May Mahlangu

Even some keen local sports fans only really took notice of May Mahlangu six months ago. It happened at the glittering moment he received a pass on the 18-yard box at the Moses Mabhida stadium during the Africa Cup of Nations, took two steps and ripped the ball past the stricken Morocco goalkeeper with his rifle right foot. It was his second goal for Bafana, but that sort of strike is Mahlangu’s stock in trade for Swedish club side Helsingborgs IF. “Every time after training I always stay behind and do shooting outside the box,” he explains. “So [scoring] was not a surprise for me.” Mahlangu grew up in the small industrial town of Secunda, in Mpumalanga. By 15 his talent was obvious and he won an opportunity to train in Sweden. That’s where the mohawked midfielder has been ever since, debuting for Helsingborgs in the top league in 2009. But it was his 2011 form that made him sporting royalty in Sweden. His lashing pace and smart attacks helped his team to the league and cup double, and he was named both league player of the year and Sweden’s athlete of the year. He won 17 man of the match awards that season. Bafana Bafana selectors took note and picked Mahlangu for his international debut early in 2012 in a friendly against Equatorial Guinea. Predictably, the transfer market is alive with chatter about this “Scandinavian Messi”. Only a reported R25-million price tag was said to have kept him in Helsingborg in the January transfer window. Bids for the wonder from Secunda are expected to revive in July, but one suspects this mature youngster will take that in his ever-assured stride. “You have to be patient,” says the 24-year-old. “Everything is possible. I know several teams are looking at me.”

— Ian Macleod

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