After marking his debut for the South African senior national team with a blistering goal, Maritzburg United striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane has opened up about his first call up and his performance.
The Maritzburg-born striker revealed to FARPost that he was not expecting to be included in the Bafana squad, his heart was still healing from the U23 snub.
“I was very happy to be called up to the senior national team. I’m not gonna lie to you, it was not on my mind and I did not expect it,” said the rising star.
“After missing out of the U23 Olympics squad, I just told myself that I must focus on my team, because not all is lost. I just wanted to carry on doing well for my team.
“Even the coach (Ernst Middendorp) called me and told me not to worry about not receiving a call-up to the U23. He told me to keep my head up, because other opportunities will come,” said Hlongwane.
The 20-year-old player further revealed that he felt pressure when he learnt that he was going to start his first game for Bafana Bafana against Uganda at Orlando Stadium, which the home side won 3-2 recently.
He also talked about his performance, in which he scored a brilliant goal for his country on debut. “I felt under pressure because it was my first game for the national team and people are expecting a lot from me.
“People don’t care if it’s my debut for Bafana, all they want is to see the same performance I’ve been producing for my team.”
“I just told myself that I should not worry because I know football and it was just a different jersey from what I’m used to. I just had to play my normal game and focus on helping my national team,” continued Hlongwane.
The DStv Premiership 2020/21 Young Player of the Season nominee conceded that he struggled a bit in the first half against the Ugandan defence, but the half time talk helped him to improve.
“My first half was not good, because most of the time I struggled a bit with off-the-ball running and I didn’t get passes at the right time.
“It got better when the coach changed the formation, bringing on a striker and playing me on the wing.
“The guys told me to take on the defender and I did exactly that and I scored, from that move.”
“I was very happy to score on debut, because on my mind I just wanted to play well, I mean a lot of people have lost hope on Bafana. It was my wish that people can rekindle their love for Bafana, because the more we get support is the more we get confident.
“It’s important to get support from our country, I mean we are playing for them, for our families.
“I think people will be expecting me to do better than my performance against Uganda, in the future. But if I get another chance it won’t be the same I’ll do much better,” concluded Hlongwane.
By Wonga Sirayi
FARPost’s KZN Reporter