|OUT FOR TEN MONTHS: Phakamani Mahlambi|
IT'S Christmas. The time for giving. But what do you do when your little brother needs... a sparkling new hamstring?
Bidvest Wits teenager Phakamani exploded on our screens this time last season, scoring goals for fun and appearing to be, for all the hype, akin to our own Cristiano Ronaldo. Five goals and two assists in half a season. Incredible.
What was it Gavin Hunt said? “Phaks could beat you in a telephone box. He’s a real talent. He’s as good as Benni McCarthy at 18.”
But just when the Rio 2016 Olympics were beckoning, Mahlambi was struck down by a serious hamstring injury. No, not your everyday twang of the hammie, a serous rupture of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament against now-relegated AmaTuks on February 19.
The golden youngster slipped off our radar. For nearly ten months, all we heard was “needs surgery”, “long-term injury”, “extensive rehabilitation”… there was even talk of a career prematurely ended.
Though he still won the club’s Young Player of the Season award, it appeared another shooting star had fallen from the roof of the planetarium next to Wits University’s Milpark Stadium.
But no. On Saturday, against the luckless Free State Stars who are unlikely to feature in any pantheon of celestial objects soon, the star was reborn.
Coach Gavin Hunt, after seeing his side go second in the PSL with a 3-1 win, said: “I've seen Phakamani struggling with this injury every day for nearly ten months months. That’s a long time for a youngster to be out.
“The doctors said I shouldn’t play him. The physios said he wasn’t ready. But I thought bugger it, he must play tonight"
The rest is history. Phakamani, still just 19, marked his comeback with two goals. In one appearance he scored more than any Kaizer Chiefs striker this season.
The predictable Man of the Match award was claimed and the true Christmas Tale was finally revealed.
Phakamani confirmed what we first heard in June. He was back - with his brother’s hamstring replacing the one he tore. An incredible tale of sacrifice and family togetherness.
Mahlambi immediately summoned his brother and gave him the Man of the Match Trophy, saying: “They wanted to take something from a tendon to repair the hamstring.
“But that might have slowed my pace. Then my brother Mthobisi said 'No, take mine'. He is my hero, my everything.
"Today, both my parents are unemployed, half my salary goes to my family and I'm helping to build them a new home.”
The generous donor Mthobisi stepped up to the microphone with his brother’s silverware: “I’d like to thank my brother, the management, my family, everyone.
“We share blood, we share everything, it's such a great moment for me. I don't worry much about my hamstring. It's from my heart”
It’s been a long half-season. Banana Bafana failed to reach AFCON 2017 and Shakes Mashaba is suspended. Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are struggling in mid-table. Mamelodi Sundowns were crowned champions of Africa but lost badly twice at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
The Mahlambi brothers give us a brief festive opportunity to celebrate the season of giving and forgiving. Forget the bitching about referees, knife-wielding thugs at Kaizer Chiefs games and falling attendances.
Soon, the PSL will break for Christmas. And they’ll stay away (barring late fixtures changes) until deep in to February.
Which should give us all a chance to reflect on the the elder Mahlambi, the brother who gave up a hamstring for the sake of his family. Happy Christmas!