It is commendable that the SA Football Association (Safa) dipped into the ranks of past players to appoint Helman Mkhalele as an assistant to newly appointed national team coach Hugo Broos.
As a former player and coach of national age group teams, Mkhalele brings a wealth of experience to the post of an assistant national team coach. This experience will be invaluable as Broos and his assistants groom the next generation of national team players.
Mkhalele’s playing career spanned 18 years in South Africa and Turkey. During that period, he was exposed to many major competitions such as the Fifa World Cup, the Africa Nations Cup and the CAF Champions League. This equips him with an overview of what is in store for players at various levels of the game, on home soil and abroad.
He belongs to a rare breed of South African players who can count themselves as CAF Champions League winners after he helped Orlando Pirates conquer Africa in 1995.
After he hung up his boots, Mkhalele worked his way through the ranks, and two years ago he was appointed the South African under-20 coach. He also served as a youth manager and has worked at age-group “majors” like the Fifa under-17 World Cup, the Africa Nations Cup and Cosafa. These roles exposed him to the managerial and bureaucratic side of football.
It equips him as a mentor who knows both sides of the proverbial soccer coin. Apart from these official roles, Mkhalele has always been a keen student of the game. As a former player, he was often called up by football stakeholders and sponsors to address coaches and junior teams as a motivational speaker.
Mkhalele holds two CAF coaching badges and another from the Bundesliga, the bedrock of German football.
Against this background, Mkhalele is a worthy choice and will please South Africa’s patriotic fans who have often been strongly critical about the appointment of foreign coaches.
We know Mkhalele will enhance the national team environment with the same enthusiasm that once earned him the nickname “Midnight Express”.