Lebogang now back to his very best
Four seasons ago Manyama was the Golden Boy of South African football, winning the coveted Footballer of the Season award after his impressive exploits for Cape Town City, and he duly talked the talk, going on to seal an overseas move to Turkish side Konyaspor in the following season.
Life for the midfielder got off to a decent start in Europe, with him playing 10 matches in the first half of that season. But the wheels would come off in the second term, as he was completely frozen out of the team due to changes in the coaching personnel.
Forced to leave Konyaspor at the end of the season, Manyama heeded the call to come back home and joined Amakhosi, where he made 13 domestic appearances, amid a long-term knee injury and an horrific car accident.
Manyama dusted himself off in the new term, recapturing the impressive form he showed during his time with City, and that’s why he’s already made 14 appearances, scored three goals and registered three assists.
That contribution has helped Chiefs climb to the summit of the Premiership with 31 points, 10 ahead of second-placed SuperSport United.
Manyama’s rich vein of form has also seen him return to the Bafana set-up for the first time since 2017 - he being used as a substitute when Molefi Ntseki’s men recently defeated Sudan in the second round of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers on home soil.
“After a long time (without being part of the Bafana set-up), it felt really nice to be back. It’s always an honour to represent the national team,” Manyama says.
“I think it’s a reward to show how hard I’ve been working after the problems that I had last season. I hope to return in the future, but that would only be in March, and there’s still so much to do. So, my focus is only here (at Chiefs) at the moment.”
With Bafana determined to be a force to be reckoned with on the continent once again, it is important that a good many of their stalwarts get continental and international experience at club level.
From the Premier Soccer League it’s only been Mamelodi Sundowns who have been regulars in Caf competition, so much that they were crowned Kings of Continental Football in 2016.
However, should Chiefs finish in the top two on the log standings come May 2020, they’ll become one of the two South African domestic league teams that will have a chance to compete in the Caf Champions League.
“Sundowns are obviously the biggest team in the country at the moment and they are doing very well in the competition, but we also want to be there,” Manyama says.
“Still, we cannot think about something that will probably only happen next year. At the moment, we’ve got so much to work and play for. But we’d also like to be there, and compete against the best teams in Africa. It is something that we wish for but we are not thinking about it.”
Rightly put. You see, before Manyama and company can think about continental football, they’ll have to finish the year on a high note by bagging maximum points in their last two matches.
Chiefs host Bloemfontein Celtic at Moses Mabhida Stadium tonight (8:15pm) before closing off the year with an away trip to Maritzburg United on December 22.
“We know how well we’ve done but it’s very important to remain humble. The usual contenders in this league are so good that they can come storming back in the last three or four games of the season,” Manyama explains.
“But we aren’t really worrying about who’s doing what; we’re rather focusing on ourselves.
“We don’t think about who might be coming up behind us. All that we are thinking about is the next three points.”