Playing at centreback has made him a better defender‚ says Pirates' Innocent Maela

Innocent Maela of Orlando Pirates warming up before the 1st Leg of the MTN8 Semi Final match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium on October 31, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Innocent Maela of Orlando Pirates warming up before the 1st Leg of the MTN8 Semi Final match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium on October 31, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix/Gallo Images

Playing as a centreback in many games for Orlando Pirates last season helped Innocent Maela grow and improve as a defender‚ the Bafana Bafana left-back has said.

Centreback is sometimes a position that the more mature defender will graduate to as they push 30‚ having started out as a young‚ energetic fullback.

Maela played a number of games as a left centre-back in a back three last season‚ with normally Paseka Mako outside him as a left wing-back‚ as Bucs ended third in the DStv Premiership and won the MTN8.

Pirates’ deficiency in fit central defenders even saw Maela at times employed there in a back four.

Known as an energetic left-back or left wing-back who has the ability to tear up and down the flank‚ pressing the high line on attack but getting back to defend when Bucs lose possession‚ Maela said playing the more conservative central role has improved his defensive skills.

“I mean with the quality coaching that we get here at the club it has made it smoother for me‚” the 28-year-old product of Mpumalanga club Witbank Spurs said.

“In that role I don’t run up and down as I used to but what the team needs from me is what the team is going to get. So‚ ja‚ sometimes I play left centreback‚ sometimes I play left-back.

“It’s meant a lot for me because in football the game evolves every day. As players if you don’t evolve and grow‚ you don’t change and take your game to the next level‚ you get left behind.

“So for me personally as a player it’s helped me grow. I’ve got to become a better defender‚ I’ve gotten stronger in my [one-and-one] duels.

“I think for the coaches to see that potential in me‚ and for me to accept and be humble enough to learn and to listen to them‚ so far so good and I’m growing.

“Playing as a left centreback at the age that I am shows that I’ve got a long way ahead of me‚ which is good.”

Pirates lost 4-3 to Kaizer Chiefs on penalties after a 0-0 full-time scoreline in the pre-season Carling Black Label Cup at Orlando Stadium on Sunday.

The Buccaneers kick off their season officially in their MTN8 quarterfinal against last season’s rookie fifth-placed league finishers Swallows FC at Orlando on Saturday‚ August 14.