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Siyabonga Sangweni lapped it all up like a seasoned campaigner. He hardly missed a step as he went up the podium, the applause and the eyes of the 750 guests who’d given him a standing ovation notwithstanding.
That most of those honouring him were legends who preceded him at Orlando Pirates did not seem to bother the consummate defender as he collected his Player of the Year accolade at the Buccaneers’ end of season player awards function.
But then again, that’s what we’ve come to accept of Sangweni, isn’t it? Ever since he moved from lowly Golden Arrows to join the mighty Buccaneers, the big lad from KwaZulu/Natal has displayed an amazing adaptability which not only made him an ever-present in the Pirates line-up but elevated him a key member of South Africa’s senior national team, Bafana Bafana as well.
His winning the night’s biggest accolade was already expected, many in fact feeling he should have also won the Premier Soccer League’s Footballer of the Year where he was beaten by his Moroka Swallows’ namesake Siyabonga Nomvethe.
Before the standing ovation, Sangweni had already collected another award, the Online Player of the Season voted for by the fans.
Typically, Sangweni was modest in accepting both awards which upped his bank balance by a massive R160 000.
“I’m thankful that the chairman gave me the opportunity to play for the big club. It was not easy, but I tried my best to hang in there,” he said, before promising that Pirates will “continue where we left off”.
Afterwards, Sangweni impressively dodged the controversial subject of the PSL awards as deftly as he spent the season robbing opposition strikers of the ball.
“I can’t say much about the PSL awards, I really don’t want to talk about them,” he said.
Most had expected Sangweni to do the treble ala the club, but Oupa Manyisa denied him, the player who gets the crowd chanting ‘A Aaaaace’ whenever he’s in possession of the ball walking away with the Players’ Player of the Year awards: “This is a pleasant surprise,” said Manyisa as he looked at his glass award “To have my teammates regard me this highly is very humbling and a huge encouragement.”
Manyisa said his success had a lot to do with “respecting teammates and the technical team, being committed even at training and just being a team player overall.” The midfielder also won the goal of the season (voted for by those who attended Saturday night’s ceremony held right in the middle of the Orlando Stadium pitch) for his thunder-strike MTN8 goal against Kaizer Chiefs.
“Scoring those kind of goals is my trademark mos,” he laughed.
His goal was preferred over Benni McCarthy’s spectacular overhead kick strike which was adjudged the Premiership’s best earlier last month.
McCarthy was himself a winner, the striker scooping the golden Boot as the club’s top scorer with Thabo Matlaba won Prospect of the year despite having joined the club during the january transfer period and Senzo Meyiwa walked away with the season’s best save despite generally playing second fiddle to Moeneeb Josephs.
Captain Lucky Lekgwathi walked away with the coveted chairman’s award.
Meanwhile the Buccaneers yesterday won the Mbombela Cup after beating Mamelodi Sundowns 6-5 on penalties in the final. They beat Mbabane FC 4-1 in the semifinal. – Star Africa