JOHANNESBURG – Musa Nyatama hopes that his performance at Orlando Pirates last season and his achievements at the club’s awards ceremony on Thursday night will change the perception of South Africans regarding players like him.
The 30-year-old midfielder had a stellar debut season with the Buccaneers and he was rewarded handsomely for his contribution that helped Pirates finish second to qualify for the Caf Champions League.
Nyatama walked away with three awards – Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and Fans’ Player of the Season.
In his acceptance speech at the Barnyard Theatre in Rivonia, Nyatama thanked the technical team for teaching him how to play football – proving that an old dog can learn new tricks.
“It’s very difficult to be a player in South Africa once you reach 30,” Nyatama said. “It’s very difficult because people feel that you’re finished, and that’s not true.
“The truth is that when you’re over 30, that’s when you’re a better player because you’re smarter and you can think faster than you did when you were young, because you’ve seen it all.
“Some players reach their peak at 30. I think that me doing as well as I did will contribute in changing the mentality of South Africans, to say that there is life after 30.”
Reneilwe Letsholonyane (36), Siphiwe Tshabalala (33) and Paulus Masehe (34) are just some examples of how influential 30-somethings can be in a team, contributing on and off the pitch.
Letsholonyane played an key role in grooming Teboho Mokoena to be ready for first-team football.
Tshabalala is Kaizer Chiefs’ leader, while Masehe is the heart and soul of Free State Stars. And then there is Siyabonga Nomvethe (40), a freak of nature who is ageing backwards.
Nyatama literally had to go back to school to rediscover himself.
“The difference this season, which helped me play the way I did, is that we do a lot of corrections here at Orlando Pirates,” Nyatama said.
“We reflect on the previous games, which has helped me a lot, looking at how I played and what I can improve on the next game.
“Being given homework to analyse your game was difficult at first, especially having played this long. It was a foreign concept.
“But I got used to it and as the season went, I started enjoying it. What’s going to be key now is maintaining this standard of football, work even harder and be more dedicated to my work.”
There is a lot of expectation for the Buccaneers to do better than they did last season in the upcoming campaign because with all the praise that they have received, they still finished without a trophy.
The excitement from the Ghost stems from the fact that Pirates drastically improved from the poor team they were two seasons ago – transforming into a mean machine that challenged Mamelodi Sundowns for the Absa Premiership.
Pirates started slowly, but improved a lot in the second half of the season. “We want to win everything next season,” Nyatama said.
“I believe that we can do it. That puts a lot of pressure on us, but I think that we’re ready for it.
“We just need to be humble and win our games. We are going through a process. The final product isn’t there.
“We are in a process to get where we want to be. We have to stay focused and concentrate on our game.”
Nyatama continued: “When the coaches started, we couldn’t understand what they were talking about when they were talking about the process, and we didn’t understand what they wanted from us.
“Towards the end of December, we started understanding them, and that’s why we did better in the second half of the season, and it is why we’ll even be better this season.”