OPINION: Only Oupa Manyisa deserves this break
Posted: 22 May 2014 Time: 19:44
It is common amongst footballers that one undergoes a slump in form, and spends some minutes on the sidelines or even in the stands, while trying to regain that form. But more-so it is rare for a central midfielder not to go through a slump, show weariness or show any form of complacency for three-consecutive seasons.
When Ruud Krol arrived at Orlando Pirates to take over from Owen Da Gama in July 2008, Manyisa had just joined the season earlier. According to Transfermarkt.com he arrived from the Africa Sport Academy on 1 July 2007, but did not feature for the entire 2007/08 campaign.
For the then 20-year-old, it was always going to be difficult to get game time in only his first season with the Buccaneers. Pirates had a household of quality midfielders on their books at the time, including Joseph Makhanya, Lebohang Mokoena, Bennett Chenene, Teko Modise, Dikgang Mabalane and Josephy Kamwendo, while Mlungisi Gumbi (Mdluli), Lebo Mothibantwa and Benson Mhlongo were all still Manyisa’s direct competition.
Ace’s Bucs career kicked off with a Saturday night trip to Chatsworth, in Durban, where Pirates lost 1-0 to Golden Arrows on 30 August 2008. Manyisa lasted 69 minutes before he was replaced by Thembile Kanono.
For the remainder of that season (2008/09), Manyisa totaled a joint seven-appearances in league and cup competitions. Starting on three occasions, and coming on from the bench on four.
In his second season (2009/10), Manyisa barely featured as he was only introduced from the bench on two occasions. The arrival of Andile Jali from Pretoria University also pushed him further down the pecking order.
In the 2010/11 campaign, Manyisa’s third at Pirates, better known as a season of fortunes to the Bucs faithful, Gumbi-Mdluli, Mothibantwa and Kamwendo were all released. Clifford Ngobeni was brought in from Ajax Cape Town to add more grit to the midfield, which was left only with Manyisa, Jali and Isaac Chansa, whilst Benson Mhlongo was nursing a career-threatening knee-injury. Mark Mayambela also arrived from Bloemfontein Celtic.
From the start of the 2010/11 PSL campaign, it seemed Krol was still looking for his preferred central-midfield partnership. The Dutchman partnered Andile Jali and Isaac Chansa in the first three games of that season, and later altered his combination and went for Jali and Clifford Ngobeni. The ‘Jali & Ngobeni’ partnership looked solid as they went on to start at least the next eight matches together.
Still, one could get the sense that Krol was not impressed to the utmost as he kept tampering with the duo, occasionally introducing Manyisa in place of Jali, or starting with Chansa ahead of Ngobeni.
However, the evening of 26 November 2010, assumably one not to forget for Manyisa, the midfielder’s fortunes changed for the better. Ngobeni was left unpaired as Jali was suspended, after accumulated yellow cards, whilst Chansa was sidelined with injury. Manyisa was handed his first league start of the season in the 2-1 win over Maritzburg United, and ever since then ‘Ace’ has never looked back. Although he glittered alongside Ngobeni that day, it was Andile Jali that he went to form a formidable combination with.
The duo started the next 13 consecutive league matches together and went on to help Bucs clinch their first Absa Premiership title in 7 years. Manyisa’s season totalled 20 appearances.
The following season, 2011/12, Manyisa started 27 league matches to help the Buccaneers defend their league title, whilst his two goals in their four MTN-8 appearances saw Bucs defend their R8-Million trophy. His other four appearances came in the Telkom Knockout as Pirates won back-to-back trebles.
His total appearances for that season alone was 36-matches, whilst he also received his first Bafana Bafana call-up, and made his debut for Bafana in the unfortunate draw against Sierra Leone, on 8 October 2011, when the team thought a point would qualify them for the 2012 African Cup of Nations - only to lose out to Niger on head-to-head.
Although Pirates failed to win any silverware in the 2012/13 season, Manyisa continued to grow and develop as a vital cog for both club and country. He managed a season total of 35 appearances (26 x league, 2 x Telkom Knockout, 2 x MTN-8, 1 x Nedbank Cup and 2 x Bafana Bafana appearances) scoring a total of six goals in all competitions.
In this past campaign (2013/14), Manyisa was above any midfielder in the country. Manyisa and Bucs compatriot, Senzo Meyiwa, set a record for Number of Appearances in a Single Season. Manyisa and Meyiwa each played 50 matches in a South African season (July to May).
Meyiwa and Manyisa’s 50-appearances in a single season were made up of 28 League appearances each, four MTN-8 matches, four Telkom Knockout matches, four Nedbank Cup matches and 10 Champions League appearances in the group and knockout phases of the competition, including the Final.
If you include the three International Friendlies with Bafana Bafana, which Manyisa featured in, that’s a total of 53 matches in a single season - plus his 90 minutes in the Carling Black Label Cup, totals to 54 matches in 10 months.
It is already a long story, but to cut matters short, Manyisa did not have a break during pre-season as he was on international duty with Bafana, preparing for the clash against Central African Republic which was played on 8 June 2013.
Upon the completion of that World Cup Qualifier, he had to report back to his club, as Pirates were already in preparation for their CAF Champions League group-stage campaign, which resumed on 20 July with Manyisa and his Bucs side earning a goalless draw against Congo’s AC Leopards at the FNB Stadium.
At the completion of their draining CAF schedule, between 10 Novermber 2013 and 17 May 2014 Pirates were still left with at least 34 matches left to play (including all domestic cup competitions), and Manyisa missed only 4 of those matches throughout the season.
Therefore, in my opinion, the most underrated midfielder in the country is one player that hugely deserves a break more than any other footballer in the world.
I say underrated because, never will you find a solid, hardworking and high quality midfielder, anywhere in the world, who works tirelessly as hard as ‘Ace’ does. He maintains his consistency in all competitions over the past three seasons, and yet gets no recognition for personal accolades? Ruud Gullit would be stunned if he had to learn of this.
His withdrawal from the current Bafana camp is one that I respect the most, and cannot say the same about Teko Modise and co.
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