LEICESTER - Benni McCarthy, Lucas Radebe, Shaun Bartlett, Quinton Fortune, Steven Pienaar and Mark Fish are just a few of the South Africa names to have graced the football fields of the popular English Premier League.
Now, with the 2019-2020 English Premiership drawing near – it starts on August 10 – there’s another young, emerging South Africa talent on the horizon: Leicester City’s Khanya Leshabela.
The 19-year-old midfielder, who joined the Leicester academy in 2013, has made rapid strides and is currently training with the senior squad.
The Foxes had a training camp in Evian, France, recently and manager Brendan Rodgers took nine Under-23s players along. They included Leshabela as well as goalkeepers Daniel Iversen and Viktor Johansson, defenders Josh Knight and Calvin Ughelumba, wingers Layton Ndukwu and George Thomas, and strikers Admiral Muskwe and George Hirst.
Rodgers was suitably impressed with the youngsters.
“Looking at some of the younger players, I’ve been very pleased with them,” Rodgers told LCFC TV. “They’ve come away and coped very well. It’s a great credit to the players who are in the first team. It’s very inclusive.
“They’re big names in terms of profile, the guys in the first team, but at the end of it, they’re just human beings and they accept the young guys.
“They know what it’s like for those young players coming into squads and how difficult it can be, but they’ve helped that process along. That’s allowed the young players to come out here and give their best. They’ve integrated very well.”
A substitution to our second half XI, as Knight comes on for Leshabela - who has played from the start.#ScuLei
The tricky Leshabela can operate anywhere across the midfield. He’s a creative footballer who loves to get on the ball and make things happen.
After impressing in Leicester’s junior ranks, especially with the club’s Under-23s in recent months, the club awarded him a three-and-a-half-year senior contract.
“I’ve worked hard to get this, and I’m just grateful to be given such an opportunity,” Leshabela told Leicester's website shortly after signing the contract.
“This is the hard bit right now. I’m just looking to push forward and push into the first team. It’s gone really quick. It literally just flies by. It’s been a good journey, and I just want to stay in the game for many years.”
Despite Bafana Bafana’s recent exit from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, the positive spin is that the continental campaign hinted at a strong core of players who can take the team forward.
Added to that, though, is the fact that there is also a desperate need for new, young and emerging prospects to be discovered for the SA national football team, especially concerning the creative, attacking side of the game.
Surely, Leshabela is one such name for the future.