Lekoane ‘Computer’ Lekoane relives his childhood in Levi’s Nek, the days of plenty at Arsenal and Majantja and that dream move to Kaizer Chiefs
Lekoane ‘Computer’ Lekoane (46) was arguably one of the best footballers of his generation whose talent saw him move to South African powerhouse, Kaizer Chiefs, in 1995 from Majantja Football Club. In this wide-ranging interview, the former striker tells Lesotho Times (LT) Senior Sports Reporter Mikia Kalati about his incredible journey from the dusty streets of Levi’s Nek, his birthplace in Leribe District, to the bright lights of Soweto when he joined one of the biggest clubs on the African continent, Kaizer Chiefs. Lekoana, who also played for local giants Arsenal and Majantja, as well as the national team Likuena, also took time to talk about the current state of Lesotho football.
LS: Let’s start from the very beginning when you decided that football was the right career for you…
Lekoane: I started playing football at a very young age in Levi’s Nek, which is in Leribe district. I then came through the ranks of a non-league team called Mathebe FC in my village of Levi’s Nek.
LS: How did you end up being such a big name in domestic football?
Lekoane: It all started when Ntate April ‘Styles’ Phumo came to watch me play at Mathebe in 1986. He was impressed right away and asked me to join Arsenal, who were playing in the topflight league at the time. However, I only stayed two years at Arsenal because I received an offer to join a South African mine team, where I also stayed for two years before coming home to play for Majantja. The move came after the club’s then owner and businessman, Russell Sebatana, persuaded me to return.
LS: So you played your best football at Majantja?
Lekoane: Both Majantja and Arsenal. At Arsenal, I played with some of the best players to ever come out of this country and we had a great coach in the now late Ntate Phumo. He was more than a coach to us and we had talented players such as Litšiso ‘House on Fire’ Khali, Likhetho ‘Microwave’ Mokhathi, Thato Mohale, Lefika Lekhotla, Thulo Leboela, Thabane Sute…the list is endless. These guys were also special teammates and friends. At Majantja, I was loved by everyone and helped the team become a force to reckon with. You must remember that those days, there were no strict regulations so teams like Bantu would ask me to play for them when they had international matches.
LS: Take us through your big move to Kaizer Chiefs?
Lekoane: It was in 1995, and I was playing my best football for both Majantja and Likuena. Initially, I was supposed to join Witbank Aces, whose coaches had been very impressed and were already negotiating with Majantja as well as Ntate Phumo for my signature. Chiefs were also in the running for my signature and they sent their official here to Maseru to watch me play. And when Ntate Sebatane heard about this, he bullied everyone in the negotiations and told them that I would be joining Chiefs.
I then left for Johannesburg with a Kaizer Chiefs official, Cecil Motaung and as they say, the rest is history. I did not even go through trials. I won their hearts from word go and was sent back home to get my clearance.
But when I came back home, Majantja had a big game against Matlama. I was given a car to rush to Mohale’s Hoek to play the match. I scored all the three goals as we beat Matlama 3-0 and I gave young Erick Makara a torrid time throughout the match as he was told to man-mark me. That was my last match in Majantja colours before I went to Chiefs.
LS: How was the reception from the fans when you arrived at Chiefs?
Lekoane: It was not easy to adapt as some players bullied me around, but I was determined to shine against all odds. I was playing for one of the biggest team on the continent and nothing would stop me despite being so nervous about everything. Luckily the coach, Jeff Butler and some of the players liked me, and it helped me settle.
I played my first match a week after arriving and scored against Moroka Swallows which helped to make things easier for me and be accepted by the fans and my teammates.
LS: We heard that your stay at Chiefs was full of controversy. Could you please take us through those moments?
Lekoane: You are lucky because I have never really talked about it, but let me go public about it. Some players at Chiefs were jealous and saw me as a small boy from a small, financially struggling country. And on one of our off days, we were playing snooker around our club offices, when the late Thabang Lebese hit me with a black ball on the chest and I struggled to breathe for some minutes. I had to hit back to give him a lesson and I took a snooker stick and hit him hard that he fell down, luckily for us everything ended there.
LS: Your spell with Chiefs was not a long one and one might say, not a very successful one?
Lekoane: Because of my strained relationship with some senior players, I had to move on after two years at the club, but playing for Chiefs was a dream come true. The club had bought me for M90 000 from Majantja but I did not even get a cent out of it as Ntate Sebatana took all the money. You must understand that when I was ordered to come and get my clearance, I was given M5000 and it was the first time that I had such a big sum of money.
LS: What happended after you left Chiefs?
Lekoane: I joined Dynamos that was playing in the first division, but also got promoted. However, I suffered a bad injury and was out of action for a year and that was around 1999.
After recovering, I went to Bloemfontein Celtic where I had to go through trials, which I passed. But when I was in the process of signing a contract, tragedy hit again as I was shot in the leg when thieves broke into my house. That was the end of my career because I was in my 30s and the leg took a long time to heal.
LS: You have been back home for years now. What are you doing at the moment?
Lekoane: I am back home in Leribe, but some officials from Majantja came and asked me to assist their technical team. They have always loved and supported me and this is a chance for me to give back to the community and also help the youngsters live their dream like I did.
I went to Chiefs because of Majantja, so I want to give back to the team for everything they have done for me over the years.
LS: You also played for Likuena…take us through those years with the national team.
Lekoane: There are lot of memories concerning the national team, but the one that stands out is that famous win over Cameroon. The Indomitable Lions had just played in the 1990 World Cup where they reached the knockout stage of the tournament, but we beat them 2-1 and I scored the first goal. It will always be a memorable moment.
What makes it even special is that we were refusing to play that match after a bonus row, but Ntate Phumo, who was our coach, said we could share his salary. That’s how passionate he was about football.
LS: Who was more influential in you becoming a star?
My three coaches, Phumo, Bomba Matete and Butler at Chiefs. On the administration side of the game, I had Ntate Sebatana and the now late former Lesotho Football Association President, Thabo Makakole and of-course, the Majantja family that continues to support me.
LS: What is your assessment of the current state of our football?
Lekoane: It’s very disappointing to hear that players are still struggling the way we used to. Arguments over bonuses, to me, are a disgrace to our football. We need to have passionate people running our football, people who have been there and understand the game.