What people don’t know about Manyathela
Vuyani Joni: Eddie, you’ve played in the same Orlando Pirates team with the late Lesley Manyathela. Why do you think he deserves to be in the team’s Hall of Fame?
Edelbert Dinha: I think Lesley was a completely different character to all the other players from South Africa. He was unique. He didn’t get his nickname (Slow Poison) for nothing. He was your 18-area type of a striker although he spent most of his time on the edge of the box. He was deadly and it is a pity that his life was taken away just when he was really enjoying his football. I have not seen anyone filling the void left by Lesley and that just goes to show the man’s quality and the difference he made at Pirates. The late Dennis Lota is one former Bucs striker I can think of who was similar to Lesley. Slow Poison was something else, man, and age was still on his side. He could have become the best striker in the country and playing abroad for sure. He was a great striker with an eye for goals. He was a kind of player that would keep so quiet and the only time you see him is when he strikes the ball into the back of the net. He would wait for the right time, moment and then pounce. Compared to the team’s former strikers, I don’t think it would be just not to have Lesley’s name amongst the best ever players to wear the Bucs jersey. Pirates have not had a striker of Lesley’s calibre, which makes his untimely death even worse. That’s why his legacy has to be kept alive.
VJ: What kind of a teammate was he?
ED: What people don’t know about Slow Poison is that he was very talkative, although he seemed to be this quiet guy. He was both funny and crazy, cracking jokes with everyone. He was just a happy guy who always wanted to see everyone happy. If he saw that one of the players wasn’t looking right, he would take it upon himself to find out what’s going on and do everything he could to cheer his teammate up. He knew how to lift the guys’ spirits and played a major role in maintaining a good morale in the team. Having said that, Lesley had something like a split personality.
VJ: What do you mean? ED: At training, he was this loud and energetic guy, pushing everyone to give their best. During the game, he was a completely different person. He wouldn’t talk at all, but we all knew what he expected from us. He was more about making his actions speak for him during the game, while he stayed vocal at training. In other words, he did the same thing of motivating his teammates differently at training and during the game. He would tell us that the likes of Tso (Benedict Vilakazi) will do the running and eliminating the opposition, but they must just give him the ball to score. That was his only focus and I think that is what separated him from the rest. With Slow Poison, we knew we always stood a good chance of getting goals. He would also take pride in scoring and made sure that everyone knew it was his responsibility. He would tell the goalkeeper, defenders and midfielders to do their job and not worry about scoring because he would have it covered. That’s how confident he was and he made things easy for us in the midfield because he hardly lost possession. He didn’t need many chances to score. He was always calm, humble, but very dangerous on the field.
VJ: Right. ED: Whenever we went home - let’s say it is the Christmas break or end of the season - we would drive together. He would ask me, “Mukomana (Loosely translated ‘My boy’), are we crossing the border?” and that’s because he was from Musina and I’m from Zimbabwe. He always joked about his hometown being out of South Africa. We would drive together in our separate cars until our roads separated – that’s when we’d have a brief chat before continuing with our travels. We always had that brotherhood connection and after he passed on, it took me a long time to get used to driving home alone because we always enjoyed doing it together.
VJ: What did playing for Bucs mean to him?
ED: It was something he never took for granted, which is why he was always focussed on his job. He always told everyone that he was playing for one of the biggest teams in the continent and that he was looking to go and play in Europe. That’s why he always gave his all.
VJ: Before we let you go, any message to the supporters whose votes will count a lot?
ED: Guys, we all know what Lesley has done for Pirates and those who didn’t watch him play, surely you’ve heard about the man. Let’s please vote for my brother because he deserves a place in the club’s Hall of Fame. VJ: Eddie, thanks so much, bro. ED: You’re welcome, buddy.