Phakamani Mahlambi 19 Midfielder Bidvest Wits South Africa
Exceptionally exciting teenage attacking midfielder slash striker that has become one of the most talked about players in his home country for a generation.
Born in Johannesburg in 1997, Phakamani Mahlambi joined Bidvest Wits in 2013 direct from the Transnet School of Excellence. Making his debut for The Clever Boys against Ajax Cape Town in August 2015 as a second half substitute, the teenager made a significant impression on home fans with his pace and direct running. Mahlambi’s display wasn’t without end product too as he laid on the match winning goal for Mozambique winger Domingues in a 2-1 victory.
With national attention focusing on the exciting talent, Bidvest coach Gavin Hunt sensibly kept Mahlambi out of the limelight but would give the youngster a full debut against Orlando Pirates in late October, 2015. Over the coming weeks, with their explosive new discovery hitting top gear and scoring goals, Bidvest were flying and found themselves sat top of the table within weeks of Mahlambi’s first match.
2016 has been…
Devastating. As his team was going toe to toe with Mamelodi Sundowns in pursuit of the club’s first ever Championship title, Mahlambi was dealt the cruelest of cruel blows. With his side level against University of Pretoria in mid February, the youngster suffered a particularly nasty cruciate knee injury which has kept him out of action since. Inevitably, Bidvest’s title challenge suffered and Mahlambi’s chances of appearing for his country at the Rio Olympics this summer went out of the window.
Seeing such an injury occur at a critical point in the player's development was truly heartbreaking to witness and cannot have been easy to endure. In an interview with The Red Bulletin in July, Mahlambi revealed the extent of the damage:
"The doctors wanted to take some tendon from my hamstring to repair my knee but my pace would have slowed if they’d done that. My brother, Mthobisi, stepped up and said 'No, take mine'. He is my hero, my twin, my everything."
The good news is that Mahlambi is just returning to first team action following a ten-month lay off. If everything works out then it shouldn’t be long before the attacker begins making an impact for his club again, he really is that good. Quick, two footed, aggressive and absolutely explosive, there is very good reason to believe that the teenager could be a true breakout star on the world stage.
The caveat here, of course, is that Mahlambi’s injury has been particularly difficult and the level of surgery required is a huge concern. Bidvest have handled his career very well so far and have made no attempt to rush their protégé back too soon, all vitally important decisions. If he can gradually pick things up over a period of months, with no extra pressure placed on such young shoulders, then the journey to greatness for South Africa’s new star should be a joy to watch.
D We’re marking the year here, not the player. He’s a gem but 2016 has been rotten
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