Orlando Pirates defender Innocent Maela is ectastic after helping South Africa to win the Four-Nation tournament in Zambia.
The left-back played the entire match as Bafana Bafana beat Zambia's Chipolopolo 2-0 in the final at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola on Saturday.
“You always remember the first time. I remember the first boots I ever got, the first professional game I ever played, even the first shibobo!. All players dream of representing the country of their birth and I am no different, I aim to continue improving at club level so that I can get more opportunities to represent my country," he told the Pirates' official website.
Maela made his debut for Bafana against Tanzania during the 2017 Cosafa Cup which was hosted by South Africa. H eplayed the entire match as Bafana suffered a 1-0 defeat the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
“Making my debut for Bafana Bafana was honour and a privilege. I never thought it would happen so soon. It felt remarkable to don the national colours, a dream come true. It has always been a dream of mine to represent the country. Ever since I was a small boy, I pictured myself playing for Bafana Bafana. When you play international football you face the best players that a country has to offer and you see a different level to your game," the 25-year-old continued.
“The experience of being in the national team is priceless. I am grateful to the technical team for having the confidence in me and for giving me an opportunity to play. Without them I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to represent my country. I also want to thank the Bafana Bafana coach Mr Baxter for having given me this opportunity,” Maela added.
“It’s a life-changing experience playing for Bafana, it comes with a lot of responsibility and there’s no room for mistakes. You stand side-by-side with your teammates and fight for your nation. It gives you a lot of humility and see things from a bigger perspective. It’s bigger than the team," he said.
Last season, Maela was playing in the National First Division (NFD) on loan at Thanda Royal Zulu from Pirates. The talented full-back helped Thanda win the league title as the club captain.
“It is crazy how quickly things have been happening. Sometimes I need to pinch myself to remind myself of what is happening. Fortunately I have people around me who are helping me to remain grounded. I am still focussed on improving on my craft and hopefully I can continue improving so that I can make a positive difference to my club and country," he said.
“The speed at which my career is moving is quite scary when you think of it, but everything has it’s time and whenever you believe in God and stay faithful to Him, then remarkable things happen in a short space of time. I’m truly humbled by how God continues to exceed my expectations," he concluded.
Maela's half-brother, Tsepo Masilela, who is currently on the books of Kaizer Chiefs, has made 51 appearances for Bafana.