JOHANNESBURG – “It’s difficult,” Paseka Mako says, explaining the life of a fringe player at Orlando Pirates.
But that difficulty will be eased a bit with the Buccaneers competing in three different competitions – the Premiership, Nedbank Cup and the Caf Champions League.
Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic and his technical team will be forced to rotate players frequently as they don’t have the luxury of choosing one of the three tournaments. Pirates have to go for all three as the Soweto giants are in their fifth year without a trophy.
The Serbian has partially rotated his squad in anticipation of what will be a gruelling finale in the league race, with the Champions League and the Nedbank Cup also in the mix.
That rotation has meant that players like Mako have struggled to cement their places in the starting XI. The 24-year-old has featured in 13 of the club’s 18 league matches.
But in those 13 matches, he only played 90 minutes on six occasions.
He showed his worth in the 1-1 draw with Baroka FC on Tuesday at Orlando Stadium with a Man-of-the-Match performance.
“As you know, in the team we have good players, I have to fight to be in the starting XI. Getting the Man of the Match award means a lot to me because I haven’t played in a long time. I have to fight to get into the starting XI regularly,” Mako said.
“It’s difficult for me because we have good players here. We train the same. If someone is out and you come in, you have to play your part and help the team. It’s not about me, but the team and the badge.”
Sredojevic will make a few changes to the XI that drew with Baroka when he takes on Black Leopards in Venda on Saturday in the last-32 of the Nedbank Cup.
The Buccaneers lifted this trophy in 2014 under another Serbian coach, Vladimir Vermezovic.
Sredojevic will be looking to emulate his countryman, but he won’t put all his eggs in one basket as the Buccaneers have a chance to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
“The intention is to widen the pool of players so that they have mileage in their legs and match fitness. So that no matter which player is selected, the team still keeps quality performances as much as possible,” Sredojevic said.
“Performances that get us good results. Looking at the players that we have, we are really looking to squeeze the last cell out of them to get the best out of them through the talent and quality they have.
“There is a strong competitiveness in the team, with three players in almost every position. There is a pecking order, but everyone is fighting for their chance, no one finds it easy or is relaxed thinking that their place is guaranteed. A place is earned and is not given.”
Sredojevic continued: “Paseka, with his performance against Baroka, has knocked on the door of the competitive team and widened the pool to choose from.
“He has given us a sweet problem of having to choose who will give us the best possible service in front of us. He knows that his performance could have been better. He knows that.”