Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana left-back Innocent Maela has opened up about the pressure of playing for the national side ahead of a crunching clash with Morocco on Thursday night.
"The pressure is not the same," Maela tells SAFA.
"Here you are representing a lot of people. You’re representing the whole nation."
Bafana are set to take on Morocco in a Group K Afcon 2013 qualifying encounter scheduled for Thursday night. Morocco currently occupies the 24th on the FIFA rankings and are overwhelming favourites, while Bafana slump at 69.
"When you play international football, the quality is higher and you must make sure that you don’t make mistakes during your preparation.
"One mistake could decide the complex of the match," Maela adds.
The 29-year old defender also opened up on playing alongside Al Ahly forward Percy Tau who, like Maela, hails from Witbank.
"We spoke a lot about our experiences at club level. He [Percy] was telling me about the [CAF] final and how bad it was for him not to be involved because he wanted to play and I was telling him about our final."
Maela made 17 appearances for the Buccaneers in a season ploughed by injuries, and the left-back admits returning to full fitness was an uphill battle.
"When I came back the first few months were a bit difficult because I wasn’t moving as fast as I can.
"But when I got my chance to play, I showed that I've made significant improvement and I’m getting back to my best," the defender says.
Despite injury fears, Maela is ready put his body on the line for his country.
"I am being cautious because you never know, I don't want to go back to what happened. But I also don’t want to miss such opportunities because you don’t know if they will happen again or not."