Ntokozo Gumede
Football Writer
3 minute read
6 Jan 2022
8:31 am

Sundowns ‘target’ joins American side

Ntokozo Gumede

'We’re pleased to sign him, we know there was competition to get him,' said Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath.

Bafana Bafana striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane has joined Minnesota United from Maritzburg United. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix.

Mamelodi Sundowns, and other top DStv Premiership sides who had their eyes on Bongokuhle Hlongwane, have had forget about those plans after Maritzburg United chiselled out a deal for the 21-year-old to join MLS side Minnesota United in the USA.

ALSO READ: Khoza – still no verdict on Kaizer Chiefs Covid-19 saga

Hlongwane, a product of the Team of Choice’s development structures, broke into the senior team by the time he turned 18, going on to represent the side on 56 occasions and establishing himself as a regular in the new-look Bafana Bafana side.

Maritzburg chairman Farook Kadodia said the player’s family had a lot of influence in the decision to move to America, as they snubbed all local offers.  

“Bongokhule’s family also believed that this opportunity will assist their son’s ambition of competing and gaining experience both as a footballer and youngster in new surroundings. With the MLS kicking off in February, it was not possible to delay the move to the end of this season, as we as a club would have preferred. ”Kadodia was quoted as saying in a statement released by the club.

“As much as it will sadden us to see him go, especially at this crucial stage of the current DStv Premiership season, we are proud to see him embark on a new chapter in his career and we thank him for his efforts with Maritzburg and wish him all the best for his career at club and international level,” he added.

Kadodia counted: “Such has been the quality and consistency of his performances that it was not a surprise that the club had received a number of offers both locally and internationally for him, however the player has always had his heart set on playing abroad and this opportunity presents him with an exciting new challenge to test himself in a highly competitive environment.”

Minnesota are coached by former Everton star Adrian Heath, and he said Hlongwane’s speed was one of the main reasons the club wanted to sign him.

“The one thing we’ve spoken about is getting someone with game-changing pace on this roster,” Heath told Minnesota United’s official website.

“He has absolutely explosive pace, but he also looks to combine and build with his teammates. We love his raw talents, but his football IQ is exceptional. Ask any defender what scares them and who the hardest players to mark are and inevitably it’s someone with intelligent movement and pace and we feel he possesses both of these qualities.

“He’s got huge upside; he’s now broken into the South African national team and we’ve spoken to his national team coach and he says it’s only the tip of the iceberg for what’s to come. He will be a work in progress for the club, but his physical attributes, his raw talent and football intelligence are impressive. We’re pleased to sign him, we know there was competition to get him and so we are pleased he’s a Loon.”