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The ‘Queen’ of Lesotho football

 

Moorosi Tsiane

A technically-gifted footballer who is every coach’s dream, Likhosatsana and Mehalalitoe forward, Boitumelo Sebabane, is as stunning with her dribbling skills as she is with her ability to dispatch the killer pass and score goals.

Local football pundits call her Lesotho’s own Portia Modise in awe-inspired comparison to the South African football star, and the moniker is a perfect suit for Sebabane whose soccer moves are indeed, a joy to watch.

Born 18 years ago in the Qoaling village of Maseru, Sebabane made it a point to focus on the beautiful game at an early age and not be distracted by societal ills that have destroyed countless youths in Lesotho. By the age of five years, young Boitumelo was already showing signs that she could be destined for something most girls would shy away from, which was football.

Popularly known as Queen, Sebabane has since grown to be arguably the best female footballer in Lesotho at the moment—thanks to her dedication to the game despite all the negative comments that have been associated with the game as far as women are concerned.

Sebabane, a one-time captain of the national team, told the Sunday Express that growing up in Qoaling, she would play football with boys, and later joined a team called Emmanuel FC, which plays in the B Division.

The gangling striker would also play the game at Mahlaseli and Mohokare primary schools and later at Abia High School where she completed her secondary education.

“I really did not have much of a choice because I grew up in a male-dominated neighbourhood, and I was always playing with the boys. I gradually fell in love with football and then decided to join a boys’ team called Emmanuel FC in 2005 where I spent about eight years.

“I was also going to school at the time but really enjoyed being out there on the streets playing football. I guess the sport helped me stay focused on constructive rather than destructive issues such as alcohol, drugs and prostitution that I have seen ruining some of my peers,” Sebabane said.

In 2009, Sebabane said she received a life-changing call when she was invited to join the national under-17 squad and two years later, she made her senior team (Mehalalitoe ) debut against Zimbabwe.

After this development, Sebabane was in 2013 ordered never to play in male football leagues again, prompting her to join Likhosatsana.

“I always preferred to be in boys’ company so much that many had come to think that I was a tomboy which is not correct. However, in 2013, I had to shift to women’s teams after being told that the authorities had said it was not proper that I was playing in the male league.

“But the truth of the matter is that playing with boys helped me a lot because they are more aggressive and they never treated me differently, which is why it is easy to shine when playing against ladies’ teams now.

The lethal striker said she fitted in very well in Likhosatsana, who are at the the summit of the eight-team Women’s Super League with 15 points after 5 matches, while Kick4Life are second with 12 points from the same number of matches. They both have two matches of the first round left.

Discipline, Sebabane emphasized, remains the key to success in whatever facet of life.

“Fortunately, spending more time with my male teammates helped me a lot and I learned many things from them. I am a determined person and very passionate about football, which makes it easy for me to remain focused and humble. It never really bothered me to play football with boys, which as I said, helped me become the player I am today.”

Sebabane however, said playing football came with its own risks and sacrifices.

“There is a lot of pressure from the supporters and some will be swearing at us for no reason at all, but simply because we would be playing a sport they consider to be for boys or men only. But I simply ignore them and get on with the job; I have learnt that not everybody loves you in this life so I just pretend that I am not hearing what they are saying.”

However, Sebabane said her dream of becoming a professional footballer nearly came true three years ago.

“Our former national team coach, ntate Tjamela Tjamela once told me, in 2012, that there was a Namibian team that had shown interest in me but I never knew what happened thereafter, as the coach was no longer with us.”

On the challenges local female footballers face, Sebabane said poor development structures always let Lesotho teams down when playing other nations.

“The biggest challenge we are facing in women’s football here in Lesotho is lack of clear development structures, and this is exposed each time we play international matches.

“Our football standards are way behind and this becomes very clear when we play international matches. However, the positive thing is at least we have a women’s football league running now, and hopefully, things will change for the better.”

She continued: “But again, it is important for us, as players, to back our talents with education  because we are still amateurs here, so football alone can’t sustain us hence one needs a profession. I completed my high school education last year and will probably be furthering my studies starting from August with a South African college where I would want to study electrical engineering if things go according to plan.”

Sebabane also told the Sunday Express that the sad part of being a female footballer is it puts one under pressure and deprives you of the basics other girls enjoy.

“My friends are doing lots of female stuff which I can’t do even if I wanted to because of the pressure that comes with being a footballer. I am focusing on this career, so I don’t have much time for social life. I used to have a boyfriend but we ended up going our separate ways because I simply didn’t have the time to be with him as often as one would have wished.”

According to Sebabane, her aim now is to play in the South African league or overseas and earn a living through her God-given talent.

“I believe I have achieved enough locally because I have played for all the national teams despite being so young. I now want to go further and play where my idol, Portia Modise, played, in Europe.”

Sebabane has advised girls who want to be footballers to “go for it” and never be discouraged by adverse comments from detractors.

“Anything is possible in life and the girls can achieve a lot for as long they are dedicated to the game. They must be self-motivated and disciplined like I said, because without these attributes, one can easily give up.”

 

BOX THIS PART

Factfile

Name: Boitumelo Sebabane

Nickname: Queen

Position: Striker

National team caps: Nine

Goals: 10

Clubs: Emmanuel FC, Likhosatsana FC (current).

Date of Birth: 05 August 1996.

Place of Birth: Qoaling, Maseru.

Favourite meal: Pap and pork.

Dream car: SUV.

Role model: ‘Mabulara Nkhabu (mother).

 

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