TO many coaches and footballers alike who worked with Tsebang Lebata, the Quthing-born striker had all the attributes of becoming one of the best players to have graced the beautiful game in Lesotho.
April 1, 2022
4 min read
How a knee injury prematurely ended Lebata’s bright career
Tsebang Lebata during his days with Bantu as a top striker
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Sadly for him, his promising football career was cut short by a knee injury that forced him to prematurely hang up his boots.
Lebata was so good that in his early days playing for the Lesotho junior national teams, he won the nickname of ‘Owen’, which came from his similar style of play to that of former England star striker, Michael Owen, who was known for his ability to take on defenders and being clinical in front of goals.
“I think the coaches and my teammates were right because I had so many offers locally and internationally, from clubs like Wits University that were interested in my services,” he recalls.
“The sad part is that the injury came when I was at the peak of my football at club level and also the national under-20 team, Makoanyane XI and later a few call ups for the senior national team.”
Before the bad knee forced him out of his beloved game, Lebata underwent surgery in Bloemfontein following a joint operation by the management of his then club, Bantu and supporters. The surgery reportedly cost M85 000 - that was in 2015.
The retired forward, who played a key role as Leslie Notsi’s Makoanyane XI qualified for the Africa Youth Championship was left heartbroken when the nagging knee failed to heal properly.
He was also the joint top goal-scorer alongside teammate Lehlomela Ramabele as Makoanyane booked their place at the eight-team tournament, which was staged in South Africa and they came up against Egypt’s Mohamed Salah.
Makoanyane XI qualified for the tournament after winning in a group that comprised South Africa, Mozambique, and Kenya.
However, South Africa were only able to make it through after they replaced Libya, who were experiencing a civil war.
“It was painful considering that whatever salary I received as a footballer formed part of my well-being. Besides, my dream was not to end my football career having only played here at home, I had plans to play abroad as well,” the striker says.
Luckily for Lebata, as he was making a name for himself in football, he was also aware that investing in education would come in handy at a later stage in his life.
He had to travel between Lesotho and South Africa, who were hosting the under-20 tournament in order to sit for his examinations at the Lesotho Agriculture College (LAC).
“I was still confident that I would make it through, but on the other hand it was very taxing to put my mind on the game and afterwards switch to the exams. It was not easy at all having to read after playing and traveling back home to sit for the exams. I did not perform to the best of my abilities in that tournament because of the pending examinations,” the striker recalls.
Today, the once formidable marksman holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Crop Science), from the National University of Lesotho (NUL).
“Having invested in academics helped a lot because after I was prematurely forced out of the game by injury, I had to fish my certificates out and look for a job,” he says.
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Lebata’s football career began during his primary school days when him and his friends, who dearly loved football, were advised by Coach Masupha Letsie to form their own soccer club.
“Coach Letsie inspired us to follow our dream of becoming footballers and he encouraged us to form youth teams. We consequently formed Quthing LMPS youth teams, Under-15, and Under-17 teams.
“I was later promoted to the senior police team before I joined Liphakoe. After impressing in a tournament at the Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena, several premier league clubs including Likhopo and LCS started queuing up for my services. Around the same time, I also received my first call-up for the national Under-20 team.”
“That tournament opened doors for me as I thereafter came to Maseru to play for Likhopo before signing with LCS. But I re-joined Likhopo after six months. I later joined Bantu and won several accolades with the club.
“When my old knee injury started bothering me again, I decided to return to my home club, Liphakoe. But things were never the same again because the knee could no longer carry me anymore and I had to call it a day,” he recalls.
Lebata, who works for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security used to idolise former Brazilian star, Ronaldinho as well as former Likuena utility player, Kutloisiso Nthonyane along with Litšepe Marabe, who was his teammate both at Makoanyane XI and Bantu.