Amakhosi’s poor performance breaks Chiefs legend Malombo’s heart

Glamour Boys used to have nine players in national squad

Former Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns midfield workhorse Jan 'Malombo' Lechaba says today's players lack passion for the game
Former Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns midfield workhorse Jan 'Malombo' Lechaba says today's players lack passion for the game
Image: Supplied

Former Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns player has reflected on his football career at Amakhosi, saying he feels like crying when he looks at the club’s current poor performance. 

Jan “Malombo” Lechaba, who played for the Glamour Boys for over 10 years, said that when Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos snubbed Chiefs’ players for the national team, it broke his heart. 

He recalled how the club had the best players who represented SA in international matches and won trophies. 

“I was fortunate to be one of the players of that time because that was the best Chiefs ever. In 1984, we won every trophy in that season with the best players. Those players are still in my head, the likes of Banks Setlhodi, Peta Bala’c, Ryder Mofokeng, Jackie Masike, Ten-Ten Nzimande, Vusi “Computer” Lamola and Patrick “Mabeka Pantsi” Ace Ntsoelengoe. That team was the best. Let me not forget to mention the greatest of all times Teenage Dladla, the late Shaka Ngcobo and Wagga Wagga Likoebe,” Lechaba said. 

He said at least nine Chiefs players would be called up at the peak of his career.

“What Broos said felt like an insult because during our times, when they said national team, we used to provide nine players. If I am not mistaken, it’s been nine years of trophy-drought at Chiefs. It never used to be an ordinary team, it used to be special. We had Kaizer Motaung, who was a great role model for us,” said Lechaba. 

After years of donning the number 15 jersey at the club, the 63-year-old played as a midfielder in the national squad. He said his jersey number gained traction in his playing days. 

“When I got there, everyone was choosing their jersey numbers. I just asked for jersey number 15. Each time we played, I would just request it be given to me. I became famous when I got there.” 

After being succeeded by Doctor Khumalo in the late 1980s, Lechaba said former asked for his jersey while he was in the Chiefs junior team. 

“Funny enough, Doctor used to come and watch us during training. His father [Eliakim ‘Pro’ Khumalo] was an excellent defender, and Doctor played in the Kaizer Chiefs junior division teams.

“When he told me that he wanted me to give him my number, I told him he would get it when I retire, that’s what I did. He made me proud and happy by taking it [the jersey number] to the next level. He played up to its expectation. After he retired, he called me to ask who he could give it to, and I said that was his decision to make. He wanted me to give him a name, I told him to see it through but still, he didn’t give it to anyone,” said Lechaba. 

Though he appreciates the kind of money that has been put in local football, Lechaba said money was also the downfall of the sport.   

“Our country has got the best talented players, but they are all about money. Football is not taken seriously these days. They earn a lot of money but their lifestyle can mess up their performance on the field. Things are getting bad because football is not respected at all. It’s always money first and then football will follow. This breaks my heart.

Herman "Pele" Blaschke with ormer Kaiser Chiefs striker. Jan ‘Malombo’ Lechaba (right) looking on.
Herman "Pele" Blaschke with ormer Kaiser Chiefs striker. Jan ‘Malombo’ Lechaba (right) looking on.
Image: Supplied

“During our days, we prioritised the game. I always say that in any sporting codes around the world, talent alone will not save you, you need to have determination, discipline and respect as taught by Bra K [Kaizer Motaung]. The lessons stayed with me throughout my career. 

“Before our matches he would come to the dressing rooms and tell us he has money in his pockets and that if we win that game we were about to play, we will get R1,000 each. We would play to the best of our abilities and win, and we would go back to him to renegotiate a bigger amount, at some point, he would stop coming. I bought my first car for just R800,” he laughed.

Lechaba began his professional footballing career at Pretoria Callies in 1974, playing with the likes of Lucas “Masterpieces” Moripe and Owen Da Gama, and said it was during those times when he realised that playing alongside brilliant players spurred him on. 

“I don’t want to shy away from the fact that I was so fortunate, wherever I was surrounded by good players, it automatically made me a good player too. Any player in the world automatically becomes a good player because of the people they are surrounded with. 

“When I sat my parents down to tell them that I wanted to be a footballer, my father said if I am going to go that route, I better make sure I am the best and I promised him I will be a star. You can watch videos of football or buy the best soccer boots, but for one to be a good player, they need to compromise and sacrifice a lot,” said Lechaba. 

Born in Polokwane and raised in Mamelodi, Pretoria, he started taking the soccer path as early as primary school and played for the Transvaal Black Birds and Motherwell FC.

Lechaba wishes to have his own academy where he can continue to motivate and guide young players and use his wisdom and experience.

“Currently, money is an issue. But players need to be trained in being mentally and physically fit because if you are not, you won’t believe in yourself. If you are fit, you can be confident, your performance can improve.”

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