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Still In Touch With Thapelo Liau

Soccer Laduma’s ‘In Touch’ & ‘Still In Touch’ feature has been a fan favourite for almost two decades in Soccer Laduma’s weekly newspaper. 

Millions of readers turn to it first each week to read the crazy stories that Mzansi’s former players tell and to see current soccer stars dish the dirt on their teammates and coaches. 

Over the years, together with our readers, we have laughed uncontrollably and gasped with disbelief at stories that have never been told before!

Due to the incredible success and reading pleasure over the years and the timeless nature of this incredible content, Soccer Laduma has dug through the archives to bring back to life some of the gems you may have missed, or simply want to re-read and share with your friends. 

This week, we look back to 18 December 2013 in issue number 852, where Thapelo Liau recalls his time at Ria Stars with funny anecdotes. He also speaks about Orlando Pirates, where he played alongside beloved and funny characters such as Steve Lekoelea, Mbulelo Mabizela and Gerald Raphahlela.

Still In Touch With…THAPELO LIAU (Part 1)

Thapelo Liau, who started his career at Bloemfontein Celtic, was a largely underrated player who possessed lots of skill and flair. He was part of the Orlando Pirates team that won the league in the 2002/03 season but fell out of favour with most of the coaches he played under, due to his style of play. He retired in 2007 at Phunya Sele Sele and regards Sydney Moshikaro as one of the best players he’s played with, saying, “Many people didn’t watch him play because when Ria Stars got promoted, he got injured and didn’t play much, but I can tell you he was a deadly striker. He could move to the left and the right to create space and was a menace in the air.”

Thapelo, let’s go back in time and reminisce about the time when you were still the talk of the town!

I made my debut in the professional ranks at Bloemfontein Celtic and finished my career there, but Ria Stars is where I really had a great time and played my best football. I was sharing a room with Sydney Moshikaro, who was a great character. If you didn’t know him, you’d think he was a quiet person, but he wasn’t. I remember we used to play dice in camp, with the likes of Joel Seroba, Thembinkosi Biyela and Saul Molapo, and Sydney used to beat us. He was very lucky, ha, ha, ha. And that man was very stingy. After winning at dice, he wouldn’t even want to give you R10. But he was a very good and friendly guy.

Now, tell us about the ‘Vaal story’ (Moshikaro and Liau once hitchhiked from Polokwane to Vaal)...

Ha, ha, ha, where did you get that from? Eish, that one! Sydney is the one who should tell you that story. It’s a very sensitive story, so I can’t comment on that. I’m not ready for divorce yet. That was very, very interesting though. Things happen.

Who were the funny guys in camp?

We had the likes of Seroba... he was a very funny guy. He used to play dice every day and would go to the taxi rank after training. I remember one time we didn’t get paid. We normally got paid on the 30th or 31st of the month, but at that time Ria (Ledwaba) didn’t have money, so we had to wait until the 10th of the next month. Seroba then came to training with lots of cash, which he had won from his gambling escapades, and started handing out loans to the players. As he gave you the money, he’d say, “Hey, mfethu, nay’ i 4 klip (here’s R400). But when you get your salary, you need to pay me R450.” He charged interest, ha, ha, ha. What a character! Even today, if you’re looking for him, you need to go to Bree Street in Jo’burg, and that’s where you’ll find him playing his favourite game. That man paid his bond, got married and is supporting his family through the money he wins from dice. It’s more like a career to him. The late Thabang Lebese was very naughty, you know. I remember he used to sneak out of camp such a lot that the management decided to lock us in our rooms, fearing that we’d go out in the wee hours.


But the one funny story I still remember happened when I was playing for Orlando Pirates. We were going to play against SuperSport United. Before the game, our muti man gave us some muti to keep in our mouths and instructed us not to greet the opposition or say anything before getting onto the field. So now we were standing in the tunnel next to the SuperSport players and Molefi ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe, who was my friend, came up to me and said, “Hey, Slow, how’s it?” I just kept quiet. We were told that if you talked, you would get fined. He kept on asking, “U sharp?” He thought maybe I was fighting with him because, the last time he checked, we were friends. That was very funny! That was Pirates for you... we had a muti man and had to follow the rules. I remember one time we were playing against Platinum Stars and Jimmy Kauleza was playing for us. During the game the supporters were booing him. At halftime we were surprised to see him going straight to the showers. He told Bra Phil (Setshedi, team manager), “I’m not going back. The supporters hate me.” We had to tell him, “No, relax. You must be strong. You can’t go out just because the supporters are booing you.” He was a great player, but short-tempered. Even during a training session, if you kicked him, he would fight and do all sorts of funny things.

Great stuff!

The other character at Pirates was Steve Lekoelea. My first game when I got there was a Soweto derby against Kaizer Chiefs. We lost 1-0 and, after the match, we went straight to the hotel for a meeting. We were coached by Jean-Yves Kerjean. Our chairman Irvin Khoza asked the players, “Guys, what’s wrong? Why are you performing badly?” Steve raised his hand and the chairman said, “Okay, Steve, what’s wrong?” You know what Steve said? Ha, ha, ha, he said, “Chairman, I thought you were a great mafia. But this time they knocked you. They gave you a fake coach.” We couldn’t help but laugh, and, mind you, the coach was there, ha, ha, ha. Mbulelo ‘Old John’ Mabizela was a fighter and I recall he once fought with the late Lesley Manyathela at training. He also fought with Gerald ‘Mgababa’ Raphahlela when we were playing 11 v 11. Mabizela was in the first eleven while Mgababa was in the second team. We were surprised to see Mabizela wanting to play as a striker, as we didn’t know he wanted to hit Mgababa! They went for a 50/50 challenge and that’s when he knocked Mgababa. Training had to be stopped. I also had an incident with goalkeeper Michel Babale at Pirates. We were playing small-sided games. Babale used to like players who would shoot, but I kept on passing the ball into the net and he wasn’t impressed. He kept on telling me to shoot. When we went to take a water break, he came from behind and started hitting me.

Ha, ha, ha.

I was like, “What’s happening?” Now, Mgababa was my main man, my ‘brother’. After training, he went straight to Babale and told him, “My friend, I’m going to kill you.” Then the next day Babale didn’t pitch up for training and we kept wondering why. The next day he came and told the coach, “I’m afraid to come here because Mgababa wants to kill me.” Ha, ha, ha, I’m telling you, Mgababa was a character. He used to own taxis, so we were all afraid of him. But he was a wonderful soul, make no mistake.

Lovely memories! Let’s do this again in the first edition of the New Year. Have a blessed festive season, Abuti Bula Boot!

Sure, thanks, Lunga, and same to you and the rest of the Soccer-Laduma family.


Best player I’ve ever faced: Doctor Khumalo

Best player I’ve played with: Sydney Moshikaro

Biggest pay cheque: R40 000

Smallest pay cheque: R2 500

Former team that used the most muti: Orlando Pirates


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