Saturday, January 16, 2021

Stephan Melee- a hard done living legend

Gabion United playmaker, Stephan “Schoolboy” Mole he, has found his otherwise decorated carrier haunted by a seemingly elusive pursuit for a national team jersey.

Not growing any younger, his chances are also getting slimmer by the day. The player is 27 years of age and with the advent of the Under 23s replacing the senior national team, it will remain more than difficult for the mercurial midfielder to represent his country.

The closest Mole he has ever inched was when he found himself in a make shift squad that was sent to Morocco following threats by the national team to boycott an AFCON qualifier match against Morocco. He, nevertheless, did not play as the first team ended up playing. The last time Mole he represented his country was as captain of the Under 20s at the COSAFA games where he eventually caught the attention Orlando Pirates scouts and Golden Arrows.

In 2005, he caught the eyes of another South African side, Silver Stars, now Platinum Stars. However fate had its own way and he caught an illness that saw a drop in form. By the time he regained form, Stars had lost interest and the move never materialized. The player has played for all crowd pullers in the country, including TAFIC, Extension Gunners and Township Rollers.

At all these teams, he always emerged the readily noticeable figure in the middle of the park. At TAFIC for instance, fans took an instant liking of him and even likened him to the team’s legendary Molokai ‘BB’ Seychelles. At Rollers he was nicknamed ‘Football Academy’ for his skills, a name he carries to this day and, in all fairness, the team has never been the same without him. His instinctive play always enabled him to anticipate strikers’ runs and he made timely runs and deadly shots.

His game has now changed, however; he used to be a 35-yard passer, where he used to switch play with conspicuous ease. He would spot wingers from anywhere on the field.

When asked what has led to the change, he said that he now no longer plays deep but behind strikers where he just has to play one-two-touches. He also said that when it comes to movement off the ball, not a single midfielder beats him locally. Another dimension he has since added is getting goals. He used to be more of a creator.
“I used to be more about getting goals for my team mates and when the ball did not end behind the net, I would look back and say to myself I should have taken it there. Where I play today I am almost the third striker, I can afford to go for goal myself,” he said.

Asked whether his player is national team material, his coach, Mike Sithole, answered in the affirmative. He describes Molefe as a quick thinker, who, whenever he receives the ball, always has quickly worked out where he wants it to go. This, he said, makes him outstanding even amongst some of the highly rated midfielders in the country. He cited a Coca Cola Cup quarter final match that had GU pitted against Notwane.

“In that game Molefhe proved a point, showed his true character against the best, Keoagetse Radipotsane, Jackie Mothathego, Tebogo Sebowa and Dirang Moloi. You did not have to struggle to see who is more experienced as Molefe dominated the midfield on the day. Really he is one of the best midfielders I have seen in Southern Africa,” Sithole said.

Sithole credited Molefe for his discipline both tactical and behavioural, describing him as a mature and a visionary player. “I am yet to see a better attacker of the box, most of the attacking midfielders here are usually deep,” he added.
When the above mentioned game took place, the Zebras were in the middle of AFCON qualifiers and were evidently short of a creative midfielder. Most people had thought Tshosane would have gone for Molefhe. Sithole believes that Molefe can still play for the national team; he said that he has talked to the player about the issue in his first days as GU coach and told him that he should keep playing his football.

Molefhe said he fails to understand how he has been overlooked when he thought he had done everything for all to see.

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