Benson Mhlongo comes full circle as coach of NFD's Sporting
Benson Mhlongo has returned to where it all started for him: first division football.
The former Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana midfielder, who cut his teeth as the Pirates Multichoice Diski Challenge head coach last season, marked a new chapter yesterday as the head coach of newly promoted National First Division (NFD) side TS Sporting.
He takes over from Mfanimpela Maseko, who has been demoted to the role of assistant coach. Maseko guided the Mpumalanga-based outfit to promotion.
"It feels the same as when I started playing football," Mhlongo told Sowetan after his unveiling in Mbombela yesterday.
"It never crossed my mind that I'll one day become a coach one but I had learnt a lot from the many coaches I played under in my career. The NFD is the right place to start as a coach.
"Some people would question whether I am experienced but I have played in the NFD before and I know what it takes to strive for promotion to the big league.
"For now, we'll focus on the job at hand and try our best to make TS Sporting a formidable side in the NFD."
Mhlongo has ruffled feathers along the way in his career, notably during spells at Polokwane City and Platinum Stars.
"I nearly lost passion for the game after the Nyundu incident but my wife pushed me to carry on in the game," Mhlongo said, in reference to a 2015 incident where he exposed the exploitation of Polokwane teammate Roggert Nyundu.
The former Bafana Bafana midfielder also blasted Pirates on national TV, accusing the Soweto club of wanting to end his career prematurely, only to emerge in their coaching structures in November 2016. He served as Pirates' assistant coach for two seasons.
"I am honest person and all those things that happened were part of my journey, which, in turn, made me a stronger person. I've also learned to be calm and humble," said Mhlongo
Sporting spokesperson Mthobisi Thobela said stories that the NFD rookies had hired former SA youth coach Solly Luvhengo were unfounded.
"There were negotiations but we never confirmed Solly as our coach," said Thobela, adding that Mhlongo had walked the path as a player despite his limited experience as a coach.
Pirates said their former captain departed with the blessing of club chairman Irvin Khoza.