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Soccer Laduma - - Siyag Bhoza - GEORGE LEKGETHO By Lunga Adam

“We ate any­thing and every­thing…” “They caught him... it was a dis­as­ter!”

Moroka Swal­lows is the only team de­fender George Lekgetho ever fea­tured for in top-flight foot­ball, hav­ing be­gun and fin­ished his ca­reer there. Only in­jury stood be­tween him and fur­ther­ing his time at the Dube Birds, as his ca­reer was heart­break­ingly halted by a knock he re­ceived while play­ing in an off-sea­son friendly at Dob­sonville Sta­dium. “At the time, I hadn’t re­alised I’d had this small frac­ture on my shin all along. I went to Barag­wanath Hos­pi­tal and the doc­tor told me I only had five years left in foot­ball. I tried forc­ing mat­ters, but it wasn’t to be and I said ‘bye-bye and thank you’ to foot­ball. There’s life af­ter foot­ball, af­ter all,” re­veals Lekgetho. Com­pli­ments of the sea­son, George! Well, we must say from the pic­tures we’ve seen of your­self in your cur­rent form, you still look as fit as a fid­dle.

Ha, ha, ha. Mina, baba, ngiya­hamba. Nomkhaba awukho (I’m go­ing strong, my brother. There’s no big belly). Even if I can go back to pro­fes­sional foot­ball to­day, I would go out there and de­stroy, pro­vided I get a lit­tle bit of match fit­ness. Right now, I’m busy with the kids. I’m work­ing as a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tor at a school in Protea Glen where my chil­dren are also at­tend­ing. I’ve also got a ladies’ team that I’m train­ing, as well as U7 boys. I also want to do U7s to U13s.

Great. Now let’s go back in time...

I played at Moroka Swal­lows nob­huti wami (with my brother, the late Ja­cob Lekgetho). The club had re­cruited me from the God­frey Moloi Good­will Games that used to take place at Mapetla grounds. Mina no bhuti we went on trial with a cou­ple of other play­ers at Mead­ow­lands Sta­dium where Swal­lows were train­ing at the time, but only the two of us were suc­cess­ful. I was the first one to break through to the start­ing XI and he was on the bench, and I re­mem­ber we were spon­sored by Ele­phant Beer and adi­das. I was earn­ing R1 800, ha, ha, ha. You would see me on TV and re­gard me as this big star, not know­ing that I was so poor. Yho, back then, peo­ple were crazy about pro­fes­sional play­ers and it was a big deal for them to see you on TV. It was tough, but be­cause of the love for the game and the de­ter­mi­na­tion, I kept go­ing. I re­call I got an in­jury and then my brother got his chance and never looked back. When I came back, I was no longer a right back; in­stead, I was slot­ted in at cen­tral de­fence.

Okay.

We had as team­mates the old brigade in tthee for­morm oof thee like­ses ofo Siphopo Sikhonde, on e Thomas Hlong­wane, Per­ci­val Mo­let­sane and Jeff Maz­ibuko. This meant that you stayed on the bench most times, some­times for long spells, and this was very frus­trat­ing. I re­mem­ber telling my brother that I didn’t be­long on the bench and that I was tired of the sit­u­a­tion. The club owner, the late David Cha­beli, used to take us to Dur­ban to play friendlies against some Sec­ond Divi­sion teams at the same time as the first team was play­ing and I be­lieved I was bet­ter than some of the play­ers in the first team. My brother al­ways told me, “Per­se­vere. When your chance comes, grab it with both

hands.”

Let’s talk fun and games then.

The one guy I was re­ally close to there was Wil­liam Lere­folo. When­ever we were to­gether, we would be laugh­ing be­cause I would be jok­ing all the way. I think he en­joyed my jokes, ha, ha, ha. The late Jokho­nia Cibi was a char­ac­ter, while we also had Jo­hannes Mine,ne wwhoo was a foodoo killerer ofo note.noe Well, e he was not the only cul­prit in that re­gard be­cause if there’s one thing Moroka Swal­lows play­ers of that time had in com­mon, it was their love for food. Among them was my brother, Abram Kh­we­nenyane and I. We ate any­thing and every­thing in front of us... seafood, every­thing! I think that was due to the heavy train­ing that we had – it opened up our pipes. I mean, Vik­tor Bon­darenko used to take us through our paces and we used to train twice a day at Ger­mis­ton Sta­dium. I think it’s a habit that has re­fused to leave me be­cause even these days, when­ever I come back from a 21km or 35km race, the first thing I go for is the fridge, ha, ha, ha.

We be­lieve there was an­other ‘habit’ that the Dube birds play­ers were fa­mous for at the time...

Ha, ha, ha, that was steal­ing stuff and bekuneeng­wenya za­khona (we had masters in that game), es­pe­cially when we camped at the Hol­i­day Inn in Dur­ban. Even on the jour­neys by the plane, the guys would de­velop sticky fin­gers. The masters I’m talk­ing about here were Mine, Kh­we­nenyane, my brother, Cibi – they were pro­fes­sion­als. I’m not sure where we were trav­el­ling to, but this one time my brother stole at the fill­ing sta­tion shop and that was just be­fore he went over­seas. They caught him... it was a dis­as­ter! It took the in­ter­ven­tion of our driver, Jeff Moroka, to get him re­leased, ha, ha, ha. Guys would steal me­nial things like gloves. I think, to a cer­tain ex­tent, that could be be­cause we were earn­ing such a pit­tance aat thee time. me

Ha, ha, ha, very in­ter­est­ing to note that your brother and Kh­we­nenyane ap­pear on both lists (food killers and thieves)!

Ha, ha, ha. But those were good times, man. I re­mem­ber when­ever I drove into train­ing, I would be play­ing loud mu­sic. Be­cause of the car’s dark win­dows, Mark McVeigh al­ways teased me that I was

a gang­ster, but no, I was not a gang­ster. Mina no bhuti were staunch Rasta­far­i­ans, so we al­ways played reg­gae mu­sic in our cars. That was our cul­ture and that’s why we were al­ways mo­ti­vated spir­i­tu­ally. But he was more of a Rasta than I was. I’ve even since cut my dread­locks but he never did, right up un­til his last day on earth. That could ex­plain why he was such a peace­ful per­son. I was the talk­a­tive one.

Sure.

But make him an­gry and you would see the other side of him you would never be­lieve ex­isted. He was very in­tel­li­gent. He would also ask me to go and train with him be­cause I loved tak­ing out the ball, cones and just go­ing through my paces. But what he re­ally loved was roadwork be­cause it de­vel­oped his phys­i­cal strength. Ub­huti wam beka­jima kushisa (My brother would go run­ning in hot tem­per­a­tures). We would run for a long time with­out even count­ing the dis­tance we cov­ered, only to find that we had done 22km. We used to run two times a week, 22km each time. He was al­ways there for his fam­ily. Some­times he would come and fetch me so we could go and chill in his flat, to­gether with his Nige­rian friends. Yho, I re­mem­ber he

loved spend­ing time with those Nige­rian dudes!

Who were the funny guys?

I was the one who was mak­ing all the jokes, es­pe­cially in the Swal­lows of the new era... the likes of Peter Rabolele, Molefi Nt­soe­len­goe. Ed­ward ‘Ma­gents’ Mo­tale could also be a char­ac­ter and was a se­nior player to us. He loved his team­mates and would ride with us in his Corolla while wear­ing his torn hat. He will never change that one, ha, ha, ha.

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