It felt weird for Brighton Mhlongo to walk onto the Orlando Stadium pitch in a different jersey in the first half of the season, but he’s used to it now.
The goalkeeper is on loan from Orlando Pirates to Chippa United and he was in goal when the Chilli Boys were beaten 1-0 by the Buccaneers in the first match of the season at Orlando Stadium.
Since then, however, Mhlongo has not played as regularly as he would have liked to, featuring in just eight games in all competitions. The goalkeeping spot in the starting line-up usually goes to Nigerian international Daniel Akpeyi, who is likely to play at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia with the Super Eagles.
But after keeping a clean sheet in a goalless draw against Baroka FC in Polokwane last Sunday, Mhlongo will be hoping to get another opportunity to impress when the Chilli Boys host Absa Premiership title hopefuls Pirates at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday (15h30).
“I faced them in my first game for Chippa United in the first half of the season. It was kind of weird walking into Orlando Stadium playing against a team I played for my entire life. It was weird and emotional in some way. But when it comes to football, you try by all means not to play with your emotions. You take the sentiments away and play in the moment,” Mhlongo tells our source.
“If given a chance [on Sunday], then it’s about going out there and enjoying myself. Right now I am playing for one audience. It’s not about proving a point. It’s about playing without any pressure or fear.”
Mhlongo says he has a good relationship with Akpeyi and they often talk about how they can improve their game.
“I have not been getting much game-time under my belt. But obviously I have had to knuckle down and keep working hard, to wait for my chance to come and try by all means to repay the faith of the chairman [Siviwe Mpengesi]. It was just a matter of giving myself time to settle in and to keep working hard.
“Daniel has been doing well for the team and he is an international goalkeeper and that helps me to keep pushing. As long as the team is doing well that is important for me. I just have to keep supporting them and wait patiently for my turn. Everyone who knows me will tell you that I support whoever is playing.
“Our relationship is fantastic, which is important. He does not stay far from my apartment. We talk a lot and we share ideas on how we can improve each others’ game. It has been a great journey so far.”