The 28-year-old utility player spent most of last season as a center-back and insists he will be successful in whatever role he is asked to play
Orlando Pirates defender Innocent Maela has credited the club with “quality coaching” for making it “softer” for him to move from left full-back to central defense.
The Buccaneers fought for consistency in the heart of the defense last season and a lot of criticism was directed at captain Happy Jele and Thulani Hlatshwayo, who had come to the club with great expectations at the start of the season.
Pirates were also injured in this department and trainer Josef Zinnbauer had to convert Maela from full-back to central defender.
Sometimes Zinnbauer used three center-backs, including Ntsikelelo Nyauza, to make up for their deficits.
“I mean, with the high quality coaching we got here at the club, it made it smoother for me,” Maela said, according to Sowetan Live.
“In this role, I don’t run up and down like I used to, but the team needs what the team gets from me. So sometimes I play the left center-back and sometimes the left full-back.
“It means a lot to me because in football the game is evolving every day. If you don’t evolve and grow as a player, don’t change and take your game to the next level, you will be left behind. So for me personally as a player, it has helped me grow. I have to become a better defender. I’ve gotten stronger in mine [one-and-one] Duels. “
Now, with the arrival of another central defender Kwanda Mngonyama from Maritzburg United, it remains to be seen whether Maela’s versatility will allow him to continue playing regular time.
But Bafana Bafana’s husband doesn’t seem to be concerned and insists that despite his age of 28, he still “has a long way to go”.
“I think the coaches see that potential in me and that I’m humble enough to learn and listen to them, so far, so well and I’m growing,” said Maela.
“Playing left center-back at my age shows that I still have a long way to go, which is good.”
At the Carling Black Label Cup last weekend, fans chose Maela as the left-back.