Seven clubs may not be ideal, but Mahlangu has no re­grets

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MAZOLA MOLEFE

FOOT­BALL jour­ney­men don’t usu­ally have a good rep­u­ta­tion but May Mahlangu seems to be an ex­cep­tion.

Af­ter nearly a decade abroad, the Bafana Bafana mid­fielder is at his sev­enth club and still feels that he has more to of­fer the na­tional team and his new club in Ro­ma­nia – FC Di­namo Bu­curesti.

He has won five tro­phies in Swe­den, in­clud­ing a league ti­tle as well as a Foot­baller of the Year award. But Mahlangu found him­self stranded af­ter leav­ing Hels­ing­borgs IF.

He went to Turkey for six months and then to Bel­gium, where he worked with Bafana’s all- time top- scorer, Benni McCarthy, who was the as­sis­tant coach at Sint- Truidense. Ro­ma­nia was his next stop.

“I have only played two games so far be­cause I re­ceived my work per­mit late. The man­ager ( Ioan An­done) wanted to use me straight away, but there were de­lays with my pa­per­work,” said Mahlangu, speak­ing in hot and slightly hu­mid con­di­tions ahead of Bafana’s open­ing 2018 World Cup qual­i­fier against Burk­ina Faso tonight.

“It is such a big team with hum­ble am­bi­tions. We have lost back-to-back games now and the fans are an­gry, which tells you just how mas­sive the club is there. I am there to achieve, and the three- year con­tract gives me a chance to set­tle in my first year and then show what I can do from then on.”

It doesn’t bother him that he has moved from one club to an­other when many felt that he could have stayed in Swe­den, win­ning tro­phies and A TOPSY-TURVY week for Bafana Bafana cul­mi­nates with a must-win clash against Burk­ina Faso tonight at the Stade du 4 Aout, and coach Shakes Mashaba says the plan is to match the hosts’ phys­i­cal­ity.

“We’ve got to match them pound for pound,” he said. “I have al­ways said that the Burk­in­abe are strong and some of the play­ers have got skill as well. Yes, our play­ers are a (smaller) size, but that doesn’t mean we have to go there as sheep to slaugh­ter. We are go­ing to com­pete and we need to get two goals in this game in or­der to be on the right track.”

Mashaba, pic­tured, has opted to ig­nore the crit­ics along with the scorch­ing heat in Ouagadougou: “Peo­ple will talk about the con­di­tions, but it is the same for the other team as well. This thing of say­ing it’s hot is only phys­i­o­log­i­cal.

“What we need to do is step up our gear. My fear is that when you are the vis­it­ing team, the home side come hard at you in the open­ing 10 to 20 min­utes to show they are in their own back­yard,” he ex­plained.

“That is what we need to try and con­tain, make sure we are strong to with­stand that kind of ap­proach. Once we have done that, then we come back to our level and stan­dard of play­ing, with com­bi­na­tions and try­ing to get the ball out of our own half. Just those few things to be able to get the win.” – Mazola Molefe col­lect­ing per­sonal ac­co­lades while also ce­ment­ing his place as a Bafana reg­u­lar.

With his po­ten­tial, you can’t help but think that Mahlangu could have aimed a lot higher than set­tling in Bucharest.

“If you say I could have moved to a big­ger league, I will ask you in re­turn what you mean by that,” he said.

“When I played in Swe­den, peo­ple didn’t know much about that league, or me, although Hels­ing­borgs is a big cub there.

“I have played with guys like Hen­rik Lars­son, a for­mer Manch­ester United and Barcelona striker. Ev­ery­thing I achieved in Swe­den never hap­pened overnight. I worked so hard, seven years to push my­self and achieve,” the 27-year-old added.

“You must have a plan and con­tinue to work hard. I went from be­ing at the Stars of Africa Academy in South Africa straight to Europe, that was marvellous and a bless­ing.

“But then I was in­jured for nine months, which held me back and no­body wanted to sign an in­jured player. It was a test from God, but I don’t regret any­thing.”

What a lot of peo­ple don’t know about Mahlangu’s ca­reer is that he al­most moved to one of the big­gest leagues in the world – the Span­ish La Liga, where he could have rubbed shoul­ders with Lionel Messi and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo. But it wasn’t to be.

“I had an of­fer from Elche,” he re­vealed. “My agent (Rob Moore) worked hard to get me that deal and I went there and signed a good con­tract.

“Then a few days later, the club told me they could not af­ford to pay me be­cause of fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, so I had to take a de­ci­sion be­tween look­ing for an­other club or go­ing to the Span­ish lower di­vi­sions with them. Re­mem­ber that they were rel­e­gated (at the end of the 2014-15) sea­son be­cause of un­paid tax debts. What if I had gone there? May Mahlangu would be stuck in the lower leagues in Spain. Things hap­pen for a rea­son.”

It’s Bucharest for now then.

MAY MAHLANGU: Al­most played with Messi and Ron­aldo ...

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