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Maela proud of newfound versatility

Fans pick Bucs defender at left-back for 'Beer Cup' clash

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Innocent Maela of Orlando Pirates challenged by Peter Shalulile of Mamelodi Sundowns during the DStv Premiership 2020/21 match between Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns at Orlando Stadium.
Innocent Maela of Orlando Pirates challenged by Peter Shalulile of Mamelodi Sundowns during the DStv Premiership 2020/21 match between Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns at Orlando Stadium.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

As coach Josef Zinnbauer occasionally uses him as a centre-half, Orlando Pirates defender Innocent Maela, who primarily operates at left-back, likes the idea of playing different positions.

Despite the 28-year-old playing 11 of his 20 league games as a centre-back last season, the Buccaneers faithful have voted him to play in his natural left-back position in the Carling Black Label Cup clash against arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium on Sunday (5pm).

“Playing many positions means a lot to me because the game evolves every day, so as a player if you don’t grow eventually you’ll be left behind. So for me personally, playing various positions has helped me grow...I have to become a better defender, I have to be more stronger in my duels,’’ said Maela.

“With a lot of coaching, quality coaching that we get here at Pirates, playing different positions hasn’t been difficult for me. The team will always get everything they want from me in terms of contributing. I am prepared to play at any position the team wants me to play.’’

This newfound versatility makes Maela believe he’s destine for greatness. The Bafana Bafana left-back feels indebted to his club's technical team for noticing he can also play in other positions.

“At my age, playing as a left centre-back shows I still have a long way ahead of me. I thank the coaches because they saw that potential in me that I can be versatile. I was also humble enough to allow the process of learning, so I am proud of myself as well,” said Maela.

Despite starting the season brilliantly by ending their six-year trophy drought in winning the MTN8, inconsistency eventually proved Pirates’ main downfall last term, where they never challenged for the league title, finishing third.

Maela feels the Bucs squad has since matured, saying maturity and growth will help them challenge for more trophies in the 2021/22 season.

“I think the squad is growing together. We are more experienced now and that's what you need if you’re going to win many trophies in one season. I think we have a good chance this season,’’ said Maela.

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