Khanya Leshabela ready for Leicester 1st team
On the books of English Premier League (EPL) outfit Leicester City, promising SA youth international winger Khanya Leshabela has high hopes of playing top-flight football this season.
Having spent last season turning out for Leicester's Under-23 side, Leshabela was drafted into the club's first team squad for the 2019/20 EPL campaign.
"I was with the first team in the pre-season, I think I impressed and I enjoyed my time there. So I am positive that this season I will get my chance to play in the EPL,'' said Leshabela, who turns 20 next Wednesday.
The Foxes' budding star was part of the SA U-23 side that have just outwitted Zimbabwe to qualify for the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), to be hosted by Egypt in November.
"This was my first U-23 camp. All the boys were welcoming, making me feel like a part of the family,'' noted Leshabela, who also represented SA at the U-20 World Cup in Poland in May.
Leshabela also shared what he's learnt from his maiden U-23 camp under the tutelage of coach David Notoane.
"The tempo here [at the U-23] is very quick - everyone is very sharp. So you have to be on your toes and ready all the time,'' said the Leicester man.
"When you receive the ball you must already know what you will do with it, plan ahead. Obviously, I'll get used to the tempo.''
Leshabela's family relocated to the United Kingdom (UK) when he was very young, hence the youngster never played for any local side.
Many felt Leshabela deserved more game time at Amajita, but the side's then coach, Thabo Senong, had different ideas as he hardly handed the Leicester winger a chance at the U-20 Afcon and at the World Cup.
"Obviously I wasn't part of the coach's plans, but I was ready to play my role in the team. I wasn't too fussy; I was waiting for my chance. I have moved on from that,'' said Leshabela, who played just one of the three Amajita World Cup matches in Poland, starting only in the 1-1 draw against Portugal in the last group fixture.
Leshabela played two of SA's six games at the U-20 Afcon in Niger in February. The teenage attacking midfielder started when Amajita beat Burundi 1-0 in the group phase, before playing the last 15 minutes when they lost 1-0 to Senegal in the semifinals.