JOHANNESBURG - Getting a grip on his emotions has been challenging for Oupa Manyisa because he doesn’t know how he feels about his first trip to Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night since his move to Mamelodi Sundowns.
The 29-year-old practically grew up at Orlando Pirates, spending almost a decade there before his surprise move to the Brazilians.
Manyisa holds the Buccaneers’ record, along with the late Senzo Meyiwa, for the most appearances in a season with the 51 out of 53 matches he played in the 2013/14 season.
“Ace” left Pirates with a winner’s medal of every domestic trophy on offer and a silver medal from the 2013 CAF Champions League and 2015 CAF Confederation Cup. But that’s all in the past, now he is the enemy in the eyes of the Ghost - arriving at his former home looking to help Sundowns end their uncharacteristic three-match losing streak.
“I don’t know how I feel about coming to Orlando for the first time with the away team,” Manyisa said. “But these things are part of football. People move on. I gave my all to Pirates in the years I spent with them. Pirates changed my life. I arrived here as a boy and left as a man.
"For a long time I didn’t know anything but Pirates. I don’t know what type of response I will get from the fans. I have seen them boo some former players when they come back and I have seen them cheer some players. The good thing for me is that I left on a good note having won everything there is to win in the PSL.”
The Brazilians offered Manyisa an opportunity to finally become an African champion after he twice came close twice with Pirates. But Sundowns were knocked out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals by Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca. Sundowns’ problems were further compounded by an early elimination in the Telkom Knockout on Sunday by Chippa United which saw them lose three matches in a row for the first time under coach Pitso Mosimane.
While the Tshwane side are in a slump, the Buccaneers have been on the rise that sees Manyisa in an awkward position - he left a struggling team for the African champions who are now battling while Pirates are on the up despite yet to be the finished product.
“I don’t have any regrets about this move,” Manyisa said. “You can’t grow as a player and as a person if you live with regrets. It’s been hard with the challenges that we have faced as a team. We just need to be focused to move out of this slump. We have the quality to get us out of it.”
Manyisa has been talking about everything but this match with the man who took over the Pirates’ armband from him, Thabo Matlaba.
“I don’t even know how I will react if I score,” Manyisa said. “I will see what my heart tells me. That will tell me if I should celebrate or not.”
“Ace” is yet to fully click at Sundowns. But he has shown glimpses of his class, with his excellent reading of the game and ability to dictate play. He is slowly becoming positive in his play, moving away from the criticism he faced at Pirates that he passed too much backwards and sideways.
“I am adapting well to my new home,” Manyisa said. “Even though it’s going to be tough, I shouldn’t let my emotions get the better of me against Pirates. I have a job to do for my new club and that’s what I intend to do.”