One day, he is an impenetrable defender for BTC Premiership champions, Jwaneng Galaxy. The other day he is sitting in an exam room, while the next; he is preparing fries for early morning customers. Thabo Leinanyane’s schedule is getting busier with each passing day. He tells Mmegi Sport Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE about the uphill, but potentially rewarding path he has chosen
Thabo Leinanyane has already made a name for himself as a steady fullback for local champions, Jwaneng Galaxy. A footballer’s dream is to represent their national team and Leinanyane has already ticked that box. His only unfulfilled dream is to play abroad, but he possesses sufficient talent to land a deal outside the borders. Born in Lobatse 27 years ago, the Galaxy skipper has been a loyal footballer in an age where high mobility is the order of the day in football.
He started his football career at BMC in 2011 and joined Galaxy in 2015 where he has remained an integral member of a team that has been credited with playing its part in changing the status quo.
Galaxy has already won one Mascom Top 8 cup and bagged the league title last season. He is a thoroughbred footballer, who however finds himself in the middle of three onerous roles. He is now a footballer, a student and a businessperson, all rolled in one.
The suspension of football has probably accelerated Leinanyane’s two other newly found passion. Until the beginning of the year, the Zebras right-back was focusing much of his energy on football.
But when an initiative from the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB), in partnership with Botho University bore fruit in April, Leinanyane’s name was among those who had enrolled for a degree in Business Management. He started his classes on April 8, and two weeks later, his mobile eatery business’ doors swung wide open. “I have always wanted to have an academic qualification in my life. So when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it with both hands. I will try my level best to graduate, although it’s tough,” Leinanyane said. He said venturing into business and pursuing a degree simultaneously was not planned.
“Actually, it was not planned. I think it is God’s plan. Football has always been my lifetime thing. Now I think the question should be why business and academics at the same time. As I said, I always wanted to have a qualification in life, and the opportunity presented itself when I least expected. I was already in the process of starting my own business. They all happened at the same time,” he said.
“I could not dump one and take the other. I just had to make it my burden and move on with life. Maybe the future will hold greater things. It is God’s plan. Again, it is one step at a time, but I have made all this my priority,” a determined Leinanyane said. He admits the road ahead would not be easy after he chose to juggle the three roles.
“It is very hard. Sometimes I get home tired and having assignments to submit. It is the decision I made. I knew it was never going to be easy. It is hard but I am coping and I am enjoying.”
He said it was crucial to step out of the comfort zone if one wants to achieve their dreams.
“You cannot achieve everything that you want when you are in your comfort zone, so I decided to get out of my comfort zone and dig deep for the future I want.
I am also grateful to the people around me, they help and support me,” he said.
Leinanyane has big dreams; he wants to grow his food business to a franchise in the mould of established brands like KFC and Chicken Licken. His initial aim was to sell on-the-go meals like burgers, fries and chicken wrap.
“That was my plan, but I realised most people don’t have money to buy such in a village like Kanye. So I ended up selling what the customers can afford like fries and Russian (sausages).”
The gangly star grew up in Lobatse and always had his eyes on playing football.
“Football was played more than any other sport. My love for football started at a very young age because of the set-up I grew up under,” he said. Leinanyane was selected into the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) development programme, Re Ba Bona Ha when he was 11-years-old. He said he is happy with what he has achieved in football, as he didn’t expect to be where he is. “My journey has been a bit impressive,” the Galaxy skipper said.
Leinanyane believes football can be a career in Botswana but some administrative issues have to be done right. “I think our leaders are not doing enough to improve football in Botswana. That is why most parents will never allow their kids to pursue a career in football. It is because of the standards but in all, football can be a career,” he said. He argues that football should have long returned, adding the enforced break has been frustrating to players.
“We no longer work, we no longer have income. Okay, most teams in Botswana do not pay that well but the little that we got made a difference for us and our families. I wish there was a way we could find help.
We tried our level best to voice our concerns but it all vanished into thin air. We wish and hope one day we can get back to work and feed our hungry families,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Leinanyane said budding footballers should chase their dream as the sport can be a life-changer. His highlights thus far include reaching the 2019 COSAFA Cup final under Mogomotsi ‘Teenage’ Mpote, where the Zebras lost to Zambia.