JOHANNESBURG – Lebogang Manyama returned to the PSL after one season abroad, but his former teammate in Europe, four-time African Player of the Year Samuel Eto’o, believed Manyama was one of the most talented players South Africa produced.
A season ago Manyama was registered for the first half of the campaign at Turkish side Konyaspor, while in the second half he was frozen out of the team. This meant he was only eligible to train, knowing he’d not make the 18-man match-day squad.
At the end of the season Kaizer Chiefs brought him back to South Africa. Upon his return many supporters bemoaned that he joined the list of exports who couldn't sustain the European pressure. However Eto’o is thrilled Manyana heeded the call to come back home after that torrid period.
“I really enjoyed my time with Manyama, he’s a very good player. He was unlucky not to be played by the coach, and I didn’t have the power to play him. During training I played with him, and he’s an incredible player. Most of the coaches would have liked to play him in Europe because he loves good football.
But he was just unlucky, and I think it was good for him to come back to South Africa and enjoy himself,” said the Uefa Champions League and Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) winner at the Castle Africa 5's 2019 edition launch in Soweto this week.
At the end of that season Manyama and Eto’o parted with Konyaspor - they joined Amakhosi and Qatar Sports Club respectively. Eto’o, who’ll celebrate his 38th birthday next month, said that things have been going well for him since joining Sports Club almost seven months ago.
The Middle East country, which will host the 2022 Fifa World Cup, has shown that they are not only about throwing money at players, but also serious about the sport. They recently won the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, ahead of teams such as Japan and South Korea.
“It will be one of the best World Cups, and everything is done in terms of infrastructure. Football is loved by people that side,” Eto’o said. “They’ve got a good project of young players, and the Aspire Football Academy gives opportunity to youngsters. The first team of Qatar has been working closely with this academy, so it’s going to be a big organisation.”
On the other hand his country of birth, Cameroon, was recently stripped of the right to host this year’s Afcon due to delays in preparations. The continental showpiece was shifted to Egypt. However the former FC Barcelona striker believes that will give the government enough time to solve their political woes.
The Castle 5's tournament will be an eight-nation event with Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana joining South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Swaziland. There’ll be an inaugural women’s edition spearheaded by former Banyana Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini.@Mihlalibaleka