sports

July 18, 2022

MIKIA KALATI

4 min read

Lifestyle of a village boy helped Nkau Lerotholi remain grounded

Lifestyle of a village boy helped Nkau Lerotholi remain grounded

Story highlights

  • Nkau’s simple upbringing played a huge part in his successful soccer career
  • ‘Steel’ believes he still has a lot left in his tank

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NKAU Lerotholi has had an illustrious career spanning almost 15-years playing at the highest level of football in the Kingdom of Lesotho and the defender believes living the lifestyle of a village boy helped him to remain relevant for a long time.

Lerotholi was born and bred in Nazareth, located in the rural parts of Maseru. He feels that his simple upbringing played a major role in him remaining focused on his football career. He captained both the national team, Likuena and the 11th time Lesotho Premier League Champions, Matlama.

Despite his longevity in the game, ‘Steel’, as the lanky defender is popularly known, feels he still has a lot left in the tank and plans to continue playing for the LMPS in the Vodacom Premier League.

“To be honest, I can’t say when I will retire because most of the players end up retiring due to challenges related to injuries especially as they age, but luckily that has not been the issue with me,” he says.

“Yes, I’m may have had a fracture that forced me out of action in the last season, but I’m ready to return and will see if I will encounter any problems in the upcoming season. So, at this stage, I can’t say as to how long I will continue playing. It will all depend on my body.”

Lerotholi is confident that the unfamiliar and fast life in the capital city never changed him after moving from his home village of Nazareth to play for the most successful team in the country, Matlama in 2009.

“I can say, what helped to me to remain focused is that I never changed after moving to Maseru to play for Matlama, where there are a lot of distractions, especially when you play for such a big club as well as the national team.

 “I remained a village boy, which in street language is called “mqhaka”. I don’t know how to put it, but I was never tempted by the wayward lifestyle, which has crippled careers of many talented players, especially in Maseru.

“When I look back, I think being a village boy from rural Nazareth, who remained grounded helped me to have this long career and I am still hungry to play even at this stage,” the defender states.

The gangly back-liner, who won over 50 caps for his country and having last represented Lesotho at the 2021 edition of the COSAFA Cup, fell in love with the game at a tender age. 

“Like any other village boy, I loved playing soccer from an early age kicking plastic balls in our village, that is how it all started,” he says.

The former Likuena skipper says he pursued a career in football after seeing his home boy and former Lesotho international, Lawrence Molengoana take the game to the next level and getting selected to play for the junior national teams.

“Molengoana is the one who influenced me to follow a career in football. I would visit his village of Ha Molengoana, which is close to my own village and we would play for the local team as well as at school, although he was ahead of me in classes at school.

“That’s where we both developed, and it didn’t take long for Molengoana to be picked for the Lesotho junior teams. He later moved to Matlama and pushed me to join him at the club,” Lerotholi recalls.

The Nazareth-born defender says his big breakthrough at Matlama came when he was playing in high school competitions. He was scouted by Coach Halemakale Mahlaha, who was part of the Matlama technical team in those days.

“Through Molengoana’s persistence, I ended up joining Matlama,” he says.

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Donning the country’s colours, he says, along with wearing the captain’s armband for both the club and the country are some of the highlights of his life as a footballer.

“The sweetest moments of my career were when I first became a regular at Matlama and contributing towards the success of the team. That’s where my career actually developed, working under the late Ndebele ‘Tata Mocholene’ Taole and Coach Mahlaha and others who coached the club in those days,” Lerotholi reminisces.

“Being appointed as the captain of a club and winning trophies including the league title are a dream come true for any player. Going on to play in the CAF Champions League as the captain, representing my country from the junior teams up to Likuena, where I also got the opportunity to be the captain was another dream that became a reality.

“I still remember quite well that my first call up to the senior team came after winning the league title with Matlama during the 2010/11 season. If I recall well, I was with Phoka Matete and Tšepo Lekhooana coming from the Under-20 and we were selected to the senior team. For a player coming from the rural areas to suddenly appear in local newspapers was a huge success, “My family was always proud watching me play international matches on television,” he concludes.

 

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