Letsholonyane goes full circle

“The youth of today have all possible opportunities at their disposal,” says Youth Coach Tshidiso Letsholonyane, “Youth day is not about wearing a uniform, going to the parks and drinking alcohol.”

The 28-year-old Kaizer Chiefs U-17 coach says: “Youth Day is about showing appreciation and respect to those who lost their lives fighting for change so we can have a better future.”

Letsholonyane was born in White City Jabavu and later moved to Meadowlands at the age of 8.

The once budding football star reveals that his dream to become a superstar was hampered by injuries along the way. “My football career was not the best a footballer could wish for,” he says, “but from every challenge I faced, it was a lesson and an opportunity for me to grow.”

The Young Master is another a graduate of Amakhosi’s Youth Academy structures as he shares some of his footballing experiences,

“I started playing football at the age of 8 and joined the Kaizer Chiefs Youth Development in 2009,” says Letsholonyane who’s brother Reneilwe Letsholonyane also played for Amakhosi, “I played for the under 19 team and then moved to the reserve team a year later.”

In 2011, Amakhosi offered Letsholonyane a 3-year contract, and thereafter, “I was loaned out to a National First Division side Dynamos FC,” he recollects. “I was there for a season but didn’t get that much of a game time though. It was a disappointing experience for me but I never looked back. I continued to focus on the future.

“I came back to Chefs from the loan spell and spent the last 2 years of my contract in the reserves team where I enjoyed my football and we won the SAB league. The Kaizer Chiefs U-19 was coached by legend Ace Khuse when we won the SAB League in 2013/14 season.”

Letsholonyane’s contract expired in 2014.

“I went on to try my luck at another National First Division side Thanda Royal Zulu,” he says. “I struggled to secure a contract due to a recurring knee injury.”

In 2017 Letsholonyane decided to stop playing,

“I felt I no longer had the desire to play football and that’s when I decided to take a different route,” he adds. “I decided to go to school and do a short course to help kick start any role in a football environment. I did a Sports Coaching Science course with Trifocus Fitness Academy. As part of the course, I was expected to do practicals and shadowing in a football environment.  I am glad Kaizer Chiefs offered me the opportunity to do my practical in the Development Academy.

“My passion for coaching grew from there onward. I proceeded to do coaching badges with SAFA Coaching Education. I decided from there on to pursue a career as a coach.”

Covid-19 impacted Letsholonyane’s plans negatively as he was supposed to go to Ireland this year (May 2020) to do his Uefa Badge but unfortunately the pandemic happened.”

Letsholonyane was coach of Amakhosi’s U-15 for two seasons before graduating to the U-17s this year.

Before Lockdown, his team only played 4 league matches – winning 3 and losing 1. They occupied position 2 on the log, with the most goals scored (13) in 4 matches.

“I’m glad to have witnessed the promotion of my reserves teammates to the first team,” says Letsholonyane.  “I saw Hendrick Ekstein (now with Sabail FK in Azerbaijani), Zitha Macheke (now with Bidvest Wits) and Kgotso Malope (now with Richards Bay FC) gaining promotion to the senior team. And, as a coach, I saw Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya, Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, Njabulo Blom, and Happy Mashiane promoted to our senior team. I am happy to see football changing lives of these youngsters.

Apart from football, Letsholonyane is passionate about issues that affect the youth and engages his team and his peer regularly.

“My motivation comes from witnessing lives changing for the better,” says Letsholonyane. “This encourages me a lot.”

Letsholonyane identifies the challenges that confront the youth today:

  • There is abuse
  • Cyber bullying
  • Peer pressure
  • Poverty that is affecting the youth

“I wish to be part of the solution to all these ills,” concludes Letsholonyane, “I have so many coaches I look up to. I’m still young and I am planning to acquire as many qualifications as possible. I plan to learn as much as I can and grow not only as a coach but also as a person that the kids look up to.”

Letsholonyane dreams one day he will ascend to be at the helm of coaching the first team. “Hopefully one day I will help to be part of the successful history of Amakhosi. I want to repay the club for everything they have done for me and my family.”