Johannesburg - The question of whether George Lebese fulfilled his potential at Kaizer Chiefs or not annoys and inspires the midfielder to shine at Mamelodi Sundowns.
That thorny question also allows the 28-year-old from Mamelodi to do some introspection. He doesn’t hold back on the shortcomings of the man he sees in the mirror.
“No! I didn’t fulfil my potential at Chiefs,” Lebese says. “I have been asked that question so many times that there was a point when it annoyed me. It still does. It annoys me because I know it’s a fact that I didn’t fulfil my potential at Chiefs.”
And what now that he has left Amakhosi?
“I can reach my best at Sundowns. You just have to look at their bench and the stands. For me to start, I have to play ahead of a quality player who will keep me on my toes. If I don’t start, I know that a quality player is playing ahead of me and I have to work harder to replace him. I have to be brutally honest with myself. Self-introspection is important because no one knows you better than yourself.”
Lebese will do a lot of self-introspection at Sundowns. Pitso Mosimane and his technical team give each player homework to analyse their performance from each game, looking at what they did right and what they must improve along with breaking down how they are going to outsmart their next opponents.
“There’s an old iPad that I have which I hadn’t used that much. I am now using it. The technical team gave me videos to watch which will help me refine my game.”
The iPad is not the only old thing to resurface from Lebese’s past. An old picture of him in a Sundowns’ kit went viral last year.
“I remember how much I begged my father (Sam) to buy me that jersey. Sundowns had just been sponsored by Diadora (in 2004). He eventually gave in and bought me the jersey," Lebese said.
“I didn’t have a phone then so that picture was taken by a digital camera and we printed it. When I joined Chiefs, my parents put it away. My brother is the one who brought it up when I told him that I was thinking of leaving Chiefs.
"The logical step for my next move was going home. My father and everyone in my family are happy that I am at Sundowns because that’s the team everyone supports. My father, a staunch Sundowns’ fan, didn’t stop supporting them when I joined Chiefs. He just had a soft spot for Chiefs because his son was playing for them.”
In the nine years that Lebese spent at Amakhosi he won every domestic trophy on offer but never went past the preliminary round of the Caf Champions League. He will get a taste of how that feels like next month in the Brazilians’ clash against Wydad Casablanca in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. But before that, Lebese has to settle in the domestic front in matches like Tuesday night's encounter with Polokwane City at Loftus Versfeld since he has shown that he can rise to the big occasions.
Lebese’s problem was not doing that consistently, which is how he ended up with a paltry 30 goals and 22 assists in 197 appearances at Chiefs. Mosimane will push him to change that as Sundowns’ wingers don’t only have to create chances but they also must score, regularly like Themba Zwane does and Keagan Dolly did before him.
“Last season was the most difficult and frustrating season I have had at Chiefs since I joined the club,” Lebese said.
“I had to think deep about my career, where I wanted to be and what I needed to do to get there. I left Chiefs because of two main reasons. I was not a regular. Secondly, we had come off another average season. I don’t want to be average. I felt that I needed to take on a different challenge so that I can grow and fulfil my potential.
“There are a lot of things that I still want to do. I want to return to the national team and I want to be an African champion. I am at the best place to achieve that.”