Manyama discusses SA's World Cup hopes

Manyama discusses SA's World Cup hopes
Lebogang Manyama of South Africa challenges Ogenyi Onazi of Nigeria during the 2019 Afcon football qualifier between Nigeria and South Africa at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium on June 10, 2017 in Uyo State, Nigeria. @Kabiru Abubakar/BackpagePix

by Austin Ditlhobolo

Friday Oct 06, 2017. 19:00

South African international Lebogang Manyama says Bafana Bafana are in trouble ahead of their clash with Burkina Faso on Saturday.

Bafana will play host to the Stallions of Burkina Faso in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification (CAF) Group D match at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

Manyama, who secured a move to Turkish Super Lig club Konyaspor two months ago, is part of the Bafana squad that will take on Group D leaders Burkina Faso.

The 27-year-old forward discussed life in Turkey and the crucial encounter when speaking to the official South African Football Association (SAFA) website Welcome back, how have things been in Turkey?

So far so good, different level, they are more aggressive that side and it’s a league with a whole lot of technical players. I think I have adjusted very well, just trying to hit form as soon as possible. How was the move from Cape Town City to Konyaspor – did you find it difficult?

First and foremost, it was a dream come true, I wanted to go test myself in Europe and luckily I went to a team that is more or less like Cape Town City, family-wise. Everybody was welcoming, it’s just a matter of me putting in good performances week in and week out and things will get better from there. What did you find different at your new club?

The level of professionalism is very high, players are more focused on being very good at playing the ball technically, the pace is not the same as we have in South Africa and teams don’t go pound for pound – it’s more tactical, you have to know where to be at the right time. It has been a very good adjustment and I still have a lot to learn. You went there because you wanted to play at a high level, is that what you are getting?

Definitely, I started a game against Besiktas (one of the biggest and most successful team in Turkey) and it was a whole new level, the fans were amazing. To play in front of such a packed crowd – things that you can only see on FIFA video games, and on television, but I am getting there slowly but surely, it’s just a matter of time. What do you make of your surroundings in Turkey – what have you seen? Where have you been to?

Well it was a quick move and I haven’t had time to see much, I haven’t been to many places, but Konya is a very relaxed city, more or less like Cape Town. Everyone is chilled and they mind their own business but they are very passionate about football. One of the fans told me I have to stick it out for the team week in week out, that’s how crazy they are about the game. There’s only one team in Konya and everybody supports that team, so for our home games we normally have about 42-thousand fans, and that is a lot to play in front of – but it’s nice pressure, the kind that we like as footballers where we play in front of big crowds every week. Jersey number 10, is that what you wanted?

It’s just a number, it doesn’t mean much and doesn’t really affect my performance. It’s the number that was available at the time and I decided to take it, I know it comes with a whole lot of pressure but what is football without pressure. In terms of food, are you coping?

There’s not much of a difference in terms of the kind of food they eat, but obviously they have their special dishes and people in Turkey just love their food, and it is very nice – but I stick to what I know so don’t confuse myself. As time goes on I will learn new things, and I am just looking forward to the adventure. What’s a typical day for Lebohang like in Turkey?

I haven’t moved a lot around the city, I was staying at the clubhouse for two weeks, and recently moved to an apartment and this is when I will start doing things on my own and seeing places by myself, but it’s not a problem being alone because I started staying alone when I was 19, so it’s not a huge thing even though you will miss home now and again – but with technology I can manage. It’s a matter of growing up, and when you want to grow up you have to face such things. Is Konyaspor a step to even higher leagues?

You never know what might happen in football. I always take it one game at a time and I never really think much about what is going to happen next year. The important thing is what is happening today for me. Your new teammates, will they help you improve?

When you are new at a place you have to learn how everybody operates and how the team operates. To be quite honest it has been a bit difficult because I am in a new environment and the players don’t have that much trust in me as I had at Cape Town City – but it’s understandable because they don’t know what I can do. This is also a challenge for me to show them what I am capable of, and it’s a matter of building confidence one day at a time, and as time goes on, things will get better. So being a foreigner is very difficult for every player?

It’s very very difficult. I have never been a foreigner in my life but now I know how all the foreigners that come to South Africa feel. It’s a learning curve and you won’t grow if you don’t learn, you have to go through such situations, and to be quite honest, I am happy with facing whatever that comes. On that note how are things in the national team as you have already attended a training session?

It was very nice, and the mood here is always good. Actually, when I heard I got the call up it was a sigh of relief because I knew I will be among people I have known for a long time, be free for a couple of days and I can go back to my club refreshed and continue from where I left off. Difficult match this weekend against Burkina Faso…

To be quite honest we are in trouble. We put ourselves in there and we are the only ones who can take ourselves out. It’s up to us to get a good result on Saturday before we can think of anything else. We know its not going to be easy, but I think we have a lot of quality in the side. It’s a mater of doing what the coach wants – it has worked before so why cant it work on Saturday? What do we really need to get out of this trouble – confidence, hard work, unity?

We need all of those and we need the whole country. We know what has happened in the last two games and people have lost confidence in us but we must take the lead to bring back the confidence and everybody else will follow. We need their support. We have the quality, we have the coach and I believe we have the country that can take us where we want to go, starting on Saturday – like I always say, All for one and one for all. We need the whole nation, if we can have a packed stadium, whenever you touch the ball it builds confidence, and in a way everything goes right when you have fans behind you, I think we are going to need them more than ever, so come show your love for Bafana Bafana.

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