Thursday, May 6, 2021

Letsholathebe confirms retirement from football

Letsholathebe did not despair after failing to break into BDF XI squad. Back then, at the heart of Matebele defence, superstars like the late Richard Gabaitsane, Gary Mkhandawire and Thebeetsile Raditsebe were firmly embedded in the team making it a difficult task to outperform them. He went on to try his luck at another institutional side Police XI. At the Jungle Kings he was signed on the dotted line and immediately made a name for himself.

Five years later, he received his first gold medal as he helped Police XI to their first League title. “As I retire from the game that is one moment I’ll always look back with pride. It was not easy to achieve that but we defied the odds. The title gave us the ticket to go and compete in Africa against the best sides on the continent. Playing in Africa helped me gain lots of experience which really helped,” said the Letsholathebe-born defender.

Though he joined BDF XI almost a decade later after Police XI were de-registered from Botswana Football Association (BFA) for failure to pay subscription fees, Letsholathebe was again linked up with the Cops last year after they bought the franchise of Wonder Sporting Club. His return has not been amusing as he has been in and out of the starting line-up due to injuries. This is something that Letsholathebe says contributed towards his retirement. “It was not an easy decision to take considering that age (32 years) is still on my side. I still believe that I could still play for the next three seasons or so but it’s no longer possible. The games were coming fast and that did not give me much time to heal. So I think it’s best that I give the youngsters a chance to take over,” he said.

Letsholathebe added that life will now be different since he is no longer playing active football. “Over the years, my body had become used to training but things have changed now because of this (retirement). I take solace from the fact that I’ll now be working with the technical team. So that means I’ll still be involved in the game. I feel that I can contribute immensely as a coach in the future. I’ve an ambition of becoming one of the top coaches in this country,” said the police sub-inspector.

While he hangs up his boots, Letsholathebe pointed out he will always cherish donning the national team jersey for almost 10 years. He said that being a regular under different coaches showed that there was something right he was doing. “There is nothing precious like representing your country and if you’re able to be a regular for close to 10 years it means a lot. What even made donning the national team jersey sweeter was playing at the African Nations Cup. We went there after finishing the qualifiers without a loss but things didn’t go according to plan when we got there (Zebras were knocked out in the group stages). We prepared well but lack of experience at that level worked against us,” Letsholathebe said.

As he prepares for another role in the beautiful game, the well-built defender has advised upcoming youngsters to take the game seriously if they want to achieve good results. “I managed to play this long because I was humble. The mistake that most youngsters make is to think that you can become a star overnight. You need to sweat out there and listen to the coaches. You also need to respect the game because if you don’t nothing will work out,” he advised. As much as he was disappointed to hear that his ‘mentor’ has called it quits, Police XI captain Betsho Pius said he will value the time he played in the same squad with Letsholathebe. “He was an unbelievable character and I must say that I’ve learned a lot from him. He is a born leader and his presence on the field used to help us a lot. He knows the culture of this club and he’s someone I’ll always look up to for advice as long as I’m here. There were times when he would not agree with coaches on other things but he would not let emotions get over him,” Pius said.

The Jungle Kings coach Junior Letlamoreng said he would have liked him to continue playing but they could not stop him because of the reasons he advanced. Letlamoreng said Letsholathebe served the club well and he never encountered any problems working with him. “There were some people who said he was difficult to work with but I’m still yet to find out. I’ve enjoyed working with him as a player and I think I’ll continue enjoying that since he has joined us in the technical team,” said the gaffer. Letlamoreng added that Letsholathebe has gained lots of experience over the years which he believes will be beneficial to the youngsters in the team.

For his part, Police XI chairman Solomon Mantswe said they have given Letsholathebe their blessings and they would like to develop him into the future coach. “He is a loyal servant and because of his qualities, we’ve decided to enroll him into coaching. He has already gone through a preliminary coaching course. We’ll be gone some day and there is need to prepare those who’ll take over,” said Police XI boss.

Former Zebras head coach Stanley Tshosane said that it was an honour working with such a disciplined player. He pointed out that he knew Letsholathebe from the time when he was playing for Matebejana. “He grew up in my eyes because I used to work with his father in the army. I’ve long known his potential and unfortunately when he wanted to join me at BDF XI, I had experienced defenders and there was no chance for him.

I then advised him to go to Police XI and I was happy to see him progress,” said Tshosane. The former Zebras coach added that when he was appointed to lead the national team, he knew that working with Letsholathebe was going to be a pleasure. “He has been very consistent both at club and international level. I enjoyed working with him because he is very intelligent. I would like to wish him well in his future endeavours especially that he wants to pursue coaching. I’ll always be available to groom him,” said Tshosane.

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