As promised in this week’s edition of Soccer Laduma, we spoke to former Orlando Pirates coach Augusto Palacios, who only has words of praise for Lucky Lekgwathi. ‘Njenje’ reveals why the Ga-Rankuwa-born defender is a role model to many footballers out there and believes he has a role to play at Bucs long after his playing days are over.
Soccer Laduma: Hi, Augusto. Having worked with Lucky Lekgwathi before, what would you say makes him such a coachable player?
Augusto Palacios: He’s the longest-serving player in the team, has conducted him in a very professional manner and it’s only been on very few occasions that he has sustained injuries. Most importantly, he’s very loyal to the club. When it comes to training, he’s very serious and is a good leader – he’s talking to the players, advising them. I’m honoured to have coached him and for me he’s one of the best players I’ve coached in my life. You look at his age and the trophies he’s won... it’s unbelievable. He’s a role model.
SL: Surely, then, a lot of players can learn from him...
AP: He has shown discipline on and off the field. He always arrives early to training, is always dishing out instructions and is always trying to help his teammates. If you check, it’s rare that you find that he has been given a red card. He’s so loyal to the team’s cause that he sometimes tries to play with an injury. Remember that at one stage he once trained for almost six months without a contract, not receiving a salary. The chairman later gave him an award for his loyalty to the club. Another thing worth mentioning is that Lucky can play in any position at the back – right back, left back and central defence. He can also play in central midfield! What other players can also learn from him is that a central defender can score goals. I remember when I was coaching Pirates, we played in Limpopo against SuperSport United. He scored the winning goal with 30 seconds remaining on the clock. Apart from the loyalty, the character that he has to go for the set-piece and score goals is amazing. You never see central defenders scoring goals. I have great respect for him and I hope when he decides to retire, he can continue with football because he has so much knowledge and will be a great asset to the up-and-coming players.
SL: Pirates will begin their CAF Confederation Cup campaign soon. Does he have any role to play?
AP: You must remember how old players like Franz Backenbauer and Franco Baresi were when they stopped playing. They were almost 40! Age doesn’t count for me. It’s all about your physical condition and living a healthy lifestyle. That’s the most important thing.
SL: How did you find working with him?
AP: I regarded him as more just a player, but a friend, and he regarded me as a father. He always called me ‘My Father’ and you must remember that I’ve been at Pirates for 19 years. I know where came from, which was Ria Stars. For me, he is a legend at the club.
SL: Do you think the club will continue to appreciate his loyalty after he decides to retire?
AP: Yes, yes, yes. The chairman has already said that Lucky is not going anywhere. I applaud what he said because I believe he’s good value for Pirates. What more do you need? This is a player who led the team to the final of the CAF Champions League and won many trophies. We don’t have someone who has this experience in the technical team... no, we don’t... only Tebogo Moloi. It would be good to have a person like Lucky in the technical team, whether in the senior side or development.
SL: Thanks for your time, Njenje.
AP: It was an honour for me to work with him. He’s a fantastic player and person too. Thank you.
Hey guys what do you think of Palacios’ mini-interview about working with Lekgwathi?
Please share your views in the comments section below.