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Orlando Pirates defender Innocent Maela reflects on meteoric rise for club and country

Posted: 26 March 2018 Time: 13:15

Orlando Pirates defender Innocent Maela says he cannot believe the speed at which his career has taken flight for both club and country.

Maela earned his first senior international cap during the Chan qualifiers last year, and his consistent displays for Pirates has seen him return to the fold this year.

The 25-year-old started in Bafana’s 2-0 victory over Zambia at the four-nations tournament in Ndola, as they went on to be crowned champions, on Saturday.

(Above: Meala [bottom-left] in the Bafana starting line-up vs Zambia on Saturday, 24 March 2018. Image via Sidney Mungala/BackpagePix)

The Bucs left-back has had a magnificent rise since last season, when he was instrumental in Thanda Royal Zulu winning promotion from the First Division, while out on loan from Pirates.

He was then recalled to the Buccaneers first team at the start of the current Absa Premiership season and has managed 21 appearances in all competitions, keeping the likes of Thabo Matlaba and Marc van Heerden side-lined.

The Witbank-born full-back says he has constantly had to pinch himself to make sure he has not been dreaming, but has guarded against getting ahead of himself.

“It is crazy how quickly things have been happening. Sometimes I need to pinch myself to remind myself of what is happening,” Maela told his club’s website.

“Fortunately I have people around me who are helping me to remain grounded. I am still focussed on improving on my craft and hopefully I can continue improving so that I can make a positive difference to my club and country.

“The speed at which my career is moving is quite scary when you think of it, but everything has it’s time, and whenever you believe in God and stay faithful to Him, then remarkable things happen in a short space of time.

“I’m truly humbled by how God continues to exceed my expectations.”

(Above: Maela in action for Orlando Pirates vs Golden Arrows on 17 March 2018. Image via Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix)

Younger brother to Kaizer Chiefs and former Bafana left-back Tsepo Masilela by virtue of sharing the same father, Meala is delighted to have realised a childhood dream in donning the national team colours.

“Making my debut for Bafana Bafana [last year] was a honour and a privilege. I never thought it would happen so soon. It felt remarkable to don the national colours – a dream come true,” he added.

“It has always been a dream of mine to represent the country. Ever since I was a small boy, I pictured myself playing for Bafana Bafana.

“When you play international football you face the best players that a country has to offer and you see a different level to your game.

“The experience of being in the national team is priceless. I am grateful to the technical team for having the confidence in me and for giving me an opportunity to play.”

The Pirates youth academy graduate says he will not be forgetting his first piece of silverware with the national team anytime soon, just as he has done with many other firsts.

“You always remember the first time. I remember the first boots I ever got, the first professional game I ever played, even the first shibobo!

“All players dream of representing the country of their birth and I am no different, I aim to continue improving at club level so that I can get more opportunities to represent my country,” he concluded.

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Article by: Chad Klate (@CKlatey)
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