South African football currently has a drought in goal poachers. The National under-23 Men’s Team played a friendly against Tunisian under-23 on Friday and one player by the name of Lebo Mothiba scored a brace in his debut match. Could he possibly be a solution to the current drought in our football?
SAFA Media’s Namhla Mphelo took some time to speak to Lebo Mothiba about his background, current team and future plans.
NM: Lebo thank you for time, firstly give me a brief background on yourself and how you started playing football?
LM: I am from Tembisa, I grew up in Phomolong section and I started playing soccer when I was about 4 or 5 years old and I was playing for my dad’s team named Mighty Bucks, after that I went to Mamelodi Sundowns for trails at the age of 11, and I got into the academy. I stayed at the academy for about two years and then the academy was shut down. Then Coach Richard took me to play for him at Kempton Park F.C. We won the u13 Premier Championship, where I scored 32 goals in 16 matches and that was the 2009. Then the president of Diambars Academy saw me playing in Kempton Park and was very impressed with me and took me and another six players for the Dimabars Academy.
NM: You went from the SAB league straight to Lille in France, how did that happen?
LM: In June 2013 I got an ankle injury and was out for about nine months, I did my rehabilitation and was back with the team in early 2014 and we were told that a scout from Lille F.C was coming through to look for players. A t the time the scout came I was still out injured and he was not impressed with any of my teammates. He was looking for a big and strong striker and I was the only one at the club at that time who met his criteria, then coaches at Diambars came him my story and he said I should come to France in April 2014 for trails however I was still in rehabilitation. I went to France for about two weeks trailing against players from all over the world and they were impressed with me and asked that I stay another month. I played in the reserve and u19 leagues, came back home in June and two months later I was offered a contract by Lille.
NM: You must be happy to be amongst South Africans at the moment even though you aren’t in South Africa, you gelled with Masuku, Dolly, Ntshangase and Phiri as though you have been playing together for years, how are you finding this team?
LM: Those are great players, they know football and have great vision and technique, they were able to read my runs and we played direct football. I really enjoyed playing with them, the language and communication is great amongst us and yes it seemed as though we have played together before but it was the first time apart from training.
NM: You optimize a striker just by looking at you, your physic and presence in the box is highly impressive, according to you what are the characteristics of a world class striker?
LM: In actual fact I played as a defender at the Mamelodi Sundowns Academy, I played there as a defender but still scored goals. Coach Richard was the one who converted me to a striker and I played as a striker at Kempton Park F.C. According to me you must have great technique, be able to take risks in the 18 yard area. Positioning is also a must along with making runs and giving the midfield options in attack and I must be honest having played as a defender has helped me because I can anticipate the movement of defenders.
NM: You scored a brace in your debut match for the u23 squad yesterday against Tunisia in your 4-0 win, take us through the motions of that match and the moments leading to those goals?
LM: I was a bit nervous going into the match, the Tunisian’s are aggressive and it was a tough game in the heat. Their defense was tight in the first 20 minutes of the match, but playing with the like of Dolly, Masuku and Ntshangase gave me confidence to perform. My first goal was a cut back from Ntshanages and I just placed it in the back of the net, the second goal was nice Lebo Phiri played me a through ball and the placing of the ball was easy.
NM: What is your favourite South African club and international club and why?
LM: I love Mamelodi Sundowns, that is where my “bread was buttered”, I stated my career there and never knew that the sky was the limit but it is and here I am today. Internationally I love Manchester United because I grew up a fan, their style of play back then was excellent so once a supporter always a supporter.
NM: As a South African who do you look up too and why?
LM: Thabo Matlaba because he has always been my inspiration.
NM: In your opinion where do you think we as a country we are going wrong in the striking department, and what should be done to end the drought?
LM: I believe that the technique is not correct, players in South Africa don’t position themselves correctly and they make the incorrect runs. If they can work on that they will be amongst the best in the world
NM: Lastly, what are your future plans with regards to football?
LM: I would love to see myself paying regularly at Lille F.C. and attain more national caps.
NM: Thank you for your time and good luck for the future, we are glad to have youngsters like you in our football.