Mosa Lebusa

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

The new Ajax Cape Town cap­tain talks about his new role, and how his for­get­ful de­but Bafana Bafana call-up helped shape who he is to­day

Ahead of his sixth sea­son in the Ajax Cape Town first team, former Ur­ban War­riors youth player Mosa Lebusa was handed the cap­tain’s arm­band – a pres­ti­gious hon­our very few achieve across their pro­fes­sional ca­reers. Speak­ing to KICK OFF’s Fabio De Do­mini­cis, the tal­ented de­fender speaks about his new role, while open­ing up about some of the dif­fi­cul­ties he has over­come which has made him the leader he is to­day.

Dur­ing their Grade 11 school hol­i­days in 2009, two young and ex­cited Di­nonyana FC foot­ballers de­cided to take the lengthy 1 200km jour­ney from Welkom to Cape Town in an at­tempt to fol­low their foot­balling dreams. Ajax Cape Town were host­ing open tri­als, with the duo not let­ting a day’s travel across the coun­try de­ter them from pur­su­ing their goals. One of those young­sters was a cer­tain Mosa Lebusa. “I re­mem­ber we stayed in Cape Town with a friend from back home,” the 24-year-old re­calls. “We tri­alled, after which they said I should come back again for a sec­ond time. So I re­turned a month later, and when they saw me the sec­ond time, they said I had to stay for a week. For that week I came alone, so it was a bit dif­fer­ent.” Lebusa’s tal­ent was ev­i­dent from the start, and after just two days of train­ing, the 16-year-old was signed by the Cape club. Fast for­ward eight years, five first team sea­sons and 112 of­fi­cial starts later, and the soft-spo­ken, level-headed de­fender was un­veiled as the new club cap­tain at the start of the 2017/18 cam­paign. Lebusa de­scribes how his an­nounce­ment came about. “The coach called me into his of­fice dur­ing pre-sea­son and asked me how I would feel if he made me cap­tain,” he re­veals. “I replied say­ing I didn’t know as I had never given it much thought, and that was it. “A few days later he called me into a meet­ing, told me he wanted to make me cap­tain and asked if I was up for it. I said yes. There was a lot go­ing through my mind at that point, know­ing I was now cap­tain and now had to lead the team, take re­spon­si­bil­ity and be an ex­am­ple, but I ac­cepted it. “It means a lot to me. It’s a chal­lenge, but I’m ready for it. I know it won’t be easy, it’ll be tough, but I am hop­ing ev­ery­thing will go well as cap­tain, and I hope the team will do well.” Lebusa ad­mits the new role has taken some get­ting used to as he tries to keep his troops in check, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously clean­ing up his act as well. “In this team we have a lot of loose can­nons,” he laughs. “In pre­vi­ous sea­sons I was even one of them! Now it’s a dif­fer­ent ball game, and I have to con­trol some of those loose can­nons. Some of the guys don’t un­der­stand it though, and tell me, ‘Dude, come on! Just last year you were also do­ing this, now you’re on the other side!’. So that’s a bit of a chal­lenge for me, but once we step onto the field it’s dif­fer­ent, and ev­ery­one knows what work they have to do.” But the 24-year-old in­sists he is not a changed man since don­ning the arm­band as he re­mains de­ter­mined to stay true to him­self. “I’m a quiet guy, and not that out­spo­ken,” he ac­knowl­edges. “If I see some­one do­ing some­thing wrong, I will take them to the side and talk to them per­son­ally in­stead of stand­ing in front of ev­ery­one and mak­ing a noise about it. I don’t think I’ve changed in my new role – I’m still my­self. “I try not to think about be­ing cap­tain when I’m on the pitch – as much as I know I am, I try to put it out my mind and play my nor­mal game, which will make me a bet­ter player.” Tak­ing up a role of au­thor­ity of­ten leads to es­tranged re­la­tion­ships with former friends, but the new skip­per is happy to re­port that this has not been the case so far at Ikamva. “My team­mates are still the same, and treat me the same way they did be­fore,” he says. “When they see me, I feel they don’t look at me as ‘cap­tain’ but as a team­mate. I wouldn’t want them to see me any other way.” The role how­ever means Lebusa can­not only think for him­self on the pitch, but his ten team­mates as well, who he has to man­age, in­struct and mo­ti­vate the whole

game – an as­pect which he ad­mits has been chal­leng­ing so far. “Dur­ing the game when chips are down and the team is not do­ing well, you have to get the guys’ spir­its up, which is very dif­fi­cult if you are not hav­ing a good game your­self,” he says. “As a cap­tain you have to dig deep and keep mo­ti­vat­ing your team­mates and your­self as well, which is quite hard. “Luck­ily the guys un­der­stand their roles on the pitch, so as much as I have to try con­trol all of them, they also know it’s not just me that will have to tell them some­thing – they also take re­spon­si­bil­ity. We are all cap­tains, the only dif­fer­ence is that only one is al­lowed to wear the arm­band.” The tal­ented left-back draws strength in such sit­u­a­tions from a dif­fi­cult per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence where he had to bounce back after a dis­as­trous de­but call-up for the na­tional team.

bafana mishap

A con­sis­tent per­former for Ajax, and on the back of win­ning the 2015 MTN8 ti­tle – his only piece of sil­ver­ware to date – Lebusa was in­cluded in the Bafana Bafana squad for two in­ter­na­tional friendlies against Costa Rica and Hon­duras. After a shaky de­but against the Costa Ri­cans, in which he fea­tured for 60 min­utes be­fore mak­ing way for Mzikayise Mashaba, the then 23-year-old started against the Hon­durans five days later. A nervy start, cou­pled with an er­ror that led to Erick Andino’s equaliser to can­cel out Erick Mathoho’s eighth minute opener, re­sulted in coach Shakes Mashaba haul­ing the left-back off after just 16 min­utes, end­ing a for­get­table de­but tour to Cen­tral Amer­ica. “Luck­ily it hap­pened away from home in a dif­fer­ent time zone, so most peo­ple were asleep and not watch­ing the game,” a sub­dued Lebusa re­flects. “The tough­est part was when I had to ex­plain it to my fam­ily, when they asked me what hap­pened. At that time I was not in a good space.” Lebusa ad­mits it lead to a dif­fi­cult pe­riod in his young ca­reer, which took a while to bounce back from, but chooses to look at the pos­i­tives from his only two in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances to date. “I’ve moved away from that now,

“THE TOUGH­EST PART WAS WHEN I HAD TO EX­PLAIN IT TO MY FAM­ILY, WHEN THEY ASKED ME WHAT HAP­PENED.”

and put it past me,” he says. “It’s beyond me now … it was a good ex­pe­ri­ence – well, the first game ob­vi­ously. Be­ing there was a good ex­pe­ri­ence, and then the sec­ond game … it hap­pens. It took me a while to for­get about it, but now I am over it. “It was nice – you get to play with the best play­ers in the coun­try, and weigh your­self against in­ter­na­tional play­ers. It was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and one I’d love to get again. Should it hap­pen, I’ll grab the op­por­tu­nity with both hands.” ha Hav­ing not re­ceived a call up since, Lebusa is d diplo­matic in his rea­sons for be­ing shunned, while in­sist­ing there is no bad blood be­tween him­self and then-coach Mashaba. “I think ev­ery­one who has been called up since did ex­tremely well at their re­spec­tive clubs and de­served it,” he states. “From my side, my team hasn’t been do­ing too well, so I don’td feel it was harsh not get­ting called up. “I’ve got noth­ing against coach Shakes. He did what he had to – at that time he felt like he needed to take me off, and he did. There was noth­ing I could do about it. “But I’d love to re­turn to Bafana Bafana, and if it hap­pens I’d grab the op­por­tu­nity.” After some in­tro­spec­tion fol­low­ing his calami­tous call-up, Lebusa ac­knowl­edged he may have to re-think his ap­proach to deal­ing with prob­lems now that he has a whole club squad to look after. “I don’t like talk­ing about my prob­lems to oth­ers … so I think the rea­son why it took a while to get over was be­cause I kept it to my­self,” he re­veals. “I didn’t re­ally look for help, but just kept it all to my­self and hoped it would dis­ap­pear on its own. “I’m the type of per­son that likes to deal with my own prob­lems, and don’t like pass­ing my prob­lems on. But maybe I will learn to change that as time goes on.”

Lebusa poses dur­ing an Ajax Cape Town press con­fer­ence at Cape Town Sta­dium.

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