Bafana Bafana have safely arrived in Lagos en route to Uyo, Nigeria for their first match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The squad is expected to reach their destination this afternoon (Thursday, 8 June 2017) and immediately go for their first training session in Nigeria.
The South Africans will have their final training session on Friday, 9 June before locking horns with the home side on Saturday, 10 June 2017 at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo State, Nigeria.
Kickoff is at 17h00 local time (18h00 SA Time).
Cape Town City forward, who is part of the 25-man squad that has travelled to the West African country, is optimistic about Bafana Bafana’s chances and says team effort will be key.
SAFA Media spoke to him before the squad jetted off to Nigeria.
Matlhomola Morake: Welcome back, I know you were in the last squad that played Angola and Equatorial Guinea, but how do you feel being back?
Lebogang Manyama: It’s always exciting to be in the national, and a great honour to be called up again. It shows that from then up to now I am still doing something right and I have improved as well, so it’s really good to be back because it’s every player’s dream to don the national team jersey and I have been working very hard to also be recognised. I have also been patient and now it’s paying off, I am just looking forward to the challenge.
MM: We are facing Nigeria in a very crucial match, your thoughts?
LM: We know what Nigeria is capable of, we know about all the stars they have in their team but at the end of the day it is 11 v11 and they are human beings like us, they are not unbeatable. We have to go there believing in what we can do, we have to believe in our strengths and not worry too much about them. If we put up a team effort when we get there, we will most likely come up with a good result in the end.
MM: We have a good bunch of players and judging from the last two matches, and as you say, if we put up a team effort we can come away with a win.
LM: If you look at the talent that is here, it is amazing. Everybody that is in the squad is on top form and that is good for the team. Once we can contribute individually according to our strengths and mix it up with the team effort, it will turn out very well. I am just hoping that we can gel very quickly because it is going to be tough there but with the team that we have, impossible is nothing.
MM: As captain of you club you are almost guaranteed a starting place, but in the national team it’s a different set up where you have to fight for your place – how much of a challenge is that for you?
LM: It’s very different when you come to the national where there the 25 best players for South Africa are fighting for 11 positions, so you have to raise the bar a bit because you are amongst the best talent in the country, you cannot afford to slack down, you have to fight very hard for your position – and don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean at your club you relax – but you know when you get here it’s a bit tougher as you all want to play and games come once in a while, so you have to take it up a notch to get the nod. But the most important thing is that we must all support each other, whoever is selected on the day, we are one team.
MM: Hectic year for Bafana Bafana with the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers coming up – what do we need to do?
LM: Our challenge starts on Saturday with Nigeria, and if we can get through that one we should almost be able to deal with all the challenges that we will face in the national team. If we do well in the two competitions it will be great for the national team and for the entire country as it will open up many opportunities for the next two years or so. With all the hurdles coming our way, it is important that we remain consistent by winning games so that whoever comes to our backyard they know they are in for a tough battle.
MM: New coach at Bafana Bafana, does that change things?
LM: No, not at all. In football you have to work hard, you have to keep the discipline and you have to believe what the coach wants and once you do that it works hand in hand with what you have to do. This is a coach that we have all seen at work – all the players that have worked with him speak very high of his work ethic, I think it is not a coincidence that he is here. He is the kind of coach that every player looks forward to working with.
MM: Lebogang Phiri says he draws inspiration from you – because you are both from Alexandra and also because you were on fire this season….
LM: Lebogang Phiri and I come a long way back – his older brother is my best friend. I have known Lebogang since he was young, and I am proud of his achievements. He is one of the best players we have in this country currently and is one to watch out for in future. It’s an honour to be with him in the national team, and its very good that he is in the squad at such a young age because he still has a lot of game time on his side. What we went through in Alex, we understood what it took to get to where we are. And if you look at some of the people who played at the highest level from Alex, those are the people we look up to – the likes of Maimane Phiri, who himself was a Bafana Bafana stalwart. He went and played abroad in Turkey and he now runs a successful project called the Maimane Phiri Games, and that is a huge achievement. I think it is good to have our township also represented in the national team by the two of us – this gives belief to the other youngsters in the township to say “we can also get there” even though it will not be easy, but with belief and hard work it can happen, and we wouldn’t be where we are today if it was not for those attributes.
MM: You also have your club mate Aubrey Ngoma in the national team…
LM: I believe just like me, Aubrey has been working hard the entire season, and if he is not the best then surely he is one of the players in the league this season, he deserves this call up and I think it is long overdue, but then again there is so much talent in the national team in South Africa he also had to wait his turn. We both waited patiently and now we are here. Hopefully we can take our team form to Bafana Bafana.
MM: At club level, it was a case of so close yet so far for the league title race…
LM: We were very close but we knew at the back of our minds that we were facing an uphill task because we had two teams that were chasing us strongly when we were on top, and they had games in hand. The two teams, Bidvest Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns barely lose points, and are arguably the best two teams in the country at the moment. We knew that should they catch up, it was going to be very tough for us. But I don’t think we lost the league at the end, in my view, we lost games in the beginning that we should not have lost, and drew when it was not necessary. We also lost to Baroka at home which was a very valuable three points – had we taken that we would have probably been two points in the clear, and they could have counted a lot in the end. But it is a learning curve and nonetheless we still remain proud of what we did this season. We are also aware that it is going to be tougher next season because everybody knows what we are about, so we have to improve on what we did this season, but we are really looking forward the challenge.
MM: When everyone talks about Player of the Year, your name always comes up – how do you feel?
LM: Well I am pleased that people are saying that and it’s always great to hear that, but I am one person who never gets ahead of himself – I would rather we win the Team of the Year before I run away with the individual accolade, if at all. If I get it I will be very happy, but I won’t go around telling everyone that I deserve it, because there are many players who were unbelievable this season – Ngoma for one, Themba Zwane has been amazing, Percy Tau has been marvelous, Thulani Hlatshwayo has been a pillar, and a couple of his teammates at Wits were solid. So you have to understand that there are a couple of players who can take that award on any day and I have to respect that. Let’s just wait for the official announcement and I know that whoever gets it, they deserve it.
MM: Your advice to those youngsters who want to get to where you are?
LM: I have always believed in hard work. I also believe in myself and discipline is also very important – on and off the field. You have to make sure you live a good life because our bodies are our business, so if you don’t take care of it, it won’t take good care of you. Another thing is that when we are young we all make mistakes, but the crucial thing is to learn from those mistakes. I have always believe that as a human being you never lose anything but you always learn from what brought you down – never say I lost, but rather say I learnt something from that incident and move on. Make the most of the opportunities that come your way because they are very limited. Also don’t forget that only 25 of us were selected for the national team, but there are hundreds out there who are also hoping that someday they will occupy this space, so take nothing for granted.
Born: 13 September, 1990
Club: Cape Town City
National team debut: v Namibia, COSAFA Cup, 13 July, 2013
Last game played: v Angola, friendly international, 28 March, 2017
Caps per club: Ajax Cape Town 6, SuperSport United 2, Cape Town City 1
Rose to prominence with Alexandra United juniors, before going on to play for Balfour Park … was spotted by Ajax Cape Town scouts and brought to Ikamva in the 2010/11 season, helping the team to second in the league … joined SuperSport United in January 2014, and Mpumalanga Black Aces on loan ahead of the 2015/16 season … signed for Cape Town City when the team relocated a year later … can play wide on the left or as a striker … born in Tembisa.
National Team Games Statistics
|v Namibia 2-1||COSAFA Cup|
|v Zambia 0-0||COSAFA Cup|
|v Lesotho 2-1||COSAFA Cup|
|v Nigeria 0-2||friendly international||came on for Parker in the 80th minute|
|v Burkina Faso 2-0||friendly international||came on for Zungu in the 56th minute|
|v Zimbabwe 1-2||friendly international||came on for S Mthembu at halftime|
|v Malawi 0-0||COSAFA Cup Plate semifinal||came on for Bhengu after 63 minutes|
|v Guinea-Bissau 3-1||friendly international||came on for Mokotjo after 65 minutes|
|v Angola 0-0||friendly international||replaced by Serero at halftime|