Unstoppable: Footballer of the Season Lebogang Manyama celebrates a goal against Kaizer Chiefs in April. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX
Unstoppable: Footballer of the Season Lebogang Manyama celebrates a goal against Kaizer Chiefs in April. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX

Lebogang Manyama has matured from a forward with pace‚ skill and all the necessary high-level attributes but lacking in consistency‚ to a week-in‚ week-out model of destructive forward capability.

Manyama beat about 450 Premier Soccer League (PSL) players to the 2016-17 Footballer of the Season award in Sandton on Monday night and claimed the Player’s Player of the Season prize. Manyama also collected Top Scorer for the 13 goals that helped Cape Town City finish third in their first PSL season.

Manyama said his agent and mentor, Maimane Phiri, influenced his decision to remain with Mpumalanga Black Aces when they were sold to John Comitis and moved to Cape Town a year ago.

It was not the first time Phiri has played a role in Manyama making a crucial move to the Cape. As coach of lower-tier Alexandra FC‚ the ex-Bafana Bafana midfielder saw to it that his young protégé got a move to Ajax Cape Town in 2010.

"I can never forget the recognition I get from people from Alex for this award‚" Manyama said, singling out Phiri.

"He’s done so much for me in my career. I don’t think I can ever pay him back."

After Aces was sold, he initially refused to move to Cape Town. "How do you go there with 14 players? Because you can see the PSL is getting better and better each year," he said.

"We sat down and spoke and after sitting out injured for about eight months, I realised this was a new challenge‚ and maybe that was what I needed.

"And now I realise that was probably the best decision that I made in my life."

Manyama has been a nearly-man in South African football. A transfer to SuperSport United in January 2014 did not work out as he battled injuries and lack of game time.

In 2015-16‚ under Muhsin Ertugral‚ and at one of his best levels of fitness under conditioner Elsa Storm‚ Manyama started to hit his stride as captain of the Aces team that finished fourth‚ though he was injured from February.

This past season‚ playing 29 league games‚ the goals flowed.

"Being injury-free was one of my biggest problems before‚" Manyama said of how he became a more complete player in Eric Tinkler’s exciting City.

"This season‚ in terms of consistency‚ I only missed one game. And when you play week in‚ week out you just keep getting better and better."

Manyama has realised the potential he showed playing 22 league games in his first season in the PSL with Foppe de Haan’s magical young Ajax runners-up to Orlando Pirates.

Of that team‚ Khama Billiat and Keagan Dolly became African champions with Mamelodi Sundowns last season‚ with both nominated for 2015-16 PSL Player of the Season‚ which Billiat won.

Thulani Hlatshwayo and Nazeer Allie won the PSL with Bidvest Wits in the past season. Hlatshwayo was the Clever Boys’ captain and won PSL Defender of the Season.

"It does say a lot about where we come from. We will forever be grateful to Ajax‚" Manyama said.


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