An Alexandra youngster is gracing the European soccer league barely two seasons after honing his skills at a local academy.
Lebohang Lelani Phiri (19) is plying his trade in the Danish league where he rescued top Copenhagen team, Brondby Football Club from relegation in his maiden match. His winning goal saved Brondby from relegation in the final match of the 2012/13 season and the team bounced back to finish in fourth position in the current season.
Not one to let instant fame overcome him, Phiri was calculative when expressing his footballing journey, ensuring that he heaped praise on his family, former local coaches and team-mates for enabling him realise his dream. “I am still very young and have to credit those who made it easy for my progress, and not to be big headed as the challenges and pitfalls ahead are still many,” he said. “My upbringing has prepared me for hard work in whatever I do, and to not let illusionary fame distract me from achieving the highest status as a professional soccer player of note over time.”
He started playing at the age of 10 for Real Madrid in Alex, moved on to Balfour Football Club and Shootings Stars where at 14 he was recruited to the Wits football academy.
Phiri said the academy exposed him to the intricacies of football. “The academy exposed me to team work, tactical and technical awareness of the sport and commitment to achieve the best that I can. Skill is abundant in the township especially Alexandra, but it plays a minute part to holistic development in the process of becoming a professional and able to play at the highest level, especially internationally,” he added.
He moved to Denmark through a Wits and Brondby FC partnership whereby academy players form part of Brondby’s development programme.
“These forays to Denmark helped me adjust to harsh winter conditions and also club officials helped integrate me into their way of life,” said Phiri.
He credits his father Esau Phiri, a former Vaal Professionals and Thembisa Classic player, and Wts football academy coach, Ashley Makhanya for keeping him focused on developing his soccer career.