'Lack of parental support hinders aspiring football' - Kukame

Celtic legend Kukame says his own mom wasn't helpful

Former professional player Lebohang Kukame during his playing days at Bloemfontein Celtic.
Former professional player Lebohang Kukame during his playing days at Bloemfontein Celtic.
Image: Lefty Shaivambu/Gallo Images

Legendary Jomo Cosmos and Bloemfontein Celtics player Lebohang Kukame’s current position as a school coach has allowed him to see clearer how lack of support from parents can deprive aspiring football stars from living their dream. 

Kukame works as head coach for the U15 team at St. Stithians Boys’ College in Sandton, Johannesburg, and says the parents of some of the boys are not backing their desires to become soccer players.  

While his father introduced him to the sport and encouraged him to become a footballer, his mother was not happy with her son’s career choice.  

“I am a qualified coach, I have a Caf B licence and started at the school this year. Before then, I was at Laerskool Ellis Park. Most of the time I try to go to schools to coach the kids even though I am not getting paid to do it. 

“Parents are not supporting their children’s dreams to take up football professionally, they want them to focus on school. That’s the problem my mother had, it's what deprives many kids [of chasing their dreams] to become players because there is no sports consent,” said Kukame. 

Kukame said he grew up spending time alone because his father was a truck driver who would travel to different countries, delivering petrol, while his mother was a nurse. 

Lebohang Kukame in Cosmos colours in action against Manning Rangers' Antonio 'Paulito' Trigo in 2002.
Lebohang Kukame in Cosmos colours in action against Manning Rangers' Antonio 'Paulito' Trigo in 2002.
Image: Gallo Images

“Whenever my father visited, he would plan to spend time with me and take me to stadiums to watch the PSL matches. When I told him I was passionate about football and would love to take it as my main career, he was very happy because he was an Orlando Pirates fan. 

“As for my mother, I would have to sneak out to go play and when I came back looking dirty, she would try to beat me. I was alone and my sister from my dad’s side would only visit occasionally.  I was tasked with cleaning the house after school and sometimes I wouldn’t,” he said. 

The 45-year-old former striker was still determined to become a player from as young as nine years. It was his biggest dream to one day get capped to represent in the Bafana Bafana squad. 

When his father moved him to Lesotho for two years in his high school days, he got the opportunity to be called up to play for their national team. 

“I had to go to Lesotho when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. There was a conflict in Katlehong between IFP and ANC and a lot of people died. My father removed me from that environment to live in Lesotho and I continued schooling and football there, I was about 16 years old. 

“When I was approached to represent the Lesotho team, I had to decline the offer because I still had my own plans of coming back to SA to play for Bafana Bafana, I felt  my future was in SA. I didn’t want to jeopardise my chances of playing for my country’s team,” said Kukame. 

When he returned to SA after two years, the late April “Styles” Phumo called him to come join Masokolara in Bloemfontein, Free State. 

“I always refer Bloemfontein as my second home after Katlehong, even the fans loved me. Their fan base was always so vibrant with their songs and clothes they wore whenever we were playing. 

“I remember vividly how I was supposed to write my exams that year, I didn’t write because they called me to trials. I trialed for a month and was signed in the second month. My mother realised that I was good at football and she later gave in,” he said. 

When Celtics got relegated to the National First Division, Kukame left the club to go join Ezenkosi, where he says this was when he got a call-up to come train with Bafana Bafana. 

Kukame celebrating a goal in Bafana Bafana colours.
Kukame celebrating a goal in Bafana Bafana colours.
Image: Gallo Images

His career ended prematurely after he was involved in a car accident in 2008.. 

“I was struggling to come to terms with it but my family was supportive in helping me recover. I was disheartened because I thought I still had five years of playing but it had to end. I have played for Bafana Bafana as well, so my dream came true. I was able to accept.  

“Now it would be great for legends to get involved in the development level to make our national squad a winning team. We can’t all want to coach teams in PSL and forget about developing children who aspire to play football.  

“In some instances, you find that at schools, teachers are the ones who are coaching footballers and they have never even played football themselves. I believe that football is not in the right hands. I feel like former players are far away from running the industry,” he concluded. 


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