Bongokuhle Hlongwane: What does the future hold?

Bongokuhle Hlongwane, GOALGOAL
  • Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Minnesota United, March 2022Minnesota United

    Dream move secured

    The first round of the 2021-22 season saw Hlongwane enjoy regular game time at Maritzburg United and in the South Africa national team. The man nicknamed Bongo was one of the Team of Choice's key players as the team battled in the bottom half of the PSL standings. However, it was his promising displays for Bafana Bafana in the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers which caught the eye of Major League Soccer side Minnesota United ahead of the mid-season break. 

    Minnesota convinced Maritzburg into selling their most prized asset despite the Team of Choice's struggles in the PSL - granting Bongo his wish of playing overseas. The Loons are Hlongwane's second professional club and he has become a regular for the team in the MLS with the 2022 American soccer season currently ongoing and it is scheduled to reach its climax in October this year.

  • Keanu Cupido, Cape Town City & Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Maritzburg United, December 2021 Backpagepix

    The story of last season

    Hlongwane couldn't help Maritzburg avoid two successive defeats at the start of the PSL campaign in August last year, but he was called up to the national team in the following month and he scored the only goal of the match as Bafana claimed a 1-0 win over Ghana in World Cup qualifier at FNB Stadium. Upon his return to club football, he was sent off as the Team of Choice claimed a 1-0 win over Baroka FC and he was involved in the 1-0 defeat to Royal AM after returning from suspension in October last year.

    The promising player then started both matches as Bafana defeated Ethiopia both home and away in the World Cup qualifiers. However, Hlongwane was struggling to score goals - enduring a 14-match goal drought across all competitions including national team matches. On 7 December 2021, Bongo finally ended his goal drought when he netted in a 3-2 defeat to Cape Town City and he ended his stay at the Pietermaritzburg-based outfit with a 2-0 defeat to Kaizer Chiefs in December last year. He left Maritzburg for Minnesota in January this year having netted once in 16 matches for the KZN side. 

    Bongo only made his first start for the Loons in March this year helping the team claim a 1-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes having initially been used mainly as a substitute. Before featuring in Bafana's humiliating 5-0 loss to France in a friendly match a week later. The Nxamalala-born player provided his first assist for Minnesota as they thrashed Chicago Fire before creating two goals to inspire his side to a 3-2 win over LA Galaxy last week Thursday. He is currently Minnesota's most creative player in the MLS with three assists having played 18 matches in the competition thus far.

  • Neo Maema, Mamelodi Sundowns & Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Maritzburg United, November 2021Backpagepix

    Any transfer rumours?

    Prior to joining Minnesota, Hlongwane was strongly linked with Mamelodi Sundowns. The 2021-22 PSL Young Player of the Season nominee confirmed that Masandawana were leading the race to sign him from Maritzburg. However, Bongo decided to snap the PSL champions and signed for Minnesota United because he wanted to realise his dream of playing overseas. The gifted player was lauded for being one of the few South African players who have rejected big spenders, Sundowns, who are known for paying enticing salaries to their players.

    In the early stages of his career, Orlando Pirates were constantly linked with Bongo who had the knack for playing well against the Buccaneers as a fearless teenager blessed with explosive speed. However, the interest from the Soweto giants in the former Nxamalala Fast XI player was never confirmed and he went on to establish himself as one of the most exciting youngsters in the PSL. Chiefs were also linked with Hlongwane in 2020, but the Glamour Boys were reportedly unable to make a move for the player due to their Fifa transfer ban.

    Maritzburg chairman Farook Kadodia divulged that Hlongwane was on the radar of unnamed European clubs earlier this year. However, the Maritzburg academy product ended up joining Minnesota on a long-term deal. A move to Europe which is considered to be the land of milk and honey for most footballers could be the next destination for the former South Africa under-20 international who joined the Loons on a three-year contract with a one-year club option.

  • Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Minnesota United, March 2022Minnesota United

    One big fear for 2022-23

    Bongo has to improve his finishing before it costs him a place in the team. The explosive player is yet to score for Minnesota and his finishing is something that he needs to be worked on. Once he betters his finishing he will remain a permanent fixture in the team's starting line-up. 

  • Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Bafana Bafana, June 2021Backpagepix

    One big hope for 2022-23

    For Hlongwane to rediscover his scoring form which saw him score twice in his first three matches for Bafana last year. If the hard-working forward rediscovers his old form, South Africa will stand a good chance of qualifying for the 2023 Afcon as he has the ability to score decisive goals for the national team.

  • Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Minnesota United, March 2022Minnesota United

    GOAL’s prediction for 2022/23

    The current season has been all about adaption in the MLS for the 22-year-old who has a lot of potential having impressed with combination play which has led to him creating goals. There is no doubt that he will continue to get better with each game he plays in the USA provided he improves his finishing.