The name Njabulo Manqana rings some bells to someone who has been following Golden Arrows for a long time.
A player with discipline, attacking prowess and pace to beat defenders, but it was Ethekwini Coastal FC founder Lindani Shezi who unearthed the raw talent and nurtured him.
Manqana recalls how he got to Arrows after he gave them problems, playing for Coastal FC.
“Arrows got me when I was playing for Ethekwini Coastal FC, who are playing in the ABC Motsepe KwaZulu Natal League, owned by Lindani Shezi,” he reflected.
“We were playing against Golden Arrows’ reserve side, that’s where they saw me, I started with Arrows’ reserve side in 2004.”
“You know the way we were playing at Arrows, we were coached by Manqoba Mngqithi, that guy motivated us a lot and he improved my game in a very different way.
“I had played under a lot of coaches since I was young, but we were playing very well under Mngqithi, he got the best out of us.”
“He allowed us to play football the way we know how to, he didn’t have all those restrictions and controlling players on how to play football.
“He just guided us on and off the field, he was a father figure to us. He would tell you that you need to focus on football and leave other things and we listened to him,” Manqana continued.
“What I can say to the next generation of players, they need to be determined and play football with discipline,” said Manqana.
With his career blossoming at Arrows, the Durban-born attacking midfielder wanted to test his capabilities elsewhere and it was no surprise that he signed with Orlando Pirates.
He had always wanted to play for a big team and when Arrows chairlady Mato Madlala gave him her blessings to move, he could not resist Pirates.
“Sis Mato agreed that I can join Pirates, because my contract was over and there was a new coach in Muhsin Ertugral at Arrows.
“I saw an opportunity to play for a big team, though it didn’t feel good to leave Arrows, a team that made me and I was known because of them.
“The situation that time forced me to look for other new challenges elsewhere, because if you spend three seasons or more in one team, you are a first choice and enjoying game time, you end up relaxing, so change is good sometimes,” he stated.
“When I arrived at Pirates we were coached by Julio Leal, unfortunately he was fired and Augusto Palacious took over.”
“Palacios only knew players from Pirates development, that’s what he said and he preferred them over other players and that surprised me.
“I never got a chance to prove myself there, even my friend Mark Mayambela, I asked him about his situation and he told me that things were different at Pirates.
“We would perform at training and give our best but come match day you don’t even make the 18-man squad. That’s when I thought that I arrived at Pirates at a wrong time, because I was not given a chance.”
The situation propelled Manqana to move back to KZN but with a different club, as he looked for game time at AmaZulu.
“At AmaZulu all was well, I remember we were coached by Craig Rosslee whom I worked well with. We found the team in position 15 on the log, I remember scoring an important goal against Platinum Stars and we ended up on ninth position.”
The 35-year-old former Golden Arrows attacking midfielder still believes that he played his best football at Abafana Bes’thende.
“It’s at Arrows where I played my best football, I played with people from our development there. So the team that won the MTN8 was recruited by the late Rocky Madlala.”
“During our development days he would tell us that one day we’ll be a force to be reckoned with, that guy believed in us, though we were not aware of our potential at the time.
“I wish I had an opportunity to go back to Arrows and retire there with some of the players I played with. It was my intention to get another chance to play for my team again but it never happened.”
Manqana who is now working on getting his coaching badges believes current South African players, in the PSL need to up their game in order for them to be competitive against their foreign counterparts.
“Our players don’t want to work hard, meanwhile foreign players will do everything to fight and work for the team.
“Once you tell them how good they are, a South African player will get bigheaded and stop playing for the team. They stop working hard and playing for the team.”
With both his former teams AmaZulu and Golden Arrows doing quite well in the Dstv Premiership this season, Manqana voiced his satisfaction about their form.
“I’m over the moon with the way both my former teams are playing, the fact that they are lifting the KZN flag high, we are all happy for them.
“I think they will do well in Africa, if they end up qualifying, even though it won’t be easy because it will be their first time but their determination shows that they can do well.”
By Wonga Sirayi
FARPost’s KZN Reporter