Lyle Lakay

The ver­sa­tile new Mamelodi Sundowns man talks about his po­si­tional switch and set­tling into his new sur­round­ings at Chloorkop.

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

Life, at times, can take un­ex­pected turns. In fact, those who play the game of foot­ball prob­a­bly know this more than any­one else. New Mamelodi Sundowns sign­ing Lyle Lakay thought he’d be leav­ing Cape Town City to join Bid­vest Wits a few months ago, but that jour­ney took an un­ex­pected turn. The Brazil­ians came call­ing, and in­stead of find­ing him­self in a white jersey at Stur­rock Park where the Clever Boys train, Lakay found him­self clad in yel­low at Chloorkop, the home of the Absa Premier­ship cham­pi­ons. Lakay was one of the Ci­ti­zens’ best per­form­ers last sea­son, prov­ing to be a key com­po­nent in coach Benni Mc­Carthy’s at­tack. He played 35 matches in all com­pe­ti­tions, scor­ing two goals and con­tribut­ing seven as­sists. When KICK OFF Mag­a­zine spoke to the former ju­nior in­ter­na­tional at Sundowns’ head­quar­ters fol­low­ing his move from the Mother City, the former Su­per­Sport United and Bloem­fontein Celtic winger ex­plained how he ended up in Pre­to­ria in­stead of Braam­fontein. “Wits was in the pic­ture, to be hon­est with you,” he starts. “Then all of a sud­den, I heard that Sundowns was in­ter­ested and I said, ‘Okay, why not?’ Who is go­ing to say no to Sundowns when they come knock­ing on your door? “Their tro­phy suc­cess is ev­i­dence that this is a good club and as a player, you also want to achieve things. If you work hard, you can con­trib­ute to that suc­cess. At the end of the day when you fin­ish your ca­reer, you want to say that you were able to win things.”

Con­vert­ing to left-back

Join­ing Sundowns, how­ever, meant a po­si­tional switch un­der Pitso Mosi­mane’s or­ders, as the winger re­verted to a left­back for the reign­ing league cham­pi­ons, a change very sim­i­lar to that which Thapelo Morena un­der­went after join­ing from Bloem­fontein Celtic two sea­sons ago. Morena ex­celled in the right wing po­si­tion at Phunya Sele Sele, but Mosi­mane felt he would be more use­ful as a right-back in what has now turned out to be a mas­ter­stroke by the Downs coach. Morena has ex­celled in his new role and is still able to push fur­ther up the pitch when given the lib­erty by his tac­ti­cally-as­tute coach.

Lakay, it seems, may be fol­low­ing the ex­act same path. “I have set­tled in well and the play­ers wel­comed me well when I joined,” he says of his ar­rival in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. “I know most of them and I played with a few of them at my pre­vi­ous clubs, so it was not a strug­gle to set­tle in. It’s a happy bunch of play­ers and this is a good club, so it’s been good so far, “he smiles, be­fore ex­plain­ing how the con­ver­sa­tion about the change of his po­si­tion played out. “We spoke about it be­fore I joined Sundowns, that my first po­si­tion would be left-back and ob­vi­ously he [Mosi­mane] would use me as a left wing when he needs to.” The good thing for Lakay, though, is that chang­ing po­si­tion has not been a prob­lem for him.

“I THINK AT THE MO­MENT SUNDOWNS IS ONE OF THE BEST IN AFRICA, NOT JUST IN SOUTH AFRICA.”

“I think the ad­just­ment is not that big,” he says. “There is a dif­fer­ence, but it’s not that big be­cause in mod­ern foot­ball your wing-backs at­tack. There are no more full-backs. Peo­ple say wing-backs be­cause in mod­ern foot­ball, the wing-backs at­tack more than they de­fend, even though your pri­or­ity is to de­fend. “It has been an ad­just­ment, but it wasn’t that dif­fi­cult to do. It’s all about re­mind­ing your­self to de­fend first and then go for­ward, in­stead of go­ing for­ward and then de­fend­ing. It’s some­thing I am learn­ing, but I am en­joy­ing it.”

Stiff com­pe­ti­tion

Com­pe­ti­tion for places at Sundowns is al­ways dif­fi­cult, yet Lakay was aware of this when he de­cided to put pen to pa­per with Mosi­mane’s side. The main man with whom he has to fight for a place in the side is Te­bogo Langer­man, who has owned the left-back po­si­tion since

swap­ping Su­per­Sport for Sundowns in 2012, while Siyabonga Zulu and Mosa Lebusa also op­er­ate from the left side of de­fense. “I have known ‘Langa’ [Langer­man] for a long time,” Lakay says. “He was also a left winger and we com­peted for the same po­si­tion dur­ing our time at Su­per­Sport. “So it’s not some­thing new, and I be­lieve that com­pe­ti­tion al­ways brings out the best in play­ers. There’s also Zulu and Lebusa, but Lebusa has been cho­sen more as a cen­tre-back. Com­pe­ti­tion is healthy, and we al­ways sup­port who­ever is play­ing. With the num­ber of games we have, we have to share the load be­cause you can’t play three games ev­ery eight days.” With play­ers such as Bon­gani Zungu, Keagan Dolly and Percy Tau mov­ing from Sundowns to Europe, Lakay is hop­ing to fol­low in their foot­steps. The big dif­fer­ence, though, is that the above-men­tioned trio left for Europe at an age younger than what Lakay is at present. But any­thing is pos­si­ble. “It’s ev­ery play­ers’ dream to start here and then hope­fully go to Europe,” he says. “You al­ways want to play for one of the big three and I think at the mo­ment Sundowns is one of the best in Africa, not just in South Africa. They are former African cham­pi­ons.” Leav­ing Cape Town was not much of a prob­lem for Lakay. After all, he has pre­vi­ously played in Pre­to­ria and Bloem­fontein, so he knows what it’s like to be away from fam­ily, who in fact played a ma­jor part in help­ing him de­cide to join The Brazil­ians. “I speak to my fa­ther a lot about foot­ball, as well as my fi­ancé and my mother,” he re­veals. “They all en­cour­aged me. At first we thought I would be go­ing to Wits, but that then changed. “A move out­side Cape Town was al­ways on the cards, be­cause when I went back to Cape Town City, peo­ple were say­ing ‘most Capeto­ni­ans go back home [late in their ca­reers]’, but I knew I was still young. I knew I could leave again, even though I had signed a three-year deal with City. “I have been away from home be­fore when I was at Su­per­Sport and Celtic and it’s not like I got home­sick or any­thing like that.” Lakay says fam­ily played a ma­jor fac­tor in his ini­tial re­turn to the Mother City, and knows he is sac­ri­fic­ing a lot fol­low­ing his re­turn to Gaut­eng. “My move to City was based on me want­ing to be home and closer to my fam­ily and my son,” he says. “Hav­ing spent a year there, for me it was enough and I could leave again. They were en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ive of the move. “My fi­ancé is in Cape Town, but hope­fully she will come up to Jo­han­nes­burg soon and the fam­ily can visit us. But like I say, foot­ball is work, and work is work, you know. “My kid is four, but he is from my pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship. His mother said he can visit when­ever he can. “I have been through this be­fore when I

“THE MAIN GOAL IS TO CON­TRIB­UTE TO THE TEAM’S SUC­CESS – PER­SONAL GLORY WILL COME AF­TER­WARDS.”

was at Celtic, it’s just that at that time I was not en­gaged. I got en­gaged re­cently, but it’s some­thing I am used to now. If you tell your­self that it’s a sac­ri­fice and it’s for a rea­son, then you will un­der­stand.”

Hunt for sil­ver­ware

Lakay is yet to win a ma­jor tro­phy in his ca­reer, but that could all change now that he is at a club that is peren­ni­ally in con­tention for sil­ver­ware across var­i­ous com­pe­ti­tions. “The main goal is to con­trib­ute to the team’s suc­cess – per­sonal glory will come af­ter­wards,” he stresses. “As long as I con­tinue to work hard, do what I have to do and lis­ten to the coach, then I can con­trib­ute to the team’s suc­cess. Then af­ter­wards you will see per­sonal glory be­ing achieved.” CAF Cham­pi­ons League suc­cess is also part of what Lakay wants to achieve, but he couldn’t play in the com­pe­ti­tion this year be­cause he was cup-tied, hav­ing played for Cape Town City in the pre­lim­i­nary round of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup ear­lier this year. Yet the 27-year-old is hop­ing he can con­trib­ute when Sundowns com­pete on the con­ti­nent again next year, and is hop­ing he can help the club repli­cate their his­toric vic­tory of two years ago. “Yes def­i­nitely, who does not want to win it?” he says of his con­ti­nen­tal am­bi­tions. “I couldn’t play in the Cham­pi­ons League this year be­cause I was cup-tied, but I will be avail­able for the next Cham­pi­ons League tour­na­ment and hope­fully I will get to con­trib­ute then.”

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