Steve Lekoelea and Jabu Mahlangu were more than talented in the game of football. These two guys used to tell a soccer ball what to do. South African football fans used to enjoy soccer more when these guys were still playing and they were crowd pullers. Whenever they were playing, the stadiums were full.
These 2 former professional players had similarities. Jabu Mahlangu was known as Jabu Pule when he was introduced to professional football by Kaizer Chiefs FC. Steve Lekoelea was introduced as Steve Motsiri by Moroka Swallows FC when they were still in top flight football in the country. Steve was nicknamed “Chippa” while Jabu was “Shuffle the pack”.
Steve Lekoelea used to terrorize defenders left and right and he was one of the best free kick scorers during his day, the same as Jabu Mahlangu, he used to also give defenders headaches and all sorts of problems. If you could ask any defender who once played against these 2 guys, they would tell you all about Steve and Jabu. Jabu also scored some important goals in his career and not only important goals but some crackers also.
Taking their sizes in to consideration, no one would believe that these two guys were on the same level as the current world top players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Actually these two players were much better than Cristiano and Messi. They were at their own level during their playing days and fans benefited a lot in terms of being entertained.
For the decline of Jabu’s talent, I blame the South African media for following him wherever he went when he was not playing soccer. He used to enjoy his beer just like anyone else and there is no problem with that, but the media would follow him even unnecessarily. They would report all bad things about him while forgetting that he was human too. Another problem with him was lack of education, if he was educated he would have managed himself much better than he did as most of the decision he took were premature and they were due to peer pressure.
For Steve Lekoelea’s career decline, I blame himself and his so called manager. During his playing days there was no reason to have a manager as contract issues were discussed by players themselves, so Steve was led in to taking a bad decision of appointing a self-manager. The manager misled him in a bad way as he was supposed to negotiate with Orlando Pirates FC by himself. His contract was not renewed due to misunderstanding between Pirates, Steve and his manager.
In general Steve and Jabu were far higher than the rest of South African players in skills and talent. They were the cream of South African football. The current performance we are now watching from Ronaldo and Messi was once done in South Africa by these 2 guys. Up to today I have not seen any player whom we may compare to one of these guys. If Thabo Rakgale could be given the platform to showcase his talent without interference, he may be able to reach the standard that was reached by these 2 guys.
I miss their playing days. I wish if they were playing tomorrow.