Mkhwanazi is December's Jet Rookie
Promising Orlando Pirates midfielder Lindokuhle Mkhwanazi has started 2008 on a high after being voted as the Jet Club PSL Rookie of the Month for December 2007.
The 22-year-old star has now joined Free State Stars' Diyo Sibisi and Itumeleng Khune of Kaizer Chiefs in the race for the overall Jet Club Rookie of the Year Award, which goes hand-in-hand with R50,000 in prize money.
Mkhwanazi - who was born in Es'khaweni township near Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal - was over the moon about his latest achievement, saying: "I can't believe that I have won this award, this came much earlier than I expected."
Young Mkhwanazi - who has represented his country at Under-20, U23 and full international level (with one cap for Bafana Bafana) - praised Pirates head coach Owen 'Rubber-Doll' da Gama for giving him a chance to prove himself this season.
"I am very grateful to Owen da Gama for his belief in youngsters such as myself," said Mkhwanazi.
"We need more coaches like him and Muhsin Ertugral of Kaizer Chiefs, just to name a few. Their belief in young players could change the face and the standard of the country's football for the better," added Mkhwanazi, whose talent was first nurtured at BidVest Wits University's development team.
This was after he had ironically gone for trials at Jomo Cosmos, but ended up signing with Wits after trials at the Milpark-based club back in 2001, while he was still just 16 years old.
"After hearing that Jomo Cosmos were going to conduct trials I saw an opportunity of realising my dream to play in the professional league. But I decided to come to Johannesburg when I heard that Wits were also conducting trials for their development teams," recalled Mkhwanazi.
"It did not take long for Wits' development coach, Black Sunday Masegela, to realise my potential, and he wasted no time to recommend me to the club's management to sign me for their Under-17 team," added Mkhwanazi who joined Pirates in 2003 after he was taken along by Masegela, who left Wits for the mighty Bucuneers.
At Pirates' development team, Mkhwanazi played alongside the likes of Excellent Walaza, Thulani Maseko, Thulani Lukhele and Senzo Meyiwa.
"However, my first season in the Pirates' Under-19 side, which was coached by Tebogo Moloi, was not a good one when I picked up a career-threatening knee injury during our first game," he revealed. "I had an operation which sidelined me out of action for almost the whole season, and by the time I recovered, the team was only left with three game to wrap up their league programme, but I did manage to get some match practice by playing in all three."
Mkhwanazi came back strongly the following year (2004) and his hard work saw him earn a first call-up to the SA U23 team when SAFA decided that an U23 team would represent the senior team in an international friendly game away to Venezuela.
Mkhwanazi and co., under the guidance of Styles Phumo, did not disappoint as they forced their opponents to a 1-1 draw.
Mkhwanazi suffered a further mishap when he broke his teeth playing in a street football playing for Dark City against BE Celtic (both amateur teams) in his home town of Es'khaweni, but he still continued to shine and it came as no surprise when he was selected for the Steve Komphela-coached SA U20 team, which won the 2004 Cosafa Cup, before earning 15 caps in the U23 team which led to a senior team appearance where he scored one of the five goals South African achieved when they beat Lesotho 5-0 a month ago.
* The January Jet Club PSL Rookie nominees will be announced later this week.
Lindokuhle Mkhwanazi fact file:
Names: Muphinhlanhla Lindokuhle Mkhwanazi
Date of Birth: 12 July 1985
Place of Birth: Es'khaweni, Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal
Marital status: Single
Educational background: Matriculated at Bophelo Combined School in Mayfair, Jozi in 2005.
Occupation: Professional footballer
Club: Orlando Pirates
Previous clubs: Dark City, BE Celtic (both amateurs) and BidVest Wits University development.
Ambitions: To be a regular at Pirates and then earn a place in the senior team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Favourite food: Pap and vleis
Favourite music: House