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