Johannesburg - At 30, Reneilwe Letsholonyane was advised to retire from football because he was deemed to be over the hill.
But, four years later, “Yeye” is still going strong and has no intention of hanging up his boots.
Age aside, there is no stopping the SuperSport United midfielder, who has rediscovered his deadly form.
For Yeye, football is his way of praising God for the talent He gave him.
“For starters, this is a God-given talent and I didn’t work hard to get it. He gave it to me and it is my turn to thank him by doing my best with what he has given me,” he says.
Letsholonyane oozes confidence after his recent performances proved detractors wrong.
His back-to-back man of the match awards against Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns have reminded detractors he is still the man.
At 34, Yeye is enjoying his football again in the colours of United, which he joined at the beginning of the season.
“I am in a good space. I am enjoying every minute of it,” he says. “When you are in a happy space, that positivity rubs off on other individuals, and they start doing positive things as well.”
The former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder says he is his own man and does not listen to people’s opinions. However, he refused to reveal who it was who advised him to retire.
“I was told to retire years back because there is this perception at home that when you reach 27 or so, you are no longer good enough and you need to give others a chance.
“I respect what others say, but it doesn’t bother me. Does the fact that I am 34 mean I can’t run? Or I can’t score goals? Or even keep the ball?” he asked.
He says he has no point to prove to anyone, let alone to his former side Chiefs.
“I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. When I decided to leave my previous employer, I wanted new challenges in the few years left in me. I wanted to experience new things and learn new things in a different environment. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I mean, I was there for eight years.”
He regards Amakhosi as a closed chapter in his life.
“When I make a decision, I make peace with it. I don’t bear grudges and I don’t have regrets.”
He highlights discipline, focus and “knowing what you want in life” as the things that keep him going.
“How you handle yourself on and off the field is key to success in life. You also have to sacrifice certain things but, most importantly, you have to respect the game.”
Letsholonyane says he will remain involved in football after his playing days are over – it is important to empower yourself with further knowledge, as the game is constantly evolving.
“Today’s kids think differently to us, and we need to equip ourselves with the know-how of doing things appropriately with them.”
Yeye reveals he would have pursued his love of becoming a chartered accountant if he had not been able to play soccer.
“When I finished my matric, I had a choice of either continuing my studies or taking my chance in football, and I made a conscious decision to give football a fair chance and see what happened. I am happy I made the right choice.”
But he is quick to say that he is now studying business management through Unisa.
“I have a clothing business on the side and I need to have formal knowledge of how to run a business, hence I registered for this course.”
Although the thought of retiring has not yet crossed his mind, he says he is already preparing for life after football.
“I know football is not something I will do forever. I believe a future is something that you prepare for, as nothing is guaranteed in life. While I am still enjoying myself on the field, I must be realistic and think about the future.”
He reveals that plans are afoot to open a lounge in Dobsonville and another clothing store. He also runs the Yeye Letsholonyane Foundation, which does charity work.
After finishing last season without any silverware at Chiefs, Yeye says he is at United to win things.
“We want to challenge for everything.”
He believes he has not yet fulfilled his potential as a footballer, and still has a lot to offer to the game.
Yeye says he will always be available for Bafana if the selectors feel they need him.