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Nyathi: He Will Be Something Special

Hi guys. As we promised in this week’s edition of Soccer Laduma, we bring you an extension of Patrick Phungwayo’s interview in the Supporters Club as we speak to former Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates left back, David Nyathi, about Phungwayo’s situation at the Parktown-based club.  

If Patrick Phungwayo has another solid display against Bidvest Wits on Saturday evening at Orlando stadium, then Vladimir Vermezovic may just have a huge headache going into 20 September’s Soweto Derby final, with Thabo Matlaba coming back from suspension. In his interview in this week’s Soccer Laduma, ‘Boca’, as the player is affectionately known, says he is back and will fight it out for a place in the starting line-up. In this Fan Park mini-interview, we ask Orlando Pirates legend David Nyathi what he thinks of the whole situation...

Soccer Laduma: ‘Going Up’, what did you make of Patrick Phungwayo’s performance against Polokwane City in Thabo Matlaba’s absence?

David Nyathi: I actually didn’t watch that game, but I heard that he did really well and impressed. It is without doubt that he’s got a lot of potential, but it’s always about patience as well. Sometimes you’re playing and sometimes you’re not playing. You just have to persevere, stay positive and work hard.

LA: Orlando Pirates are up against Bidvest Wits on the weekend, with Patrick Phungwayo likely to start again. It’s the only game before the derby. If he does well again, what would you do in the derby if you were the coach?

DN: Well, I think at the moment Matlaba has been crucial for Pirates. He’s their key player, so to not consider him for the derby is very remote. Depending on his fitness, his mental state or whatever could be affecting him at the moment, the coach will have to make a call. But if the boy (Phungwayo) continues to play well, obviously it gives the coach a lot of options in terms of who should fill that position. That makes the coach’s job much, much easier. You have a young, up-and-coming player that is actually in very good form and you also have your key player that can come in and compete at the level of a derby. He will be happy to see that he’s got two players that are capable of maybe substituting for each other.

LA: Would you not look at the option of accommodating both players in the starting line-up, with Matlaba playing as a midfielder and getting into those good scoring positions that he often takes up?

DN: Ha, ha, it’s a tough call, hey! It depends on the players you have. If you have a more balanced team and you’re playing players in their regular positions, you don’t want to tinker with that a lot, you know. You want to keep it as balanced as it is, as you’ve prepared in pre-season, where all the players have adapted to their roles. You want to keep it like that because then they are comfortable, they understand each other and they understand exactly what they need to do. If you temper with the permutations, you might end up confusing yourself and your players. So, it’s better to keep it simple, as you’ve planned during pre-season regarding shape, role and application. If you want to tinker a little bit now because you have something new that you want to introduce, then it might affect a lot of other things going forward.

LA: Do you feel Phungwayo provides adequate competition for Matlaba, who is a Bafana Bafana international?

DN: You always need good competition as a player. It helps. The better the competition, the better the players’ focus and the harder they work to stay in contention and also to maintain their position. It’s frustrating to sit on the bench. Matlaba is a seasoned player, so we already know about him and what he can do, and any coach will no doubt think of starting him. Then you have an up-and-coming player who still needs to shape up, to mature and to cement his status and reputation as a consistent performer. That also gives some hope that, going forward into the future, when he gets stronger, when he gets more confident, when he gets more game time, when he gets more mature, then he will be something special. I think that is without a doubt.

LA: If you were in Vladimir Vermezovic’s shoes, how would you handle a situation like this one?

DN: Look, I don’t know how old Phungwayo is (Ed’s note: both Matlaba and Phungwayo are 26), but if I look at stages of growth and stages of development, I would say if Matlaba is as mature as he seems, obviously at this level he’s very crucial. He’s very key. His maturity will stand him in very good favour. But then Phungwayo is an up-and-coming potential player. He has proven consistency and endurance in terms of his displays when given the chance. You have a reliable Matlaba and you have a potential Phungwayo. To balance it in a mature, professional sense, is to say this guy is key and this guy is still going to be key in future.

LA: Phungwayo will obviously be frustrated sitting on the bench, but you’ve got a reliable starter in Matlaba. How do you keep Phungwayo motivated, focused and happy despite the lack of game-time?

DN: It happens everywhere. You just name Barcelona for instance. Which player will want to sit on the bench there? You name any team in the world and look at those players that sit on the bench and ask yourself, “What mentality do they have to continue and humble themselves and be patient for an opportunity while they are in a class of their own?” Are you with me? There comes a stage, obviously, when a player feels in his career he must grab his chance to play when it presents itself. That depends on what decision the player takes. He can choose to leave and go play for another team, or to be patient and wait his turn because this team and this brand of football played suits his heart, his style and his life. So a player may say to himself, “I will wait for my chance to play for Pirates or to play for Chiefs.” So you have those kinds of decisions to make as a player, but you also need to have a team that makes you feel good to be there and to be learning, waiting and working hard at all times to grasp the opportunity when it comes. So you need a whole lot of systems around you to keep you fresh, to keep you happy, to keep you motivated and to keep you focused.

LA: If your number one left back gets red-carded, and Phungwayo comes in and does so well in the two games, does the ‘number one’ now walk back into the team when he’s available for selection, especially seeing it’s a crucial derby?

DN: It’s a question of respect as well. I think in a professional environment we really need to respect each other very much. That’s where friendship, trust and loyalty develop. If you elevate a person to a key player, it’s always very important to make that player feel that he IS key and he’s crucial to the success of the club. Just because he had a red card, doesn’t mean he did anything criminally wrong. He might have done that for the team as well. Things like that do come into the picture when you consider the manner in which the red card was received and the manner in which the player behaves after that. There are a lot of checks and balances to be considered... it’s not just the red card.

LA: Thanks for chatting to us, ‘Going Up’.

DN: You’re welcome.  

We hope you guys enjoyed Nyathi’s take on Phungwayo’s situation at Pirates. We also hope to hear from you.





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