by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – AUGUSTINE Mahlonoko’s dream overseas move is relapsing into a nightmare because of travel restrictions Spain has imposed in flying from South Africa in a bid to prevent a surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) infections.
The trials in the southwestern European country were part of the revival of the Orlando Pirates’ history maker, who is getting his career back on track at Baroka FC.
A tryout in Spain, where Athletico Madrid is touted as the destination, has been in the pipeline for some time for the 19-year-old from Sebokeng but he confirmed the dream had been deferred.
“Not so well,” Mahlonoko responded when asked on the progress around the planned move.
“The deal has been put on hold because of the COVID-19,” the teenage midfielder added in an interview with CAJ News Africa.
The Spanish government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez imposed restrictions to arrive from South Africa after a so-called new COVID-19 variant was identified in “Mzansi” in December 2020.
The variant is said to be more contagious than the one that has been wrecking havoc across the globe since it was first detected in China at the end of 2019.
Spain extended restrictions on South African travel due to the recent Holy Week. The week ran from March 28 to April 3 but travel embargoes remain in place, alongside flights restricted from Brazil.
Spain is the ninth worst-affected country, with over 3,3 million COVID-19 cases, including 75 900 deaths at the time of publication.
Should a move eventually materialise for Mahlonoko, he is most likely to start at the lower rungs, owing to strict work permit regulations, with national team appearances a hindrance.
He remains one of South Africa’s brightest prospects.
His career stalling at Pirates, where he however holds the record as the youngest debutant aged 16, apparently denied him national call-ups.
Since the beginning of the season, Mahlonoko is part of coach Thoka Matsimela’s Baroka side chasing a top eight finish in the DStv Premiership.
– CAJ News