Boitumelo Rabale of Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies during the Sasol League National Championship this week at Kabokweni Stadium. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The four words Boitumelo Rabale said to Banyana Banyana interim coach Desiree Ellis after introducing herself left Ellis dejected as she had already pictured Rabale in the senior women’s national team.

“I am from Lesotho,” Rabale said to Ellis much to her disappointment as it ended her dreams of unleashing the playmaker who is appropriately nicknamed Queen. Rabale reigns supreme on the pitch with her clever passes and how she jealously guards the ball, and Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies have benefited greatly from her exploits.

The 20-year-old led the side to this afternoon’s final of the Sasol League National Championships at Kabokweni Stadium against 2014 champions Cape Town Roses. Celtic are on course to retain the title they won last year while Rabale is favourite to be named Diski Queen of the Tournament, an upgrade from the Young Queen of the Tournament award she won last year.

“I would have loved to play for South Africa,” the 2017 Lesotho Sports Star of the Year said. “But I can’t because I have represented Lesotho and I am proud of my country. I took it as a compliment though. If a coach of a strong team like Banyana Banyana thinks I am good enough to be a part of that team that means I am doing something right.”

Rabale started playing football in Maseru at the age of six. She came to the country in 2015 and played her first season last year in between studying electrical engineering at Motheo TVET College.

“Adapting to a new country with a different culture and way of doing things was tough at first,” Rabale said. “I couldn’t cope with the languages. But I managed. I made some friends and they taught me their languages. I first learned isiXhosa. It was the most difficult because of the clicks.

“I decided to come to South Africa because this league is much more professional than our league in Lesotho. It’s very competitive. That side I didn’t have much of a competition.

“Here I have strong competition.

“That has helped me grow. I was excited when they gave me the armband because that confirms that I am a good leader because I am also the captain of my national team.”

Celtic’s coach Edwin “Motale” Lisene gets animated when he talks about Rabale: “We’ve known Boitumelo for many years. She was still young when we discovered her. We didn’t want to bring her to Bloemfontein before she finished matric. After she finished, we went to her parents to ask her to join us because we don’t take players just to come here for fun.

Each and every player that joins us must go to school because women’s football isn’t professional yet. It’s not something that they can make money out of and there are very few options when they retire. We prioritise school here. Boitumelo is a really good player.”

Rabale’s character off the field and on the field is different. On the field she is bossy, but off field she is reserved.

“This is our time, though,” she boasts when she momentarily drops her guard and loses her shy nature. “Celtic have been in the championships of every tournament since it started in 2009 but we won this trophy for the first time last year. We aren’t about to stop now that we have tasted success. We will win it this year, next year and every year.”

* Njabulo Ngidi is in Nelspruit courtesy of Sasol

Saturday Independent

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