Masalesa: One of the boys

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

BAFANA and Larissa mid­fielder, Lehl­o­gonolo Masalesa,

pic­tured, is back in the na­tional squad, af­ter a lengthy ab­sence, cour­tesy of new coach Stu­art Bax­ter’s call-up to play in the COSAFA Cup.

Masalesa, 25, was called up dur­ing the era of for­mer Bafana coach Pitso Mosi­mane, al­though he was not capped.

The mid­fielder burst onto the scene, when he made his PSL de­but for Plat­inum Stars back in the 2009/2010 sea­son as a 17-year-old. He then joined Wits in late 2010, where he spent two sea­sons and af­ter some fine dis­plays, moved to Orlando Pi­rates in 2012.

In five sea­sons at Pi­rates, he did not get the game-time he would have been hop­ing and ear­lier this year, he signed for Greek side, Larissa, who fin­is­ged third in the Greek Su­per League.

In an in­ter­view with Safa, Masalesa re­flected on his ca­reer and re­cent move abroad.

About be­ing in the na­tional squad, he said: “I am re­ally glad to be back, it has been a long time in in­deed. Back then Pitso Mosi­mane was the coach, even though I never played a match for Bafana Bafana.

“I am glad to be work­ing with the new coach be­cause I be­lieve, as a foot­baller, work­ing with some­one like him will take me to the next level at club level.

“I am also happy to be part of the na­tional team, and I hope, as we will be par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Cosafa Cup, we will do well and make the na­tion proud.”

He is rel­ish­ing the prospect of mak­ing his hith­erto elu­sive de­but.

“As a foot­baller, you al­ways have to fancy your chances to play, you al­ways need to be­lieve in your­self, and, given the op­por­tu­nity, I think I can show what I am ca­pa­ble of.”

“The fact that I am here means things are go­ing well for me, as my ca­reer got back on track the last six months.

“I got to Greece and I did what I had to do so things are re­ally look­ing up, we will see what the fu­ture holds.”

“The level of train­ing (in Greece) is at a higher notch; the foot­ball is a lot tougher; you need to con­cen­trate a lot.

“You need to work very hard and be very sharp in your ap­proach and ex­e­cu­tion of your du­ties. Touch­ing on the low­est point in his young ca­reer, he said: “I started very well at Pi­rates and I be­lieve I did well, es­pe­cially in the Caf com­pe­ti­tion. But, as you know, things change in foot­ball. “Un­for­tu­nately, to­wards the end of my stay there, things changed for the worst for me, but luck­ily the overseas move came. Masalesa was hope­ful of Bafana’s prospects in the COSAFA Cup “We have a very good crop of play­ers and it makes me won­der how we lost in the Un­der-20 FIFA World Cup, with such good play­ers. “I think there are a lot of young play­ers who want to show­case their tal­ent and there is a good blend of ex­pe­ri­enced guys, like Mario Booy­sen and Aubrey Ngoma, so we can do well. We must just ap­ply our­selves and we will see what will hap­pen. – ANA

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