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Still In Touch With Sepeke Manamela Part 1

Soccer Laduma’s ‘In Touch’ & ‘Still In Touch’ feature has been a fan favourite for almost two decades in Soccer Laduma’s weekly newspaper. 

Millions of readers turn to it first each week to read the crazy stories that Mzansi’s former players tell and to see current soccer stars dish the dirt on their teammates and coaches. 

Over the years, together with our readers, we have laughed uncontrollably and gasped with disbelief at stories that have never been told before!

Due to the incredible success and reading pleasure over the years and the timeless nature of this incredible content, Soccer Laduma has dug through the archives to bring back to life some of the gems you may have missed, or simply want to re-read and share with your friends. 

This week, we look back to 22 March 2017 in issue number 1015, where ex-Orlando Pirates and University of Pretoria winger Sepeke Manamela poked fun at some of the players he had shared a dressing room and training pitch with, including Joseph Makhanya, Thulasizwe Mbuyane and Abednigo Netshiozwi. He also has some funny stuff about his former coach, Walter Rautmann.

Sepeke Manamela was a winger who began his playing career in the 2004/05 season at Winners Park in the National First Division. However, he didn’t stay long there, joining PJ Stars a season later. That is where he would catch the interest of Orlando Pirates. But the dream move turned sour, as he didn’t play many games at the Soweto giants. His only other clubs in the pro ranks were Mpumalanga Black Aces and University of Pretoria, and he finally hung up his boots in 2013. “I got an injury and it’s still bothering me when I play Sunday League games these days,” he says.

Sepeke, you went from Soshanguve Sunshine in the Vodacom (now ABC Motsepe) League to Winners Park in the First Division in 2004. You must have had a great time there!

 Yeah, that’s true. Le ngwenya le (This guy) who was our coach, Walter Rautmann, understood me as a player. He would have a go at you if you were slacking off, but if you were following his instructions, you were in his good books. Well, it goes without saying that I was one of his favourite players because I was working hard all the time. But, still, there were those awkward moments between him and me. I remember one such incident, when we were playing against Zulu Royals and we got a free kick. We were trailing 1-0 and he shouted from the bench, “Peki, Peki, Peki, kick it!” Everyone stood aside because they knew the coach wanted me to take that free kick. Eish, I disappointingly kicked the ball way over the bar! I think they’re still looking for that ball. Do you know what the coach said? He screamed, “Hey, Peki!” When I looked over on the bench, he said, “You can’t even f**k but you want to take a free kick!” Ha, ha, ha.

Crazy!

One thing about the old man, though... he liked rocking up to training with sweets. It was only in certain private moments that he’d hand you a sweet. For example, one day, he called me aside, gave me a sweet and said, “You see Lizo Mjempu? His hand is like Nike!” Mjempu had injured his hand at the time, so his hand and arm were positioned in this funny way, almost like the Nike logo. Rautmann believed in taking the team through its paces and that’s why he was called ‘Mr Fitness’. I remember there were times we would play 11 v 11 games for three hours at training. Although we weren’t camping and only met on game day, especially for home matches, we used to win because of the sense of self-discipline among the players. The guys I was close to were Dira Laka, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Mjempu, goalkeeper Robert Modiadie and the old man Simon Ramalaka.

Let’s talk about your time at Orlando Pirates now.

Ah, you see, I was friends with almost everyone there. I felt like I was at home at Bucs, although the coaches weren’t playing me there. I played three games under the late Bibey Mutombo and I got injured while we were preparing for the Vodacom Challenge. When I came back, they fired him. I was good friends with Happy Jele, Benson Mhlongo, Thulasizwe Mbuyane, Kelebogile Mabe and Lucky Lekgwathi. I was always making jokes, which is why everyone wanted to be around me.

Before we go any further, we have to ask this... were you part of ‘Orlando’ or of ‘Pirates’ under Mutombo?

Ha, ha, ha. Mina ngiqale ku (I started out at) Orlando, but then towards the end of the season, the Coach selected me for a Pirates game against Bloemfontein Celtic. We won 1-0 and I created the goal, which led to us qualifying for the top eight. Ha, ha, I’m surprised you still remember this thing of the two teams within one team. We had so many players and it seemed like Orlando had more players than Pirates! The coach even didn’t know some of the players’ names. I was always on the case of Joseph ‘Ngungunyane’ Makhanya. As soon as he appeared in the dressing room, I would be on top of him. But impressively, he gave back as much as he got, and it was always entertaining listening to the two of us. I used to tell him that he was so short that he could easily have been mistaken for a beer dumpy. What I can tell you about Lekgwathi is that the man was very stingy. When we went out, he’d tell you that he had left his wallet at home. He was so thrifty it was not even funny – I bet you this man would go on vacation in Zanzibar and bring his own home-cooked food there. There was a player called David Makgale. Yho, that guy could talk. It was like he had swallowed a radio. The late Gift Leremi was a character like no other. He enjoyed teasing Lekgwathi and at times could even say, “Ngizokushaya mina Lucky ntwana (I’ll hit you).” Abednego Netshiozwi had such a dark complexion. I think when he goes to take a picture for his ID or driver’s licence, they take it in front of the Apollo light. I mean, not even a flashlight would do with him. Have you ever seen that guy maar? You know when you are cooking meat and then you burn it, the colour of the water turns really dark. That’s Netshiozwi’s skin complexion, ha, ha.

Ha, ha, ha.

I’m sure when he’s all alone and has just finished taking a bath, and then his wife comes in and sees the colour of the water he was bathing in, she says, “Hawu, I leave you to cook and then now you decide to burn the meat!” Ha, ha. I know he’s going to kill me for this! Mbuyane is my big friend. When he joined the team, I would give him a lift from Pretoria to training in Jozi, and then back. When you take a look at his lips, they resemble a can opener or something. He looks like someone who’s opened one beer too many with his teeth in his lifetime. You’d think he was working at Jackbudha (a hangout spot in Mamelodi, Mbuyane’s hometown), where people would just buy beer and he’d open for them with his teeth, ha, ha. But he’s always been a good guy. If we weren’t training or playing on the weekend, we’d spend time together in the location. It’s the same thing with Jele and Lekgwathi. The latter is another who has taken being black to another level. I’m sure after looking in the mirror, he looks behind him just to make sure it’s him. He can’t get used to himself. There’s this funny story I’d like to share with you...

Go right ahead, brother!

It was my first time in camp and I wasn’t familiar with the other guys at that stage. I remember it was a preseason camp and the players were having a meal after training. Everyone was dishing up for themselves. When I walked back to my table after dishing up, my plate was noticeably full. Man, Mount Kilimanjaro had nothing on that plate! To top it off, I had also helped myself to the dessert. My choice of dessert was a large helping of cake. Soon as the guys saw me, they just started clapping. But it didn’t occur to me what that was all about. I thought maybe something was happening and I was going to know about it once I was seated and settled. I then realised this ovation was for me and, while still digesting all that was happening around me, they started singing, “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you!” Ha, ha, ha.

STILL IN TOUCH FUN FACTS:

Best player I’ve ever faced: Lizo Mjempu

Best player I’ve played with: Reneilwe Letsholonyane & Happy Jele

Biggest pay cheque: R40 000

Smallest pay cheque: R2 000

Favourite current player: Mpho Matsi

Current occupation: Head coach of Terrors FC (ABC Motsepe League, Limpopo)

Former teams: Winners Park, PJ Stars, Orlando Pirates, Mpumalanga Black Aces, University of Pretoria

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