Bongani Sam on a roll

Talented PE defender has sights on overseas spot

Bongani Sam of Highlands Park during the National First Division 2017-18 football match against Black Leopards at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa, east of Johannesburg
Bongani Sam of Highlands Park during the National First Division 2017-18 football match against Black Leopards at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa, east of Johannesburg

Hard work and endurance have seen Port Elizabeth-born defender Bongani Sam fulfil his dreams of playing on the country’s biggest football stage.

The Motherwell-born soccer player, who spent a season in the National First Division, played a vital role in Highlands Park’s automatic promotion to the Premier Soccer League after winning the league.

As a centre back he made sure that Highlands kept their defence solid, having only recorded three defeats, six draws and 21 wins from their 30 league matches.

Before joining Highlands, Sam spent a month at Bloemfontein Celtic as part of the Nedbank Ke Yona winning package in order for players to gain experience.

The 20-year-old was one of three soccer players from the Eastern Cape who made the Nedbank Ke Yona team, which played against Nedbank Cup winners Supersport United last year.

The former Lion City and Highbury player has now returned to PE to rest after a draining season.

Speaking to the Weekend Post from his sister’s Kamvelihle home, Sam said he couldn’t wait for the new PSL season.

“Playing in the PSL to me is a dream come true, I am very excited and I can’t wait for the season to start.

“I also have a dream to play in one of the national team setups, the U23 or the first team one day. So, I still have a long way to go, but this is the right step toward that direction.

“Everyone that is part of the team from the technical team, to management and the players had a hand in the team’s promotion. What I loved was that we were a unity, we loved each other and everything was done professionally.”

He said being selected to join the Nedbank Ke Yona team was the biggest highlight in his career so far as it had opened the door to achieving his goal of becoming a professional soccer player.

“Being part of the Nedbank Ke Yona team has helped me to better my craft and become a better footballer.

“It has also opened doors for me as I am now playing for a professional team, Highlands Park, which has just gained promotion to PSL,” he said.

Sam started his football career at the ABC Motsepe League side Lion City, playing in their development structures under the guidance of Siphesihle Bongo.
“I played for Lion City when I was 15 years old, playing for their junior structures in 2009, and two years later I was promoted to the senior team.

“In January last year I joined Highbury FC and played for them until I got selected to be part of the Nedbank Ke Yona team,” he said.

“Siphesihle Bongo, my coach from development at Lion City, has played a huge role in moulding me to be the player that I am today. He has always had my back and encouraged me to never give up.

“I remember when I took part in the Engen Tournament in 2012 I was picked to train with the Mamelodi Sundowns development structures, but I did not make the cut, so I came back.

“When I came back he told me that it was not the end of the road, I must continue to work hard and my turn would come.”

As part of the Nedbank Ke Yone winning package, players are assigned to one of the 16 PSL teams, were they spend a month just to get a feel of a professional setup.

Sam was sent to Bloemfontein Celtic and says due to that experience it was easy for him to gel and adapt when he joined the Lions in the North in September last year.

“I enjoyed my stay at Celtic; being part of a PSL setup is any footballer’s dream.

“The experience also helped me to live a more positive and healthy lifestyle. I never used to like vegetables, I always put them aside from my food on my plate, but now I eat them.

“I also enjoy training now more then before,” he said.

“I signed with Highlands Park last year in September. I adjusted and gelled well with my teammates.

“It was hard to get game time at the club at first, but I was patient and waited for my turn and I finally got it. I stayed eight games without any game time.

“My first game was against Real Kings, which was a draw. From there I always featured in the starting eleven.”

Sam said his wish now was to move from Highlands Park to sign with a overseas team.