Rising sport stars poised to make their mark in the DStv Premiership
There are a few exciting players who will be looking to establish themselves this season, with their eyes firmly on the young player award as well as any domino effects that come with outstanding performances.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has sounded a call for Premier Soccer League (PSL) coaches to put their trust in more young players.
He has led by example, including them in the recent Fifa World Cup qualifiers where the likes of Ethan Brooks of TS Galaxy, and Bongokuhle Hlongwane, who plays for Maritzburg United, shone. Reigning PSL young player of the season Evidence Makgopa is also set to feature regularly under Broos.
The Belgian coach will be hoping that these players will carry on improving, while they, too, will push themselves knowing that performing well on a regular basis will help their continuing development and hopefully earn them moves to some of the bigger South African clubs or even internationally.
The 20-year-old midfielder has been quite consistent since making the step up into the top flight with TS Galaxy in the 2020/2021 season.
Unless you’re N’Golo Kante, being a deep-lying midfielder can be a thankless job. The lack of frills that comes with being a good defensive midfielder, especially in a country that gets hypnotised by aimless showboating, can mean that the brilliance of someone like Ethan Brooks can fly under the radar.
Not for Broos though. After Bafana Bafana started their World Cup qualifying campaign on a high, the 69-year-old Bafana mentor singled out Brooks for praise.
“I think, if I can use the example of Ethan Brooks… He produced a very, very good game today. So, he took his chance, and over the next few months, all the young players will get their chance,” Broos said after his side had seen off Ghana to win an important three points.
Of course, despite being one of the first names on the team sheet at Galaxy, Brooks still has room for improvement – especially if he harbours hopes of one day making an international move.
One thing is certain though, if he continues on the current trajectory, he is set to become a household name in the mould of legendary PSL midfielders such as Tinashe Nengomasha, Esrom Nyandoro and, most recently, Willard Katsande.
Baroka’s lanky 21-year-old forward is the reigning PSL player of the season.
Evidence Makgopa will be hoping to put on similar or better performances to those displayed last season, when he finished with seven goals and registered three assists from 28 DStv Premiership games to help his side finish comfortably above the relegation zone in 10th place.
His performance attracted the attention of Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, although no transfer ultimately happened and Makgopa is once again spearheading the Bakgaga attack in the 2021/2022 campaign.
He scored one goal in three matches during South Africa’s botched Tokyo Olympics’ run, and has caught the eye of Broos in the national team, especially with Bafana currently starved of a senior traditional number nine. A brace on debut in a friendly against Uganda significantly raised his profile.
Still, if he is to improve on these impressive numbers and possibly defend his title as the best young player, he will have to take his level a few notches higher. Although, standing at 1.9m tall, scaling new heights shouldn’t be a problem for the Limpopo native.
An array of talented youngsters currently call Kaizer Chiefs home. This includes midfield starlet Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, as well as Sabelo Radebe, who shone during the Carling Black Label Cup in pre-season, but has since found game time a rare commodity as Amakhosi coach Stuart Baxter opts for his more experienced midfielders.
A young midfielder who has seen ample game time so far this season, though, is 21-year-old Njabulo Blom.
The Soweto native has played every Chiefs game so far this season, albeit in the unfamiliar positions of right back and right-wing back. He clocked 46 games last season, playing in this new position occasionally under Gavin Hunt.
“I am trying to give my best in each and every position that they play me; that’s the mentality that I have at the moment. Wherever they put me, I will do my best and work hard,” Blom said recently.
The 21-year-old Maritzburg United forward is the toast of the town after scoring the crucial goal that saw Bafana Bafana edge out Ghana in their World Cup qualifier during the most recent international Fifa break.
Having accumulated 22 appearances last season, scoring three and assisting another three during that time, Bongokuhle Hlongwane is set to be even more integral to Ernst Middendorp’s side this season.
Two senior forwards – Thabiso Kutumela and Judas Moseamedi – have been sold, paving the way for the composed youngster to step up and take on more responsibility.
Depending on the overall team performances of the inconsistent KwaZulu-Natal side, Hlongwane has a chance to better his numbers from the 2020/2021 season, and push further than the young player of the season nomination he scored last campaign.
Supersport United boasts some of the most talented youngsters in South African football, with the likes of centre back Luke Fleurs, Keenan Phillips and midfielder Jamie Webber on their books.
So far this season, though, it has been midfield anchor Jesse Donn who has stolen all the plaudits. The 22-year-old has notched up two player of the match awards, which came in consecutive games.
His performances early in the season have drawn comparisons between him and former Supersport/Bafana midfield conductor Dean Furman.
He is hopeful that his brilliant start will pave the way for him to have his best season in the DStv Premiership to date.
“It feels great to be a consistent starter at the moment. In my previous two seasons at the club, I haven’t had a strong start to the season, so hopefully this will set me and the team up for a competitive season ahead,” Donn said.
Another Baroka product, the 21-year-old midfielder has slotted in seamlessly into a star-studded Pirates central midfield.
Goodman Mosele has played 90 minutes in each of their three league games to date, scoring his first goal for the club in their two-all draw versus Stellenbosch in August.
Should he maintain or improve on the start he’s had with the Buccaneers, he will undoubtedly be considered when the PSL compiles its list of young players of the season, an award that he previously won after sterling performances for Baroka.
Nigerian winger Ibraheem Jabaar is the youngest player to make an appearance in the Premiership to date.
The Stellenbosch player was just 18 years and nine months old when he made an appearance for the Cape Town side in their season-opening fixture versus Pirates in August.
Having joined halfway through the 2020/2021 season, he quickly established himself as an integral part of coach Steve Barker’s side and is poised to play an important role for Stellies this season. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.