Bafana star Bongani Zungu grateful to Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane
Posted: 7 June 2017 Time: 16:00
Bafana Bafana midfielder Bongani Zungu has given credit to Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane for mentally preparing him for the rigours of European football.
Zungu has impressed at Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes, after a slow start due to a long-term injury, following his switch from Sundowns in 2016.
The 24-year-old believes his game has picked up markedly in his first year abroad but insists Mosimane "is way ahead of his time" on the local front.
Asked by SAFA Media if he has improved, he said: "A lot! I believe I am more matured now, the coaching is different from what I got here and I must say this – if there is any person I must credit for my doing well in Portugal is coach Pitso Mosimane. The coaching that he gave us at Sundowns prepared me mentally for Europe. Most of the things he coached back then at Sundowns I found them here, so I was in familiar territory thanks to coach Pitso, so a lot of credit must go to him. I believe he is way ahead of his time because thanks to him I was not lost with the coaching I got in Portugal. And he might not know this – he has really done a lot for me as a person and as a player, I owe him a lot of gratitude.
"But I have improved a lot since I got to Portugal. They have a lot of big name players and playing in front of about 70 000 fans against Benfica, as a player you get to grow. I sometimes sit and watch my previous games at Sundowns, and I now see a quicker Bongani, tactically more aware, the technique has improved a lot and my heading abilities are way better than before."
Zungu notably scored in the Taca de Portugal final last month against reported admirers Benfica. The ex-University of Pretoria ace, who has admitted he would be hard-pressed to turn down a move to a club playing Champions League football, feels he now gets into much better offensive positions.
"Yes, and it shows a lot of improvement on my side, and shows that I have now matured," he said regarding the goals he has scored this season.
"By the way I have missed a lot of goals too and I am working on it. But just being able to get to the final third is something I hardly did at Sundowns. In Portugal I am doing it so well and regularly, and always creating problems for the opponents. When I arrived at Guimares, the coach told me that he wanted to make me a box-to-box player, and I am offering exactly that because I have the energy to do so. I am grateful that he believed in me and gave me opportunities to play and get to experience playing against big teams like Sporting Lisbon, Benfica, Porto."
Zungu is back in the Bafana squad after a near two-year absence, and is relishing the opportunity to tackle Nigeria in a 2019 African Nations Cup qualifier in Uyo on Saturday (18h00 kick-off SA time).
Catch our cover interview, in which Zungu opens up about life in Portugal, in Issue 482 of KICK OFF – on sale now! Or DOWNLOAD a digital copy of the magazine here!