FORMER Lesotho international, Katleho Moleko says playing for South Africa’s Orlando Pirates was both a blessing and a lesson as he feels his career would not have gone to the height it eventually reached, had he chosen another team over the Soweto giants.
April 19, 2022
5 min read
Playing for Pirates was a blessing and lesson – Katleho Moleko
Katleho 'Skapie' Moleko (right) in blue and green outfit
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Moleko was the first of a group of young Lesotho internationals who were snatched by Pirates after impressing their scouts while playing for the country’s Under-17 and Under-20 national teams.
“From my perspective, if I had chosen Ajax Cape Town, maybe I would be singing a different tune now. To me, playing for Pirates was both a lesson and a blessing,” Moleko says.
The 35-year-old, who also had brief spells with Cape Town Santos and Garankuwa United, admits that most major teams in South Africa were interested in his services.
But Pirates went all out to win the race for the player’s signature when their officials drove all the way from Soweto to meet his parents at his Qoaling home on the outskirts of Maseru.
“When Pirates finally signed me, I had previously received offers from most PSL teams, but no one advised me as to which team to sign with. So, you can imagine seeing the branded Orlando Pirates vehicle in my yard, but to answer your question, my fate was sealed and I’m thankful to what God gave me,” the midfielder recalls.
‘Skapie’, as Moleko is popularly known in football circles reveals that his love for football was inspired by his childhood nanny, who took him to a match to watch the now defunct Qoaling Flowers play Majantja.
Both clubs were campaigning in the Lesotho Premier league in the early 1990s.
“My love for football further grew when I was playing for a developmental team called Mathula from Qoaling, coached by ‘Matseli’.
“One day after playing against Likhopo, who were in those days a youth club, the late Bishop Molatoli asked me to join them. I would say, that’s where it all started for me,” the former Likuena midfielder recalls.
“Likhopo were in those days actually a developmental side for Matlama and would curtain raise for them before Matlama played their league matches. The love started there, but the person that drove me into football was our maid, who really loved the sport. She would take me to the stadium to watch matches, I therefore owe a lot to her,” Moleko says.
But his love grew even further after watching former Likuena star forward; Lekoane ‘Computer’ Lekoane demolished opponents when Majantja were in his home village to play Qoaling Flowers.
“The match was briefly stopped after a fight broke out. All the spectators including Flowers’ were cheering Computer, who was the main attraction at that game. Before the match resumed, I walked closer to him and managed to juggle the ball with him for a while.
“It was the best feeling in the world, and at that very moment, I fell deeper in love with the game,” he recalls.
Moleko got another chance to see some more magic from Lekoane as Lesotho caused the biggest upset in the continent, beating Cameroon 2-0 in 1994, in what remains arguably Likuena’s biggest international victory of international football.
The Indomitable Lions had just returned from the 1994 World Cup in Italy and were expected to have a walk over minnows Lesotho.
But the Styles Phumo-coached side rose to the occasion and caused that major stir against the Central African powerhouse.
“Lekoane did inconceivable things with the ball but watching Lefika Lekhotla play changed my life and dreams with a cracker of a goal he scored against Cameroon that day.
“He was amazing and unafraid to take on the big Cameroonian players, who were both tall and powerful. I started seeing myself emulating him, it gave me the confidence that I could also become a star player using my skill to get past opponents,” the veteran midfielder reveals.
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Watching the two former Likuena greats torment the African powerhouse inspired Moleko to work harder towards achieving his football dream.
“To answer you, ‘Computer’ and ‘Mzi’ made me love the game more. That is why I always had a bald head (chiskop) like Lekoane, and my style of play was moulded on ‘Mzi’. They made me dream of making it as a top footballer. I started getting so crazy about the game to a point that I would record matches between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
“It got me in hot water with my parents and I still recall how I was given a good hiding after they found me watching football after midnight.”
Moleko, who is now in the twilight of his career and is back playing in South Africa after spells with the likes of Bantu, Matlama and Linare is yet to hang his boots and plans to take up coaching once he calls it a day.
“I have not retired and still playing in the SAB League for Greenwood. The plan is to go into coaching, but not with my name at the back thinking that I will automatically make it just because I played the game,” Moleko states.
“I want to learn and work with youngsters, share my experiences with them in order to develop their skills.”
In conclusion, Moleko says representing his country from the junior teams laid a good foundation for his career and helped win a contract to play for one of the biggest teams in the continent in Orlando Pirates.
“I always wish I could talk to players in the junior national teams and tell them about how I made it to the Pirates Under-17 team. To tell them about the importance of football and opportunities they have in representing the country. How football can change their lives, how victories will open doors for them to travel and learn about other countries,” Moleko says.
“My career was built from the national teams and I’m thankful. It started from the Under-14, U-17, U-20, U-23, and the senior team. Playing for my country was a blessing and even today, it still opens doors for me. I can talk all day, there is so much to share.
“The focus is now on helping youngsters in townships to fulfil their potential, but they need to understand it comes with hard work and discipline. You cannot be friends with a DJ and be out parting with him all night if you want to be a footballer,” he concludes.