‘The game is the best teacher’
GROWING up in the streets of Ha Rankhelepe in Maseru, a young Makobo Kepa was not allowed to play with her peers because of a propensity for fainting.
Kepa’s family was worried that harm would befall her tiny frame should she faint while playing with her peers who would not know what to do.
Undeterred, Kepa who is affectionately known as KB, would roam the dusty Ha Rankhelepe streets playing football without any care in the world.
“I didn’t play much when growing up because I used to faint a lot but I always found an escape in football,” KB said.
“I am not sure why I always found my way into playing football but I loved it. Playing football gave me an inner peace.”
Realising his sister’s love for football, KB’s brother Tseko Kepa would buy her small, soft balls to play the beautiful game.
“My brother attended school at Sefika High School and every time he came home he would bring me small, soft balls and we would play football together,” the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Bachelors of Arts graduate said.
While the siblings did not know that one day she would be representing the country both as player and coach, they continued to nurture the young KB’s talent.
“The more I played football, the more I developed a technique and I continued to play football even when I moved to town to continue with my studies at St Catherine’s High School.”
Unbeknownst to her, someone was closely monitoring her progress. KB was pleasantly surprised one day when footballer Thabang Khiba approached her.
“He encouraged me to try my luck with Arsenal FC ladies team and after giving it a thought, I went there and everything else fell into place,” the Kick4Life FC ladies team captain said, adding that was the team which nicknamed her KB.
In no time, KB made the first 11 and was later spotted by the national team coaches.
She went on to play for People’s Choice (PC) FM ladies team, Maseru Celtic and later joined a South African team – Vosloorus All Stars.
“When the team failed to keep their end of the bargain, I returned home and to play for Maseru Celtic FC until I transferred to Rovers FC immediately after enrolling at NUL,” KB said.
The Kick4Life FC central midfielder said playing for Arsenal FC taught her to be a team player, follow instructions and respect fellow players and their opinions.
“I am not an outspoken person and on the field of play, I try as much as possible to follow and respect the rules and regulations of the game.
“But while I loved football so much, there was no way I wouldn’t be an academic achiever because my mum is a teacher and she never left us in the house when going to school,” she said.
Her love for education did not end at NUL. Deep down she knew she could contribute a lot in the local football fraternity if only armed with the right tools.
That is why she jumped at the first opportunity to attend the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) Level 1 Coaching Course which was followed by the FIFA Grassroots Coaching Course earlier this year.
“The knowledge I acquired came in handy when the Kick4Life FC management appointed me to coach 12-year-old girls. I love development so much and I want to impart knowledge to someone else. This is a perfect opportunity for me to do that,” she said, adding that she is also learning from her players.
“I want to see football grow in our country and I strongly feel that if we don’t get it right at the grassroots level, we are doomed because that is where stars are made or broken.
“I love coaching young children because this is a crucial stage in their lives and we must allow them to make mistakes because some people can only learn through making mistakes on the field of play. We need to allow children to enjoy themselves. The game is a teacher,” the down-to-earth star said.
She said celebrating African Women’s Month for her means nurturing children’s talents and appreciating efforts made by women in ensuring that ladies football is taken seriously in a male-dominated field.
Being given an opportunity to raise Lesotho’s flag high in Cameroon at the Confederation of African Football (CAF)’s Coaching Course for New Women Instructors was the proverbial cherry on top.
“I’m not sure why LeFA chose me but I am humbled. I’m so happy. However, this doesn’t mean I know more than other people now that I have attended this course. I am still going to learn from other people while also imparting my knowledge,” she said.
She stressed that in football, and life in general, one can never reach a point where they think they know more and therefore must stop learning.
KB further explained that the Cameroon trip was overwhelming as she rubbed shoulders with football stars she had previously only seen on television.
“I sat and interacted with football stars like Nigerian Ann Chiejine and Zimbabwe’s Assistant Coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda. I was impressed but at the same time felt a bit threatened. I had mixed emotions.”
She added: “I also learnt that football is the same everywhere and the difference is style of play, level of maturity and commitment.”
On venturing into sports journalism, KB said she always loved reading newspapers and followed a certain female sports journalist.
“I was inspired by then sports journalist, Pascalinah Kabi. While job hunting, ntate Tale told me to approach ‘Marafaele Mohloboli who was starting her own newspaper and that’s when I got to learn more about this fearless female sports journalist,” KB concluded.