Still In Touch With...
“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.
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
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.
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.