Olwethu Makhanya: Former Stellenbosch Defender Shares His Unreal Encounter With Lionel Messi

Olwethu Makhanya: Former Stellenbosch Defender Shares His Unreal Encounter With Lionel Messi

Robert Abong'o
updated at February 25, 2024 at 12:45 PM
In this article:
Olwethu Makhanya logo
Philadelphia Union II logoDSouth Africa logo
Lionel Messi logo
Inter Miami CF logoFArgentina logo
Inter Miami CF logo
Club Internacional de Futbol Miami
United States
Stellenbosch FC logo
Stellenbosch FC
South Africa
Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union
United States
  • Olwethu Makhanya fulfilled his dream of meeting Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi
  • Makhanya said he shook the Argentine superstar's hand during an MLS encounter
  • The defender has deep admiration for the World Cup winner playing at Inter Miami

When Olwethu Makhanya moved to join the Philadelphia Union in Major League Soccer (MLS), he had a dream come true.

The former Stellenbosch defender finally met Lionel Messi, a moment he had longed for since childhood.

Reflecting on his anticipation, Makhanya expressed his admiration for the great football player, describing him as the 'best player in the world'.

Olwethu Makhanya met Lionel Messi duing his MLS debut. Photos: Mitchell Leff and Andrew Katsampes.
Olwethu Makhanya (left) was in Philadephia Union's matchday squad against Lionel Messi's Inter Miami during the Leagues' Cup semi-final in August 2023. Photos: Mitchell Leff and Andrew Katsampes.
Source: Getty Images

Despite not yet having the opportunity to play against Messi directly, he recounted the surreal experience of being in the matchday squad against Inter Miami in their Leagues' Cup 4-1 loss in August 2023.

Makhanya said he came close to the Argentine superstar and shook his hand.

"I was actually on the bench when we played Inter Miami. That was the first time I was in the 18-man matchday squad. I was on the bench, on the pitch, watching the game very closely and (sighs) yeah, I won't lie, it was a great experience," said Makhanya, as reported by iDiski Times.

Transitioning from Stellenbosch FC to the MLS presented challenges for the young defender. Despite his success in South Africa, adapting to a new style of play and acclimating to a different environment proved to be hurdles he had to overcome.

“The team’s style of play is totally different. I’ve been trying to adapt to the environment, culture and everything, that has been challenging. But I think it’s just a matter of time until I get it the way it should be done,” said Makhanya, as quoted on Far Post.

His journey to the USA began with his standout performances for the 'Stelies', where he played a pivotal role in their commendable sixth-place finish in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and their journey to the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup.

Makhanya stressed the importance of his time at Stellenbosch in preparing him for the next chapter of his career. He recounted how a sports consultant from the USA took notice of his performance during a crucial Nedbank Cup match against Mamelodi Sundowns, ultimately leading to his recruitment.

Messi flicks ball over Real Salt Lake player

Sports Brief that the Argentine star Lionel Messi showed his insane talent against Real Salt Lake, humiliating one of his opponents.

He flicked a football over an injured player during the first half of their season opener, eliciting fan reactions on social media.

Joe Pompliano called him a menace for attempting such a move.

Robert Abong'o photo
Robert Abong'o
Editor - Africa Team
South Africa