World at his feet: Relebohile Mofokeng all smiles at his first Bafana training

Broos impressed with young Orlando Pirates attacker's attitude

04 June 2024 - 10:54
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Orlando Pirates teammates Patrick Maswanganyi (left) and Relebohile Mofokeng during a Bafana Bafana training session at Dobsonville Stadium on Monday.
Orlando Pirates teammates Patrick Maswanganyi (left) and Relebohile Mofokeng during a Bafana Bafana training session at Dobsonville Stadium on Monday.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

The boyish face was garnished with a naughty grin — it was clearly evident what it meant for Orlando Pirates' rising star Relebohile Mofokeng. 

Johannesburg's Monday afternoon cold dropped below bitter and unforgiving but it was not enough to cool the auspicious occasion of Mofokeng’s first training session with Bafana Bafana at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto. 

Mofokeng, 19, has been called to the national squad for the first time and may make his debut in the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria in Uyo on Friday (9pm SA time) or Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein on Tuesday (6pm) as a reward for his scintillating domestic season. 

If he does, he will join the likes of Aaron Mokoena, Quinton Fortune and Rivaldo Coetzee among the youngest players to represent South Africa. 

In the season that ended with Pirates lifting the Nedbank Cup with a stirring 2-1 win against Mamelodi Sundowns at Mbombela Stadium where Mofokeng scored a gem of a winner, the youngster featured in 38 matches in all competitions, scoring five goals and providing six assists. 

His attacking play, where he has formed a devastating combination with Patrick Maswanganyi, has been impressive, but he has been urged to work on his finishing, especially considering Pirates will be playing in the Champions League next season. 

Mofokeng's season ended with a flourish in the Nedbank final, where, held back as an impact player off the bench, he provided what was needed, taking Bongani Zungu to the cleaners scoring the 93rd-minute winner that brought Pirates their second trophy of the campaign. 

It will not to be easy to get game time against Nigeria and Zimbabwe considering Bafana coach Hugo Broos has called up eight attackers, the others being Themba Zwane, Oswin Appollis, Maswanganyi, Iqraam Rayners, Elias Mokwana, Lyle Foster and Percy Tau. 

To get the much-needed goals, Broos is likely to go with the tried and tested formula of Tau and Foster, back from his six-month exit from the national team with mental health issues, upfront with Maswanganyi, Rayners, Mokwana and Mofokeng to deputise. 

On Monday, Broos spoke in glowing terms about Mofokeng and his conduct when he arrived at camp on Sunday. 

“I was happy to see him on Sunday — he had the respect of every player. He knows he is young and must respect the players who have showed up many more times than him,” Boos said. 

“He is with players who have been in the Premier Soccer League for eight to 10 years; some have scored many more goals than him.

“He was fantastic [when he arrived] but at the same time he knows there is still a long way to go. I am impressed with his attitude and I am happy with that.” 

Given his Nedbank Cup heroics, there has been heightened focus on Mofokeng and Broos said the youngster needs to try by all means to block out the noise and stay grounded. 

“It can be difficult when you receive a lot of good publicity, like he has this season, especially with the winning goal against Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday in the Nedbank Cup final.

“I hope he stays the same as he is now because the quality is there and we don’t have to discuss that. He must remain humble despite the publicity around him with talks of going to Europe.

“He must still be the same Mofokeng of 10 months ago and I am happy about that [that he has been so far].” 

Bafana are in second place in Group C with three points to Rwanda's four. Nigeria starting with draws against Lesotho and Zimbabwe has thrown the group wide open. 


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