JOHANNESBURG – Life in Turkey, especially a football career, isn’t for the faint hearted as Lebogang Manyama quickly learnt while at Super Lig outfit Konyaspor.
Asked why South African players seem to always return home following brief spells in Europe, the new Kaizer Chiefs striker said not only was his age a disadvantage, but you are forgotten in a hurry in Turkey when things don’t go your way. The 2017 Footballer of the Year barely lasted a season there.
“I think we (SA players) don’t go early enough,” Manyama reasoned. “If you look at the teams in Europe, they integrate their players into the teams at a very young age. I was turning 27 when I went (last year) and I wish I could have gone earlier. You can see it with Bongani Zungu doing well because he went earlier, and you see it with Keagan Dolly as well. Percy Tau is also going to do very well.”
Manyama was regarded the country’s best player when Konyaspor came knocking 12 months ago, signing a three-year deal from Cape Town City.
He only managed seven league appearances before the club terminated his contract. The Bafana man wasn’t the only one to struggle in Turkey - countryman Tokelo Rantie has since joined Manyama’s old club City as a free agent having endured a tough spell at Gençlerbirlii, the same club where national team coach Stuart Baxter was fired after three matches.
“We had three coaches in one season,” Manyama said. “That can never be easy. An entire board was changed, and when I say the board I am talking about 15 people being fired the one day and replaced with another group that will obviously come with their own ideas.
The first coach that brought me there used me in a couple of games and I felt I did very well. The second coach didn’t play me at all, the third one didn’t even have a chance because I wasn’t registered for the league by then. I thought I just want to play football, never mind the money or playing in Europe. When you are not enjoying yourself, there’s no point.”
Nonetheless, Manyama, who will likely return to the Chiefs line-up against AmaZulu tomorrow night at FNB Stadium after being rested for the midweek fixture away to Free State Stars, had encouraging words for Siphiwe Tshabalala.
A month before his 34th birthday, Tshabalala left Amakhosi to join BB Erzurumspor in Turkey, while Manyama signed for Chiefs.
“I told him (Tshabalala) he must make sure he enjoys himself and the moment for as long as he is there.”