Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates left back Innocent Maela spent much of the flight to Morocco this past weekend chatting to fellow Witbank-native Percy Tau.
“We were talking about our experiences in club football, he (Tau) was telling me about the Champions League final and how bad it was for him not to win it (with Al Ahly), because he wanted to create history,” Maela told Safa media.
“I also told him about my final (Orlando Pirates lost to Moroccan side RS Berkane in the Caf Confederation Cup final).
“Other than that I was asking about his family and how it was going in Egypt. He was asking me about life in Joburg, but I didn’t say anything, I was listening, his life is more interesting! For seven hours the catch up was good!”
It remains to be seen if Maela will feature alongside Tau in Thursday’s opening 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Group K qualifier against Morocco in Rabat (Kick off 9pm SA time).
He has been battling an abductor injury picked up in Pirates’ penultimate DStv Premiership game of the season.
“I am very confident things will go well for me .. when I reported to camp I was not 100 percent fit, but ever since I got here the treatment I have got has been good … the coach (Hugo Broos) has been cautious, managing my load,” added Maela, who is one of two options at left back for Broos, alongside Lyle Lakay, following the withdrawal from the squad of the injured Terrence Mashego.
If Maela does feature, he certainly has plenty of experience of continental football with Pirates to draw on. He says this helped in the 18-hour flight and subsequent bus ride that finally got Bafana to Rabat.
“The journey was difficult … but fortunately some of us are used to playing continental football,” said Maela.
“It does make it easier. The second flight I didn’t sleep and had a chat to Percy, that shows I am used to travelling. I know how to manage it, I know the perfect time to sleep and the perfect time to stay awake.”
The 29 year-old, meanwhile, knows Bafana have a tough task against the Atlas Lions, packed with talent from the European leagues and currently the second-ranked side on the continent.
“We know it will be a difficult match against a very good team, but we also know we are more than capable of winning,” said Maela, who also talked of the step up in class that international football provides.
“In international football the quality is higher, so you have to make sure that in preparation you make less mistakes – one mistake can decide the whole of the match. In our league (the Premier Soccer League), the quality in general is not the same.”