Footballer Lebogang Mabatle Joins Phoenix Feminin Marrakech: An Inspiring Journey of Success and Resilience

South African footballer, Lebogang Mabatle, shares her inspirational journey from the SA Olympics to Phoenix Feminin Marrakech. Photo: Supplied

In an exclusive interview with gsport’s Lungile Matsuma, South African footballer Lebogang Mabatle discusses her recent signing with the Moroccan Club, Phoenix Feminin Marrakech. 

Dive into this insightful conversation as Lebogang shares her journey, from her rise as a formidable player both on and off the field to juggling her B.Sports Science studies and her football career. 

Learn about her experience representing South Africa at the 2012 Summer Olympics, hear her advice for aspiring players, and share in her triumphs over challenges she has faced. 

Prepare to be inspired by Lebogang’s determination and passion for the game:

Q: Congratulations on your recent signing with Phoenix Feminin Marrakech! I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to reach out to you for a follow-up interview regarding your exciting news.

Lebogang Mabatle: Thank you so much! I am thrilled and filled with mixed emotions. It’s an incredible opportunity and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Q: How does it feel to join such an esteemed club like Phoenix Feminin Marrakech?

LM: I am so excited, happy, emotional, and privileged. Words can hardly express the range of feelings I’m experiencing right now.

Q: Can you share how the opportunity to play for the club came about? Were you actively pursuing international opportunities?

LM: It’s an interesting story, actually. I had posted a video on Instagram showcasing my skills during a Hollywood Bet Super League game against Sundowns. A gentleman named Stephen Motete noticed my talent, reached out to me, and mentioned that he knew teams abroad that were looking for defenders. At first, I didn’t believe it was real, but I provided him with more videos and my sports CV. To my surprise, I received an invitation from Phoenix Feminin Marrakech in Morocco. Initially, I was considering joining a Georgian side as they were preparing to play in the UEFA, but circumstances led me to choose Morocco instead. It was a journey filled with ups and downs, but I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Q: Your experience representing South Africa at the 2012 Summer Olympics was impressive. How did that impact your career?

LM: The experience I had at the 2012 Olympics was great. I learned a lot and had the opportunity to play with older and more experienced players. It was a stepping stone for me at the age of 20, playing alongside amazing players like Portia Modise, Amanda Dlamini, Janine van Wyk, and others. We also had a great group of young players who made the experience easier for us. It taught me how to approach different situations, remain calm under pressure, and helped me grow as a player.

Q: With your wealth of experience and expertise, what do you hope to bring to Phoenix Feminin Marrakech?

LM: I hope to bring my skills and knowledge to help the team succeed and conquer Africa.

Q: Balancing your studies in B. Sports Science and your football career can be challenging. How do you manage both effectively?

LM: Being a student-athlete can be difficult. I managed it by setting goals for myself. I aimed to play in the varsity cup, which required achieving a certain percentage in my studies. So, I focused on balancing my academics and football commitment. It was not always easy, but I declined certain opportunities when I had more school work and focused on playing when I had more free time.

Q: As a trailblazer for aspiring players everywhere, what advice do you have for young girls who dream of a career in professional football?

LM: I would advise all young players to start by appreciating their talent and thanking God for it. Always believe in yourself; never underestimate your abilities. Every opportunity given to you should be cherished, as you never know who might be watching. Football is also about luck, so keep playing and don’t give up. Stay dedicated, disciplined, and focused on your goals.

Q: How do you see the future of women’s football in South Africa and the broader African continent? Are there any specific goals you hope to achieve within the sport?

LM: Women’s football in South Africa and Africa is growing rapidly. There are positive changes financially and in the level of play. More sponsors are becoming interested, and the presence of spectators is increasing. The overall entertainment value of women’s football has improved, with more competitive matches. As for my goals, I aspire to play in UEFA competitions and the next World Cup.

Q: Could you share any insights or anecdotes about your time playing for the University of Pretoria (UP)?

LM: Playing for the University of Pretoria (TUKS) was an incredible journey. In the early years, we faced some challenges with a lack of players, but we managed to play and maintain our status. And then, from 2015 to 2018, we became a force to be reckoned with, winning almost everything in our path. It was an amazing feeling to have the support of the office and to be part of a team that celebrated each other’s achievements. TUKS elevated my career, and I am grateful to the trust they had in me to represent them.

Q: What challenges or obstacles have you faced throughout your football journey, and how did you overcome them?

LM: In 2018, I faced a serious illness that made me think it was the end of my football career. I received different diagnoses from several doctors (from lung infections to bronchitis to TB), which was confusing. I was out for a year and a half, losing body mass and feeling helpless. It taught me that in football, teams value you when you are fit and playing. I had to go home to recover and find strength. Fortunately, I had a few people who believed in me and supported me financially and emotionally; like coach Desiree [Ellis] and SAFA played a huge role too as they paid my hospital bills, took me to different specialists. I eventually returned to the field and worked hard to regain my strength. More recently, I injured my knee in 2021, but with determination and support, I managed to recover without surgery. These experiences humbled me and made me appreciate the support system within football.

Q: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to in this next chapter of your football journey with Phoenix Feminin Marrakech?

LM: I am excited to see what the future holds for me at Phoenix Feminin Marrakech. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I will continue to give my best on the field, win games, and savour every moment. I am eager to see the history I will create in this new chapter.

Photo Caption: South African footballer, Lebogang Mabatle, shares her inspirational journey from the SA Olympics to Phoenix Feminin Marrakech. Photo: Supplied

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