Mahlambi: I might even be better than Benni

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Phakamani Mahlambi
  • Post published:October 19, 2016

It is almost impossible to find an observer of South African football who would argue against the unbridled talent that is Phakamani Mahlambi, writes WADE PRETORIUS in SoccerClub magazine.

It was a cruel twist of fate that robbed the 19-year-old of a starring role at the 2016 Rio Olympics but, with the maturity of a player 10 years his senior, he has already wiped that disappointment from his memory bank as he presses forward with his plans to take his game to the next level.

‘Yes, the injury put a dent in my confidence because at the time I was performing well, but I’ve dealt with that now and I don’t see it as much of a problem,’ the richly talented teenager tells SoccerClub.

Mahlambi has already taken a good look at the landscape and believes he has half a season or, at most, one campaign to show the foreign scouts that he is ready to take his game from the Premiership to the elite leagues of Europe.

‘I’m looking forward to this season so I can prove myself and do well for the team.’

A move abroad, often encouraged by those former players who made the switch themselves, will not be done as part of the process; instead Mahlambi eyes a deal at a top club in which to showcase his skills.

‘I want to be in Europe playing for a good club. I don’t want to just go there for the sake of going there. I want to play, perform and do well, so I can play for Bafana Bafana,’ he says.

Although he remains uncapped, the Bidvest Wits starlet intends on changing that position as soon as he can and won’t be taking no for an answer: ‘I don’t know if I’m in the coach’s plans. Even though I may not be now, when the season starts, I’m going to prove Shakes wrong and make sure he has no choice. He’ll have to pick me in his squad.’

Not since the days of Benni McCarthy has Bafana Bafana had a lethal goal-scorer. Is Mahlambi the man to change that?

‘Yeah, I can say so because they’ve been struggling with their strike force and we’ve seen our strikers – they are unable to score. I’m looking forward to scoring goals for Bafana and my dream is to play at the World Cup finals in 2018.’

Mahlambi’s ambitions match his potential and experienced coach Gavin Hunt has somewhat notoriously labelled his most-prized asset as ‘the next Benni’, a marker the Johannesburg-born star is comfortable with.

‘I think the coach has seen something special in me when he says I’m the next Benni, and that has put me under a little bit of pressure.

‘You know how people talk … saying “This is the young Benni, look what he’s doing and all of that” but I will continue to work even harder and I’m going to prove to coach Gavin that I might even be better than Benni.’

– This article first appeared in Issue 73 of SoccerClub magazine