AmaZulu loan spell far from heady heights of Al Ahly

The rise and fall of Mahlambi

03 December 2020 - 07:37
By Sihle Ndebele
Mamelodi Sundowns have sent out  Phakamani Mahlambi on loan to Durban side AmaZulu
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images Mamelodi Sundowns have sent out Phakamani Mahlambi on loan to Durban side AmaZulu

It has been the case of so much promise and hype, yet little delivered for Phakamani Mahlambi.

Hailed as “the next Benni McCarthy” when he burst on the scene five years ago, Mahlambi this week found himself shipped out by Mamelodi Sundowns to AmaZulu, a sign of a career dangerously going on the wane for the 23-year-old who not so long ago attracted the attentions of Al Ahly. Three years ago, Mahlambi earned a lucrative move to Africa's most successful side, who forked out about R20m to get him.

Today, Mahlambi finds himself on a season-long loan at AmaZulu from Sundowns. While the player said in a press conference this week that he moved solely to get more game time, it is known the Brazilians' patience with him was wearing thin amid growing competition after 13 new arrivals this season. Leaving a table-topping, ambitious team who've just won a treble cannot be seen as progression.

The Brazilians reportedly paid about R13m to lure Mahlambi back from Al Ahly, where he lasted a mere 11 months. Mahlambi played a minimal role in Ahly’s 2017/18 league triumph, playing 15 games with one goal and five assists.

How nice and historic would it have been for the lad from Louwsburg in KwaZulu-Natal to win the Champions League with coach Pitso Mosimane at the Red Devils? That would have been amazing for SA, but Mahlambi couldn’t see out his four-year deal in Cairo, hence he missed the opportunity to make history alongside Mosimane, who led Ahly to a ninth CAF Champions League title last weekend.

The language barrier and homesickness may have played a role in Mahlambi failing to knuckle down in Cairo, but with the off-field antics that surfaced during his stint at Chloorkop, you’ll never really know what led Al Ahly to give up on him.

When Mahlambi returned to SA from Egypt two years ago, expectations were that the 2016/17 Premier Soccer League (PSL) Young Player of the Season would eventually prove why his former coach at Wits, Gavin Hunt, tipped him to reach the heights McCarthy reached.

His spell at Downs was marred by reports of alcohol abuse that earned him the undesirable bad boy tag. In May last year, Mahlambi was kicked out of Bafana’s Cosafa Cup camp in Durban, with reports alleging he reported to camp drunk – a charge his camp vehemently denied.

Speaking to Sowetan yesterday, AmaZulu owner Sandile Zungu vowed they’ll make sure Mahlambi is well-taken care of, despite his questionable recent history.

“He’s a boy we’ll take good care of. We strive to help him reach his full potential. We will assign some senior people to look after him and mentor him. The boy needs to be counselled about some life choices,’’ said Zungu.

“He’s still growing up and he has a child and a partner, so we are positive we will get it right with him. All these footballers have their things, but it’s important to handle them with care and love.’’

Mahlambi’s stats across all competitions since bursting on the scene in 2016

• 2015/16 season: 16 appearances, 4 goals and 3 assists (Wits)

• 16/17: 16 games, 6 goals and 7 assists (Wits)

• 17/18: 15 games, 1 goal and five assists (Al Ahly)

• 18/19: 29 games, 6 goals and no assist (Downs)

• 19/20: 15 games, 1 goal and 1 assist (Downs)