He was known as a tough guy midfield enforcer, but former Vasco da Gama, Hellenic and Cape Town Spurs midfielder Manny Rodrigues could really play the game too!
Manny, you won the double at Cape Town Spurs with the likes of ex-Vasco players Andre Arendse and Shaun Bartlett. What was this period in your career like?
It was easy [being in a squad with them] but it was also self-motivating. It was a good squad which forced you to raise your level and perform. Training was very competitive, almost like a game, and everyone competed for a spot in the starting eleven.
The success of that side and the players who were in that side – where several went on to a higher level of football in the country – is a true testament to the coach and players in the squad.
What made that squad so special?
We had a few foreigners, and by foreigners I mean players outside of Cape Town, who were phenomenal. But we had a good amount of local players too.
Emphasis isn’t put on the local players nowadays and back then we had a few players who played for the shirt and the badge of the team.
We had the likes of Sebba Rodrigues, Craig Rosslee, Shaun Bartlett and Andre Arendse, and all of us Cape Town players pushed for a place in the squad.
Many thought you and Sebba Rodrigues were brothers. What is your relationship with him like?
It is fantastic. I spent most of my career with him. I can’t think of him as not being like a brother. From the age of eight we grew up playing together. He is a fantastic guy, athlete and player.
What do you think about Vasco da Gama having been an important launch pad for Cape Town Spurs?
It definitely was a launch pad because initially CT Spurs used to take the players from Vasco da Gama. I preferred Vasco because of the management and directorship which had a better following than CT Spurs.
That is why it was fantastic that they reached the PSL for the 2010/2011 season. Vasco made things easier for Spurs. When a player didn’t make the cut there they would go back to Vasco to get more game time and exposure, which was a big help.
You were a part of the last genuinely competitive Hellenic team before the club faded away, what was it playing for such a side?
The last few years were really tough. Partly due to their mandate which was difficult, but also because they were focused on pushing through the youngsters from their academy. They were continuously pushing players who weren’t ready to play at that level.
In my first year there it was a much older group of players but my second and third year, which were my last two years there, were when we were constantly fighting off relegation and that was due to too many youngsters.
What are your thoughts on Cape football?
Cape Town is in a negative space. We lost Santos to the National First Division recently and we have the likes of Vasco da Gama there too.
We are losing a lot of our local talent to other teams, but now we have started to see that the NFD are using more local players. It is sad. I don’t want to watch a team like Vasco for example with 12 Johannesburg players in it.
Who was the best midfielder you played with and against?
It would have to be David Modise. He was like 40 something years old but he was streets ahead of me. He was phenomenal. Just like in chess where you always have to be ahead of your opponent, David was always ahead of everyone.
The toughest midfielder I played against would be Ernest Chirwali. I played with and against a great number of players, but he was competitive in every game.
Who is the best player you played with?
It is difficult to try and embody what would mean the ‘best’. I was lazy and not dedicated but I wanted to play. Football isn’t individualistic when it comes to players, but I think David Modise would be best. I don’t think there was anyone better than him.