‘Midnight Express’ quietly cooks up a storm in Bafana

Johannesburg- One of Bafana Bafana’s unsung heroes, Helman Mkhalele, is happy to quietly go about his business unnoticed in the national team set-up.

Sunday World has gathered that the young, new crop of players adore and worship Mkhalele and bringing him into the Bafana squad was a masterstroke by head coach Hugo Broos.

“Midnight Express”, as Mkhalele was affectionately known, achieved a lot of success in his colourful football career.

He won the CAF Champions League with Orlando Pirates in 1995 and was part of the Bafana squad that lifted the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations trophy in South Africa. He was also part of the history-making team that represented SA at the 1998 World Cup in  France for the first time.

The soft-spoken coach also spent eight years playing in Turkey.

“I want to say thanks to coach Hugo and Safa for giving me the opportunity to work with the national team,” he said.

“I have been observing these boys and I see hunger and rebirth of Bafana. There’s a lot of hunger that has been missing recently and with this group, and with proper guidance and confidence, they can represent South Africa at the biggest tournaments – and this is an inspiration to them.

“Some of the boys were not even born when I was still playing for Bafana. But they know and have heard about me when we interact in camp.

“They are impressed about my record and they also believe that they can achieve and be household names in the local football fraternity.

“I retired in 2007 and I have been arming and preparing myself by taking coaching courses. I attended some of the courses with the likes of Rhulani Mokwena and Lucky Shiburi. I am learning how to manage players and how to develop their skills.

“I have noticed that after the success of 1996, we did not have a plan to sustain the success and to stay at the top.

“What happened next was that there was a lot of pressure on the next generation of players, with poor management and no long-term vision. So, the players did not have what it took to play at the highest level, and as a result, there was a huge decline and that’s why we are where we are today,” he said.

Broos showered praises on the former Jomo Cosmos and Pirates flying winger.

“These boys have lots of respect for Helman and I feel it in the group,” said Broos.

“I did not know him in the beginning but I know he was a player for Bafana Bafana and he also played in Europe, in Turkey, and he brings a lot of experience. He also understands European football.

“He has the same ideas as me and it was very important for me to have a South African assistant who knows the players.”

Said Broos: “The cooperation between myself, my Belgian assistant [Cedomir Janevski] and Helman is very good and I appreciate [working with] him because he is someone who is honest.

“I am impressed with his knowledge of the game. He brings so much experience into the team and he informs and educates us of various aspects of the South African way of life.”

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