phere cre­ated by the fans didn’t in­tim­i­date us. It made us stronger be­cause you must be men­tally strong to suc­ceed, es­pe­cially in the con­ti­nent.”

The Brazil­ians will face a sim­i­lar at­mos­phere in Casablanca next Satur­day, which is why they need to make the most of their home ad­van­tage. The Buc­ca­neers didn’t do that.

Many­isa speaks about Pi­rates with af­fec­tion and not like a bit­ter ex, even though their al­most decade long re­la­tion­ship was rocky to­wards the end. “Ace” was even ac­cused of be­ing a di­vi­sive force at the club, with his move to Sun­downs viewed as an at­tempt by Pi­rates to re­move some of the rot of last sea­son.

“Most peo­ple say­ing I was di­vi­sive don’t know what hap­pened. I just kept quiet and car­ried on play­ing foot­ball while peo­ple talked,” Many­isa said. “There were no camps at Pi­rates and I wasn’t di­vid­ing any­one. It’s just that things didn’t go our way. It was a bad sea­son for us. I left Pi­rates be­cause I was too com­fort­able. I knew that no mat­ter what, I would play.

“The bad thing about that, is it won’t give you the hunger you need to suc­ceed. That’s why I de­cided to move. I have noth­ing to prove by com­ing here but I still want to win. I want to win the tre­ble and the Cham­pi­ons League with Sun­downs. I wanted to re­new that hunger so I can suc­ceed as a player be­cause I still have a lot to of­fer South African foot­ball. I still have a lot of tro­phies to win and I want to re­turn to the na­tional team.”

The 29-year-old spoke with a lot of free­dom, as if lib­er­ated – un­like the care­fully re­hearsed and short an­swers he of­fered as Pi­rates’ cap­tain. The diminutive mid­fielder car­ried a heavy-load at Pi­rates as their heart­beat. His team­mates and the sup­port­ers looked at him to of­fer the Buc­ca­neers cre­ativ­ity, when he didn’t the team strug­gled and it led to a bar­rage of crit­i­cism.

It wasn’t out of hate but rather love as the fans knew what he could do at his best and he didn’t con­sis­tently reach that level af­ter his in­jury in 2015.

With­out the heavy bur­den of hav­ing to carry a team, Many­isa could be re­born at Sun­downs.

“This is a fresh start and could take my game to the next level be­cause I am am­bi­tious and so is Sun­downs,” Many­isa said.

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