at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Pretoria - Since the football season is in recess, many a football player are basking in the sun, strolling at the beach, touring, partying, holidaying and doing everything but training.
However, that’s not the case with Orlando Pirates captain Lucky Lekgwathi. The long-serving Pirates defender gets down to business despite the break.
“In the morning, I take my kids to school and after that I hit the gym. I have to keep in shape. I have to maintain it. I don’t want to go back to training looking bad. Most guys relax and eat a lot but I want to avoid that,” said Lekgwathi.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon and Lekgwathi is taking a breather from the gym.
The walls of his house in Ormonde, south of Joburg, are ornamented with pictures of his triumphs and there’s a special stand where all his medals and trophies are placed.
The accolades are a testament that Lekgwathi, who was born in Ga-Rankuwa but grew up in Soshanguve, has won all there is to win in domestic football.
“I have won all the trophies in the PSL, but there’s one I haven’t won,” said Lekgwathi, whose professional career spans 17 years.
Lekgwathi is depicted on portraits lifting trophies including the Absa Premiership, Nedbank Cup, the MTN8 and the Telkom Knockout.
The missing one is the reason why Lekgwathi, 37, is not entertaining thoughts of hanging his boots.
“I want to win the CAF Champions League with all my heart.”
The player fondly known as Phinda Mzala came close to lifting the CAF Champions League Cup but his dreams were broken after Egyptian giants Al Ahly defeated the Buccaneers to be crowned Champions of Africa. “I was broken when we lost in the final against Al Ahly. When we got back I was the only player wearing his medal. I was proud. That’s how badly I needed it. I thought we were going to win,” said the Pirates skipper.
The famous No 14 wants to go all the way until his dream comes true.
Very few local players are able to still perform at his age.
Lekgwathi, who turns 38 in August, feels he still has two more seasons before he calls it quits.
“Age is just a number. I am happy that my teammates and coaches are always telling me that I am still going strong. The coaches have told me that I can still do the job. Most of them say I am lying about my age when I say I am 37. They say I am 25. I still run like youngsters.”
The man who has 14 Bafana Bafana caps attributes his longevity to hard work and a healthy lifestyle.
“The lifestyle I live is good. Lifestyle plays an important role as far as longevity is concerned.
“Sometimes you find yourself surrounded by people who drink. You find that a player goes out to a night club on a Friday and they drink forgetting they are playing on Saturday. Discipline is key. Respect is also important. When you respect people you get blessings.
“I like to do extra training. When we train at 10am, I make sure I get to training at 8am. I also do a lot of stretching. I learnt that from Shoes Moshoeu. I read somewhere that he stretches for about 30 minutes. I also do that. It helps.”
During the just-ended season Lekgwathi and his teammates had it tough. They reached four cup finals but failed to make the grade in three. They however managed to have the last laugh by securing the Nedbank Cup trophy.
“It was painful and sad. Losing the finals was bad. I always feel for supporters. I know what type of people they are. They like to tease opposition fans. When we lost those three finals I went like ‘our poor supporters’. I am happy they have bragging rights after we won the Nedbank Cup. Wherever I go people are happy,” said the former Ria Stars and Real Rovers player.
When Lekgwathi visited his family in Soshanguve recently, it was jubilation as his family continued to pride themselves in their son, who continues building what would be a great legacy long after his playing days are over.
“My parents are happy and proud. I am captaining a big team in South Africa and the second best team in Africa. They are proud and the whole family is proud,” said the most decorated player in the PSL.
Though Lekgwathi receives adulation whenever he goes home, there’s something that bothers him.
Many a young people get wasted courtesy of substance abuse - mainly nyaope, which doesn’t sit well with Lekgwathi.
“My heart breaks when I see most of the talented guys I have seen grow up getting wasted. We need to help here and there.
“I have plans to visit schools and share experiences and give advice. I might help a lot of people,” said the utility defender.