Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates captain and long serving defender, Lucky Lekgwathi, took an hour off his hectic schedule to spend an hour doing an exclusive Q & A session with Sport24.
The veteran defender highlighted his memorable moments in the famous black and white jersey, his relationship with the late Lesley Manyathela and his plans for the future.
The 38-year-old versatile defender also revealed his Pirates dream team from 2002 up to date following his 13 years with the Sea Robbers.
Q: What does the future hold for Lucky Lekgwathi? Do you still want to play again next season?
A: It will depend on the team’s performance towards the end of the season. If by then we’ll be still in the CAF Confederations Cup then I might continue. I still feel fresh and my legs are still going strong so time will tell.
Q: The club supporters are pleading with the club to re-hire Ruud Krol. What is your take on that?
A: (Laughs) Eish, I can’t comment on this one. It’s only up to the Chairman to decide on that but for me I’m always willing to work with anyone who the club hires. If it happens like that, it will be a pleasure to work with him again.
Q: Have you recovered from your injury yet? And are we ever going to see you leading the team this season?
A: Unfortunately I got injured again recently, and I just went for a microscope and the scan revealed that I will be out for about three weeks.
Q: Having served the Sea Robbers with dignity and loyalty for a long time, which 11 players can you choose for your dream team from 2002 up to date, with you captaining the team?
A: Eish (Laughs), now you want to put me in trouble, eish let’s see. 4-4-2 formation.
Senzo Meyiwa, Lucky Lekgwathi (Captain), Tonic Chabalala, Mbulelo Mabizela, Abednego Netshiozwi, Edelbert Dinha, Benedict Vilakazi, Tlou Segolela, Steve Lekoelea, Benni McCarthy and Lesley Manyathela
Q: Lucky, when are you going to retire from football, taking to consideration the recurring injuries delaying your first PSL game of the season?
A: For me to retire it would be up to my legs, It’s so sad for me to be still injured but I will continue working hard because there are too many motivations for me to continue playing.
In this AFCON tournament, you can see that Robert Kidiaba (DRC) is still playing at an old age and to me that also motivates me to stay on. I have played against him in the CAF Champions League and to me that was an inspiration.
Q: You are the only captain to win the most number of trophies with a single team in the history of the PSL, what does this mean to you?
A: It feels great to be the best captain in the PSL, especially captaining a big team with a rich history like Orlando Pirates and went on to achieve something. Also taking into consideration that legends like Shakes Mashaba also captained the team and win trophies in the past. I come from Pretoria and every captain from Pretoria who captained Pirates in the past also succeeded. I’m talking about players like Edward Motale and the likes of Bashin Mahlangu.
Q: Which has been your best season at Pirates since 2002 and why?
A: I had enjoyed almost every season with the club. But I must single out the double treble winning seasons (2010/11 and 2011/12). There is no doubt about that and also the last season where we managed to reach the Final of the CAF Champions League. Also not forgetting the 2002/03 season which was my first season at Pirates and went on to win the league. We used to wear jerseys with three numbers at the back.
Q: Which has been your worst season at Pirates since 2002 and why?
A: It has to be the 2007/08 season. That season we didn’t perform well as a team. We were fighting for a Top 8 finish that season and we were the only team in the history of the PSL never to miss-out on the Top 8. We ended up on the 8th spot andt still qualified but that our worst season.
Q: Which game was your best, and which one was your worst in the famous black and white colours?
A: My worst game was a 3-1 loss against Kaizer Chiefs in the 2010/11 season. I was playing out of position that day (left back) because we had injuries in the team. I lost possession then Knowledge Musona capitalised from that and then Daine Klate ended up scoring an own goal from the mistake. I also conceded a penalty in that game, but I wasn’t discouraged because that’s football mistakes happens but then again we ended up winning the league.
My best game was in 2002/03 season against Dynamos. We were celebrating the 65th anniversary at the Orlando stadium and I overlapped and cut inside to score a brilliant goal with my weaker left foot and that was one of the best goals of the season. I made my name in that match and everyone wanted the piece of me after that game wherever I went.
Q: You have seen coaches and players coming and leaving the club in the past and you still remain. Any specific reason behind that?
A: No, there is no specific reason behind that. Here is the thing, I love Orlando Pirates and I grew up supporting the team. I also don’t like changing teams. When I joined Pirates, I told myself that I want to retire here.
Many teams came chasing my signature and Mamelodi Sundowns are one of them. I remember turning them down and before I knew it one newspaper reported that I have signed with them and the chairman asked me about it and I told him where my loyalty lies and he was happy about it. He even assured me that one day, my loyalty will pay off.
Q: If you were to hire back one of the Bucs former coaches, who will it, be and why?
A: Augusto Palacios. He always want to bring the best out of all players. Benni McCarthy was scoring goals from left, right and centre when Palacios took over. Moeneeb Josephs was also on top form under him.
Look at Thandani Ntshumayelo and Thabo Matlaba when they joined Pirates, they were playing regularly and contributing a lot to the team because of Palacios motivation.
Q: How was your relationship with the late Lesley Manyathela?
A: He was a close friend of mine. He was like a brother to me. We met when I was still playing for Ria Stars and he was still playing for Chelamoya FC. We were both strikers, and I was asked to give him an advice before the game. And guess what, we played to a 1-1 draw with him scoring for Chelamoya and I scored for Ria Stars.
He joined Pirates before me and when I came to Pirates, he gave me a warm welcome and told me not to worry about the politics within the players then because he was already used to the guys.
Q: The club suffered from a tragedy of losing Senzo Meyiwa last year, how did you comfort your players as a leader during that period and do you think they have mentally recovered from their loss?
A: It’s good to have a Chairman like Dr Irvin Khoza. He is very good at motivating and comforting players. He organised a special counselling for all players the following day and I didn’t take part because I was at Senzo’s home in Durban with the Minister of Sports.
I tried to offer few words of comfort but it was hard and you must remember that I have already lost Lesley Manyathela at the club so I tried to use the same words of comfort to the players but you cannot get used to death pains.
Where were you during the time you heard of Senzo Meyiwa’s passing and personally, how did you take it?
A: I was at home when Ria Ledwaba called me to break the news to me. I couldn’t believe it and I went to a private room and wept. It was so sad then I called Tlou Segolela to inform him because he grew up with Senzo at the Pirates development team. I always told Senzo that one day you will captain this team (Pirates) and Bafana Bafana and losing him at his the crucial moment of his career was heart breaking. May his soul Rest In Peace.
Look out Part Two of the Q and A with Lucky Legwathi on Tuesday, exclusive to Sport24.