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The battle to fight for Pirates

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Bucs coach says that a place in his team is earned....simply not given

PUTTING HIS HAND UP: Paseka Mako of Orlando Pirates put in a Man of the Match performance against Baroka FC on Tuesday which means he just may see more game time in future. Picture: Aubre Kgakantsi BackpagePix

“IT’S difficult,” Paseka Mako says, explaining the life of a fringe player at Orlando Pirates. But that difficulty will be eased a bit with the Buccaneers competing in three different competitions – the Absa Premiership, Nedbank Cup and the CAF Champions League.

Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic and his technical team will be forced to rotate players frequently as they don’t have the luxury of choosing one of the three tournaments. Pirates have to go for all three as the Soweto giants are on their fifth year without a trophy.

The Serbian has partially rotated his squad in anticipation of what will be a gruelling finale in the league race with the Champions League and the Nedbank Cup also in the mix.

That rotation has meant that players like Mako have struggled to cement their places in the starting XI. The 24-year-old has featured in 13 of the club’s 18 league matches. But in those 13 matches, he only played 90 minutes six times. He showed his worth in the 1-1 draw with Baroka FC on Tuesday at Orlando Stadium with a Man of the Match performance.

“As you know in the team we have good players, I have to fight to be in the starting XI. Getting the Man of the Match award means a lot to me because I haven’t played in a long time. I have to fight to get into the starting XI regularly,” Mako said.

Play your part

“It’s difficult for me because we have good players here. We train the same. If someone is out and you come in, you have to play your part It’s not about me but the team and the badge.”

Sredojevic will make a few changes to the XI that drew with Baroka when he takes on Black Leopards in Venda on Saturday in the last 32 of the Nedbank Cup. The Buccaneers lifted this trophy in 2014 under another Serbian coach, Vladimir Vermezovic. Sredojevic will be looking to emulate his countryman, but is aware that the Buccaneers have a chance to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

“The intention is to widen the pool of players so that they have mileage in their legs and match fitness. So that no matter which player is selected, the team still keeps quality performances as much as possible,” Sredojevic said. “Looking at the players that we have, we are really looking to squeeze the last cell out of them to get the best out of them through the talent and quality they have.

“There is a strong competitiveness in the team with three players in almost every position. There is a pecking order but everyone is fighting for their chance, no one finds it easy or is relaxed thinking that their place is guaranteed. A place is earned and is not given.”

Sredojevic continued, “Paseka, with his performance against Baroka, has knocked on the door of the competitive team and widened the pool to choose from. He has given us a sweet problem of having to choose who will give us the best possible service in front of us. He knows that his performance could have been better. He knows that.”