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Orlando Pirates skipper Maela comments on Mako competition

17:53 SAST 2022/07/27
Innocent Maela, Orlando Pirates, December 2021
The 29-year-old faces a stern test from a key player who also operates in his natural role

Newly-appointed Orlando Pirates captain Innocent Maela has welcomed the challenge from fellow left-back Paseka Mako who poses a big threat to his position.

Following the departure of former Happy Jele as well as Thulani Hlatshwayo and Ntsikelelo Nyauza, who also wore the armband, Maela is now carrying the huge leadership responsibilities in the Buccaneers squad.

To justify the role thrust upon him, the 29-year-old would be keen for regular football but has to dislodge Mako from the left side of the defence.

“Last season I had a groin problem and I had a tear when we played Kaizer Chiefs in the Black Label Cup, so I had to be out for four to five months, including rehab,” said Maela as per Times Live.

“When I came back Mako was doing really well in the position and because everyone is equal I had to wait for my opportunity again. I had to support Mako, just like he’s been supporting me all these years.

“It was my turn to support him from the back until I got my opportunity after the incident. We thank God that his life was spared.”

Even after Maela recovered from a groin injury last season, he still found it hard to keep Mako out of the starting line-up.

The Bafana star only started enjoying more game time after Mako suffered a nasal fracture towards the end of last season.

Playing as a central defender is another position Maela might fight for as former Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer preferred him as a centre-back more than a left-back.

But Olisa Ndah as well as new signings Tapelo Xoki and Nkosinathi Sibisi stand in his way as Maela also appear unfazed by the new acquisitions.

“They are getting more comfortable, they’re adapting really well and getting to know each other,” Maela added

“We’re spending a lot of time together so we can know each other’s personalities and our backgrounds.

"The new guys should never feel any pressure because the guys who’ve been there longer are there to support and give them direction whenever they need it.”

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos is an admirer of Maela and it is to be seen if he will push Mamelodi Sundowns’ Lyle Lakay and Terrence Mashego for a place in the national side.