Playing for Likuena is a life-changing experience — Lebokollane
LISEMA Lebokollane’s (Lebokollane) career has grown in leaps and bounds over the last two years as he has featured regularly for the national team. The Matlama hardman played in six of the last seven matches for Likuena under the mentorship of Thabo Senong.
In this wide-ranging interview with the LeFA news department, ‘Disco’ opens-up about his dream to follow in the footsteps of former teammate-Motebang Sera, who plays for Bloemfontein Celtic in the South African Premiership.
LeFA: How much has the Coronavirus affected your football career?
Lebokollane: It has been a very difficult period for us as footballers because football is our bread and butter. I think I was at the top of my game and also playing regularly for the national team. As a player, you are always hopeful that you can impress international scouts especially when you are part of the national team.
I feel like that was all taken away during the long break and I will have to start from the scratch when football returns.
LeFA: Not much is known about your football background and how you ended playing for Matlama?
Lebokollane: Like any other boy growing up in Sea point, playing football was my first love and my dream was to be a successful footballer. I came through the ranks playing for teams such as Matebele FC, Likhopo, Hunters and Matlama junior before being promoted to the first team.
The late Ntebele “Tata” Taole, was the one who handed me my debut at Matlama during the 2010/11 season. It was very difficult to break into the first team in those days because they had just won a double of the league and the Vodacom Spectacular. The team had quality and experience in every position.
LeFA: Do you still remember your debut match for the national team?
Lebokollane: Yes, it was a home match against Burkina Faso played at Setsoto Stadium back in 2013. It was a big fixture for the Africa Cup of Nations and Ntate Seephephe Matete was in charge of Likuena working alongside Halemakale Mahlaha as his assistant coach. Playing for the national team is a life-changing experience. Making my debut for Likuena was an honour and privilege.
LeFA: Were you in the starting line-up and did you have any goose bumps?
Lebokollane: I came in as a substitute late in the match. it was an exciting opportunity for me. I wasn’t expecting to get that chance to be honest and of course I was also scared. It was a dream come true for me to don the national team colours playing in front of the home supporters at Setsoto Stadium against a strong team like Burkina Faso. I was excited because it was always a dream for me to play for the national team.
What made it more special is that, unlike many of the players that were part of the national team set-up, I had never played for the junior teams like them and had that pressure to show the coaches that I’m ready to play at that level even though I lacked international exposure.
LeFA: Who was your role model growing up?
Lebokollane: Pali Tšalong, I played with him in my early days at Matlama. A very dedicated player, who always led by example on and off the field. He was passionate about the game and also blessed with the talent. He made playing football look very simple.
LeFA: You have been utilized as a defender or midfielder at both club level and the national team. Where are you most comfortable?
Lebokollane: I enjoy playing as a defender. Its more comfortable and I love it there, but I’m always happy to play wherever the coach wants me to play.
LeFA: who has been the toughest striker that you come across?
Lebokollane: Locally it has to be Mojela Letsie of LDF. He is very strong and intelligent. He has been in the game for a very long time and his experience gives him the upper hand against most opponents. I also had a tough time against Gabadinho Mhango, when we played Malawi in an international friendly match late in 2019. He is very quick and strong.
LeFA: Your former Matlama teammate Motebang Sera is now in the books of Bloemfontein Celtic in South Africa. Do you think you have a chance to follow in his footsteps now that you have been playing regularly for the national team?
Lebokollane: It was inspiring to see Sera making a big move to join Bloemfontein Celtic in the South African Premiership. He had done very well at Matlama and for the national team over a long period and deserved a new challenge.
His move to Celtic was a motivation to all his former teammates at club level and of course those that play with him for the national team. It would be a dream come true for me to get such an opportunity as well and I think it’s possible as long as I continue to perform well for the national team.
We have a lot of talented players in this country and it would be very helpful to have international scouts watching our games because it will boost our chances of getting opportunities outside the country.
LeFA: From the nine caps earned up to so far, which has been your best game in the national team colours?
Lebokollane: The home and away CHAN matches against Bafana Bafana. I enjoyed myself in both the games. It was satisfying for us the players to see our supporters happy like that.
The whole country was celebrating especially after that 3-0 victory over them at the Dobsonville Stadium. It was beautiful!!
LeFA: What do you want to achieve with the national team going forward?
Lebokollane: I want to help Likuena be a force to be reckoned with in our region and in the continent by qualifying for major competitions such as the Africa Cup of Nations and CHAN.
We should also be competitive in the World Cup qualifiers. It would be nice to achieve something big and make history with the national team. I also want to play in the CAF Champions League regularly with Matlama.