There was a mystery around Orlando Pirates forward Monnapule Saleng when he made his debut against Mamelodi Sundowns. Saleng was signed by Pirates in July 2021 but was immediately loaned out to Swallows for the 2021/22 season.
Despite making 29 appearances for the Birds last term, with two goals to his name, the 24-year old was a relative unknown quantity when he got a surprise debut against Sundowns in the MTN8 semi-final first leg. Saleng caused waves across the country with his silky skills after famously making Andile Jali tumble to the ground in an encounter that ended goalless.
The former Free State Stars winger went on to prove that he's not only about tricky twists and turns on the field, as he followed up that performance with five goals in eight appearances in all competitions to date for the Sea Robbers.
Saleng has attributed his form, which earned him a call-up to Bafana Bafana, to the loan period he spent at Swallows, which made him get used to topflight football.
"I think timing is everything. I don’t think I could’ve given what I’m giving now without adjusting to topflight football first," Saleng told SAFA media.
"So moving to Swallows to acclimatize and then coming to Orlando Pirates to perform was a good move. I needed that."
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It's easy to forget that Saleng only made his debut for Pirates just over two months ago and has been dubbed as the superstar in newspaper headlines and he was quick to point out that he has not reached that level yet. The tricky left-footed attacker, who grew up idolizing Netherlands legend Arjen Robben, according to his profile on the Pirates website, says he still has a long way to go before he can be regarded as a 'superstar'.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to be called a superstar. I am still learning, growing and getting used to life in the PSL. I’m nowhere near superstar status, not yet," he went on.
"I’m proud to represent my country. As much as I have plans for growth and playing overseas, I want to be here.
"I want to be a regular in the Bafana Bafana line-up, it is one of my dreams. There is so much pressure and hard work ahead of me to make all (that I) want to do with football become a reality," he added.
Saleng also owes his breakthrough to a change of coaches at the Buccaneers, as the arrival of head coach Jose Riveiro meant every player started on a clean slate. Riveiro showed his eye for talent and bravery, after choosing such a big game against the Brazilians to give Saleng his debut.
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