‘Com­puter’ goes down mem­ory lane

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

Lekoane ‘ Com­puter’ Lekoane (46) was ar­guably one of the best foot­ballers of his gen­er­a­tion whose tal­ent saw him move to South african pow­er­house, kaizer Chiefs, in 1995 from Ma­jan­tja Foot­ball Club.

In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, the for­mer striker tellsa Le­sotho Times (LT) Se­nior Sports Re­porter Mikia Kalati about his in­cred­i­ble jour­ney from the dusty streets of Levi’s nek, his birth­place in Leribe Dis­trict, to the bright lights of Soweto when he joined one of the big­gest clubs on the african con­ti­nent, kaizer Chiefs.

Lekoana, who also played for lo­cal gi­ants arse­nal and Ma­jan­tja, as well as the na­tional team Likuena, also took time to talk about the cur­rent state of Le­sotho foot­ball.

LT: Let’s start from the very be­gin­ning when you de­cided that foot­ball was the right ca­reer for you…

Lekoane: I started play­ing foot­ball at a very young age in Levi’s nek, which is in Leribe dis­trict. I then came through the ranks of a non­league team called Mathebe FC in my vil­lage of Levi’s nek.

LT: How did you end up be­ing such a big name in do­mes­tic foot­ball?

Lekoane: It all started when ntate april ‘Styles’ Phumo came to watch me play at Mathebe in 1986. He was im­pressed right away and asked me to join arse­nal, who were play­ing in the topflight league at the time.

How­ever, I only stayed two years at arse­nal be­cause I re­ceived an of­fer to join a South african mine team, where I also stayed for two years be­fore com­ing home to play for Ma­jan­tja.

The move came after the club’s then owner and busi­ness­man, Rus­sell Se­batana, per­suaded me to re­turn.

LT: So you played your best foot­ball at Ma­jan­tja? Lekoane: Both Ma­jan­tja and arse­nal. at arse­nal, I played with some of the best play­ers to ever come out of this coun­try and we had a great coach in the now late Ntate Phumo. He was more than a coach to us and we had tal­ented play­ers such as Litšiso ‘House on Fire’ khali, Likhetho ‘Mi­crowave’ Mokhathi, Thato Mo­hale, Le­fika Lekhotla, Thulo Leboela, Tha­bane Sute…the list is end­less.

Th­ese guys were also spe­cial team­mates and friends. at Ma­jan­tja, I was loved by ev­ery­one and helped the team be­come a force to reckon with.

You must re­mem­ber that those days, there were no strict reg­u­la­tions so teams like Bantu would ask me to play for them when they had in­ter­na­tional matches.

LT: Take us through your big move to Kaizer Chiefs?

Lekoane: It was in 1995, and I was play­ing my best foot­ball for both Ma­jan­tja and Likuena. Ini­tially, I was sup­posed to join Wit­bank aces, whose coaches had been very im­pressed and were al­ready ne­go­ti­at­ing with Ma­jan­tja as well as Ntate Phumo for my sig­na­ture.

Chiefs were also in the run­ning for my sig­na­ture and they sent their of­fi­cial here to Maseru to watch me play. and when Ntate Se­batane heard about this, he bul­lied ev­ery­one in the ne­go­ti­a­tions and told them that I would be join­ing Chiefs.

I then left for Jo­han­nes­burg with a kaizer Chiefs of­fi­cial, Ce­cil Mo­taung and as they say, the rest is his­tory. I did not even go through tri­als. I won their hearts from word go and was sent back home to get my clear­ance.

But when I came back home, Ma­jan­tja had a big game against Mat­lama. I was given a car to rush to Mo­hale’s Hoek to play the match. I scored all the three goals as we beat Mat­lama 3-0 and I gave young erick Makara a tor­rid time through­out the match as he was told to man-mark me. That was my last match in Ma­jan­tja colours be­fore I went to Chiefs.

LT: How was the re­cep­tion from the fans when you ar­rived at Chiefs?

Lekoane: It was not easy to adapt as some play­ers bul­lied me around, but I was de­ter­mined to shine against all odds. I was play­ing for one of the big­gest team on the con­ti­nent and noth­ing would stop me de­spite be­ing so ner­vous about ev­ery­thing. Luck­ily the coach, Jeff But­ler and some of the play­ers liked me, and it helped me set­tle.

I played my first match a week after ar­riv­ing and scored against Moroka Swal­lows which helped to make things eas­ier for me and be ac­cepted by the fans and my team­mates.

LT: We heard that your stay at Chiefs was full of con­tro­versy. Could you please take us through those mo­ments?

Lekoane: You are lucky be­cause I have never re­ally talked about it, but let me go pub­lic about it. Some play­ers at Chiefs were jeal­ous and saw me as a small boy from a small, fi­nan­cially strug­gling coun­try.

and on one of our off days, we were play­ing snooker around our club of­fices, when the late Tha­bang Lebese hit me with a black ball on the chest and I strug­gled to breathe for some min­utes. I had to hit back to give him a les­son and I took a snooker stick and hit him hard that he fell down, luck­ily for us ev­ery­thing ended there.

LT: Your spell with Chiefs was not a long one and one might say, not a very suc­cess­ful one?

Lekoane: Be­cause of my strained re­la­tion­ship with some se­nior play­ers, I had to move on after two years at the club, but play­ing for Chiefs was a dream come true. The club had bought me for M90 000 from Ma­jan­tja but I did not even get a cent out of it as Ntate Se­batana took all the money.

You must un­der­stand that when I was or­dered to come and get my clear­ance, I was given M5 000 and it was the first time that I had such a big sum of money.

LT: What hap­pened after you left Chiefs?

Lekoane: I joined Dy­namos that was play­ing in the first di­vi­sion, but also got pro­moted. How­ever, I suf­fered a bad in­jury and was out of ac­tion for a year and that was around 1999.

after re­cov­er­ing, I went to Bloem­fontein Celtic where I had to go through tri­als, which I passed.

But when I was in the process of sign­ing a con­tract, tragedy hit again as I was shot in the leg when thieves broke into my house.

That was the end of my ca­reer be­cause I was in my 30s and the leg took a long time to heal.

LT: You have been back home for years now. What are you do­ing at the mo­ment?

Lekoane: I am back home in Leribe, but some of­fi­cials from Ma­jan­tja came and asked me to as­sist their tech­ni­cal team.

They have al­ways loved and sup­ported me and this is a chance for me to give back to the com­mu­nity and also help the young­sters live their dream like I did. I went to Chiefs be­cause of Ma­jan­tja, so I want to give back to the team for ev­ery­thing they have done for me over the years.

LT: You also played for Likuena…take us through those years with the na­tional team.

Lekoane: There are lot of mem­o­ries con­cern­ing the na­tional team, but the one that stands out is that fa­mous win over Cameroon. The In­domitable Lions had just played in the 1990 World Cup where they reached the knock­out stage of the tour­na­ment, but we beat them 2-1 and I scored the first goal. It will al­ways be a mem­o­rable mo­ment.

What makes it even spe­cial is that we were re­fus­ing to play that match after a bonus row, but Ntate Phumo, who was our coach, said we could share his salary. That’s how pas­sion­ate he was about foot­ball.

LT: Who was more in­flu­en­tial in you be­com­ing a star?

Lekoane: My three coaches, Phumo, Bomba Matete and But­ler at Chiefs. on the ad­min­is­tra­tion side of the game, I had ntate Se­batana and the now late for­mer Le­sotho Foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent, Thabo Makakole and of­course, the Ma­jan­tja fam­ily that con­tin­ues to support me.

LT: What is your as­sess­ment of the cur­rent state of our foot­ball?

Lekoane: It’s very dis­ap­point­ing to hear that play­ers are still strug­gling the way we used to. ar­gu­ments over bonuses, to me, are a dis­grace to our foot­ball. We need to have pas­sion­ate peo­ple run­ning our foot­ball, peo­ple who have been there and un­der­stand the game.

For­mer Likuena, Arse­nal, and ma­jan­tja striker Lekoane ‘Com­puter’ Lekoane.

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