Saturday, May 15, 2021

Tribute to the fallen hero: Nicholas Lele Sebele

He served many aspects of the football value chain, and in the process football became the greatest beneficiary of his illustrious and invaluable life. We in the football industry can vouch that he fought a good fight for us, preserved our product in every aspect and served us to a point that we could not ask for more. Simply put, he served football to the fullest. The football value chain includes being a player; coach; referee; supporter; administrator; investor; media practitioner and professional worker, to mention but a few. Nicholas Lele Mmapudi Sebele would actually get a tick in most of the components stated above. I had the rare opportunity of enjoying his life as he was an elder brother, personal advisor and a football player.

I admired the days he played for Gaborone United when my brother Sam Makgalemele was playing for Notwane. I was to later become his boss when I was the President of the BFA during the period 2004 to 2008. He remains a true example of a fit and healthy life, as even during his life, we could see him jogging in the mornings and evenings in the streets of Gaborone and at the national stadium. Most of us were surprised when stroke found a way in to the life of this great sports person and fitness fanatic. In 2008 when CAF celebrated her fifty (50) years of existence, the BFA leadership (where I was serving as President) decided to honour the top fifty (50) people we considered to have contributed immensely to football in Botswana and Africa. I feel proud that Mampudi was amongst football’s great giants who were honoured in the process.

When his health was affected by stroke, he continued serving sport as he became part of the leadership of Paralympic Sports Association of Botswana. He therefore confirmed that indeed disability is not inability; it is just a matter of a sports person with a disability. He was a fearless man on issues of football development and associated rights and responsibilities, and will forever be remembered as one of the greatest advocates for football practitioner’s rights and its development. Bill Shankly, the manager of Liverpool FC during its hay days once said “Football isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s much more important than that…”. I am sure that these words could easily have been said by Mmapudi, the Champion of Football and Sports in general.

As we celebrate the life of this great sports and family man, we must ask ourselves the following questions: what can we learn from this great man; and how can we honour him. My answer to the former question would be that he is a true example of commitment and a demonstration that one can in fact serve the whole football value chain in this life. On the latter my answer would be that he deserves praise and celebrations, and that one of the football’s assets / facilities MUST be named after him. The wise counsel and elderly advice he provided to me whilst I was the BFA President stand out as I reflect on the life of this great giant. I wish to conclude by thanking God and his family for having allowed the football family to enjoy the lion’s share of Lele’s life. We shall forever remain indebted to him. May his soul rest in internal peace.┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á

NB: Dikgang Makgalemele was writing in his capacity as former Botswana Football Association (BFA) president.

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