South Africa tour sets Wolfsburg on the way to recovery after Malanda tragedy
Wolfsburg - In the wake of Junior Malanda’s tragic passing on the eve of their departure seven days past, VfL Wolfsburg have taken their first steps to recovering from the greatest tragedy to ever befall the club by leaving a distinctly positive impression on South Africa as part of the Bundesliga World Tour 2015.
The Wolves’ travelled home in good spirits following a final day in the Rainbow Nation that was full of highlights, including a kick-about with some local school children, a sensational come-from-behind 4-3 victory and a reception at the South African Football Association.
“It’s an honour for us to be here,” said sporting director Klaus Allofs. “Thank you for organising such a fantastic reception for us and for your hospitality.” It was a sentiment that rang true for the entirety of the club’s week-long stay, as they sought to deal with the heartbreak of losing such a valued and charismatic member of their squad. While sight-seeing opportunities on safari and at Table Mountain have helped reinvigorate the side, so too has the involvement of marquee signing Xizhe Zhang, who featured in both of the Wolves’ mid-season friendlies. However, the gravity of the situation has not been lost on the 23-year-old. “It’s a difficult time for the whole team,” Zhang told Wölfe TV. “I hope that the squad can work through everything so that we can enjoy a good second half of the season. That would definitely be what Junior would want.”
‘A wonderful experience’
The squad’s spirits were raised further on Sunday after they spent the morning with 60 local children in Port Elizabeth. “It’s a wonderful experience,” said head coach Dieter Hecking. “To see what joy the children have to be here is a lot of fun and has definitely done us a world of good.”
The team handed out Wolfsburg kits to those in attendance before setting up six different training stations at the sports complex which allowed the players and coaching staff to intermingle with the children, who could regularly be heard applauding the Wolves stars. “It was great for the kids to be able to train with us and it was a great moment for us as well,” said Nicklas Bendtner. Meanwhile, scoring eight goals in two games against Ajax Cape Town FC and Chippa United FC indicates that Hecking’s charges had lost little confidence in their on-pitch performances. There’s no getting away from the hardship facing the club, but following a therapeutic trip to South Africa, ending the current campaign with UEFA Champions League qualification would be a befitting way for the team to honour the memory of Junior Malanda.
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