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The South African Making Waves In France’s Ligue 1

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Lebo Mothiba, only 22, is viewed as a potential rising star who could rival the likes of Benni McCarthy and Steven Pienaar as one of South Africa’s greatest sport exports.

It has been rare for South Africa to have a player in Europe’s heralded top five leagues in recent times, much less one that is viewed as a potential rising star who could rival the likes of Benni McCarthy and Steven Pienaar as one of the country’s greatest sport exports.

But Lebo Mothiba has been making waves in France’s Ligue 1, which sits only behind Spain, Italy, England and Germany among the world’s elite leagues, and for the 22-year-old, this is just the beginning.

Mothiba recently joined Racing Strasbourg from Lille, the club who had scouted him from the Diambars Football Academy in Johannesburg in 2014.

His four years in France have seen a remarkable rise for a player who left South Africa as a wide-eyed teenager, fearful of how he would be received in Europe, but determined to grab his opportunity for fame and fortune.

Now fluent in French and banging in the goals for club and country, he is settled in his new home and more eager than ever to progress to an even higher level in the coming years.

For a young man from Tembisa, a township in Gauteng, South Africa, he is living a life he barely dared dream of when growing up and turning out for his father’s side.

“I played for my dad’s team, it was called Mighty Bucks. I was there for years,” Mothiba tells FORBES AFRICA in Strasbourg.

“When I turned nine, I went for trials at Mamelodi Sundowns and I ended up playing for the Under-11 side.

“I am from a footballing family, everybody plays football except my Mum. My sister played for Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, my brother played locally in Tembisa and my dad, who has since passed on, also used to play. Football is in my blood.”

Now a hulking forward with a deft touch in front of the goal, Mothiba actually started as a center-back and his early role-models were defenders.

READ MORE: How One Female South African Footballer Is Forging Ahead

“I was a center-back at Sundowns, I played there for two years up to Under-13. But that’s when Sundowns stopped their academy. I moved on to Kempton Park and that’s when the coach changed me to a striker.

“Because I was a center-back, I used to look up to defenders, especially this one guy from Nigeria, Taribo West. In Tembisa, some of my friends even started calling me ‘West’ or ‘Taribo West’, he was my role-model.”

His fortunes changed when he was scouted for the now-defunct Diambars Academy that had started in Johannesburg, set up by former France internationals Bernard Lama and Patrick Vieira.

Strasbourg’s South African forward Lebo Mothiba celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Strasbourg (RCSA) and Dijon FCO on September 29, 2018. Photo by Frederick Florin – Getty Images.

“I was at Kempton Park and in 2010, the academy came to South Africa from Senegal. The guys from Diambars Senegal came to scout me playing at Modderfontein. We won 16-1 and I was playing striker. The owners of Diambars obviously enjoyed the game because I was one of the players they took.”

That led to a move to Lille at the age of 18, a top side in France who had hit hard times, both financially and on the pitch.

He was sent on loan to Valenciennes in the division below, and it was there that people started to take notice of this powerful South African.

“It was good for me to go on loan and showcase my talent, because at Lille it was very, very difficult to take that step up to the first team,” Mothiba says. “For me to get more experience, and for my confidence, I think it was time for me to go.

“It was in Ligue 2, but it was very tough. It is not easy at all. It is a tough league and I went there to get game-time, to do my best and I scored goals.”

Such was his form that Lille recalled him early from the loan spell in January 2018 to try and help them avoid relegation. In the end, it was Mothiba’s goals that kept the side in the top division.

“It was a very tough six months for me, because I went back to a club where everybody was stressing and everyone was under pressure because of the potential of relegation.

“But I went there to help them because it is my home. It is a team that took me when I was young and it was hurting me seeing the team at the bottom of the league.”

His eye-catching performances caught the attention of Strasbourg, who paid a reported €4 million (approximately $4.6 million) for his services in August, with cash-strapped Lille reluctant sellers, but needing to bring money into the club.

He started with a bang, netting four goals in his first three starts for Strasbourg up until the international break in October, making him an instant hit with his new club’s fans.

Mothiba is the stand-out performer among compatriots in Ligue 1, Bongani Zungi (Amiens), Lebogang Phiri (Guingamp) and Keagan Dolly (Montpellier), and says the competition is a good fit for the skillset of most players from South Africa.

“If you are a South African player and you know what your goal is, it is a good league. You can learn a lot, a totally different type of play. South African players are technically very good, but here it is more aggressive and faster going forward,” Mothiba says.

– By Nick Said

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30 under 30

Applications Open for FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 class of 2020

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FORBES AFRICA is on the hunt for Africans under the age of 30, who are building brands, creating jobs and transforming the continent, to join our Under 30 community for 2020.


JOHANNESBURG, 07 January 2020: Attention entrepreneurs, creatives, sport stars and technology geeks — the 2020 FORBES AFRICA Under 30 nominations are now officially open.

The FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list is the most-anticipated list of game-changers on the continent and this year, we are on the hunt for 30 of Africa’s brightest achievers under the age of 30 spanning these categories: Business, Technology, Creatives and Sport.

Each year, FORBES AFRICA looks for resilient self-starters, innovators, entrepreneurs and disruptors who have the acumen to stay the course in their chosen field, come what may.

Past honorees include Sho Madjozi, Bruce Diale, Karabo Poppy, Kwesta, Nomzamo Mbatha, Burna Boy, Nthabiseng Mosia, Busi Mkhumbuzi Pooe, Henrich Akomolafe, Davido, Yemi Alade, Vere Shaba, Nasty C and WizKid.

What’s different this year is that we have whittled down the list to just 30 finalists, making the competition stiff and the vetting process even more rigorous. 

Says FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil: “The start of a new decade means the unraveling of fresh talent on the African continent. I can’t wait to see the potential billionaires who will land up on our desks. Our coveted sixth annual Under 30 list will herald some of the decade’s biggest names in business and life.”

If you think you have what it takes to be on this year’s list or know an entrepreneur, creative, technology entrepreneur or sports star under 30 with a proven track-record on the continent – introduce them to FORBES AFRICA by applying or submitting your nomination.

NOMINATIONS AND APPLICATIONS CRITERIA:

Business and Technology categories

  1. Must be an entrepreneur/founder aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Should have a legitimate REGISTERED business on the continent
  3. Business/businesses should be two years or older
  4. Nominees must have risked own money and have a social impact
  5. Must be profit generating
  6. Must employ people in Africa
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Sports category

  1. Must be a sports person aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be representing an African team
  3. Should have a proven track record of no less than two years
  4. Should be making significant earnings
  5. Should have some endorsement deals
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Creatives category

  1. Must be a creative aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be from or based in Africa
  3. Should be making significant earnings
  4. Should have a proven creative record of no less than two years
  5. Must have social influence
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Your entry should include:

  • Country
  • Full Names
  • Company name/Team you are applying with
  • A short motivation on why you should be on the list
  • A short profile on self and company
  • Links to published material / news clippings about nominee
  • All social media handles
  • Contact information
  • High-res images of yourself

Applications and nominations must be sent via email to FORBES AFRICA journalist and curator of the list, Karen Mwendera, on [email protected]

Nominations close on 3 February 2020.

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The Springboks And The Cup Of Good Hope

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After their epic win beating England at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan on November 2, the Springboks returned home to South Africa, undertaking a nation-wide tour, in an open-top bus, holding high the Webb Ellis Cup. In this image, in the township of Soweto, they pass the iconic Vilakazi Street with throngs of screaming, cheering residents and Springbok fans lining the street. The sport united the racially-divided country. For the third time in history, the South African national rugby team was crowned world champions.

Image by Motlabana Monnakgotla

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Déjà vu: South Africa Back to Winning

Our Publisher reflects on the recent Springbok victory in Yokohoma, Japan

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Rugby World Cup 2019, Final: England v South Africa Mtach viewing at Nelson Mandela Square

By Rakesh Wahi, Publisher
FORBES AFRICA

Rugby is as foreign to me as cricket is to the average American. However, having lived in South Africa for 15 years, there is no way to avoid being pulled into the sport. November 2, 2019, is therefore a date that will be celebrated in South Africa’s sporting posterity. In many ways, it’s déjà vu for South Africans; at a pivotal time in history, on June 24, 1995, the Springboks beat the All Blacks (the national rugby team of New Zealand) in the final of the World Cup. The game united a racially-divided country coming out of apartheid and at the forefront of this victory was none other than President Nelson Mandela or our beloved Madiba. In a very symbolic coincidence, 24 years later, history repeated itself.

South Africans watched with pride as Siya Kolisi lifted the gold trophy in Yokohama, Japan, as had Francois Pienaar done so 24 years ago in Johannesburg. My mind immediately reflected on this extremely opportune event in South Africa’s history.

The last decade has not been easy; the country has slipped into economic doldrums from which there seems to be no clear path ahead. The political transition from the previously corrupt regime has not been easy and it has been disheartening to see a rapid deterioration in the economic condition of the country. The sad reality is that there literally seems to be no apparent light at the end of the tunnel; with blackouts and load-shedding, a currency that is amongst the most volatile in the world, rising unemployment and rising crime amongst many other issues facing the country.

Rakesh Wahi, Publisher Forbes Africa

Something needed to change. There was a need for an event to change this despondent state of mind and the South African rugby team seems to have given a glimmer of hope that could not have come at a more opportune time. As South African flags were flying all over the world on November 2, something clicked to say that there is hope ahead and if people come together under a common mission, they can be the change that they want to see.

Isn’t life all about hope? Nothing defies gravity and just goes up; Newton taught us that everything that goes up will come down. Vicissitudes are a part of life and the true character of people, society or a nation is tested on how they navigate past these curve balls that make us despair. As we head into 2020, it is my sincere prayer that we see a new dawn and a better future in South Africa with renewed vigor and vitality.

Talking about sports and sportsmen, there is another important lesson that we need to take away. Having been a sportsman all my life, I have had a belief that people who have played team sports like cricket, rugby, soccer, hockey etc make great team players and leaders. However, other sports like golf, diving and squash teach you focus. In all cases, the greatest attribute of all is how to reset your mind after adversity. While most of us moved on after amateur sports to find our place in the world, the real sportspeople to watch and learn from are professionals. It is their grit and determination.

My own belief is that one must learn how to detach from a rear view mirror. You cannot ignore what is behind you because that is your history; you must learn from it. Our experiences are unique and so is our history. It must be our greatest teacher. However, that’s where it must end. As humans, we must learn to break the proverbial rear view mirror and stop worrying about the past. You cannot change what is behind you but you can influence and change what is yet to come.

I had the good fortune of playing golf with Chester Williams (former rugby player who was the first person of color to play for the Springboks in the historic win in 1995 and sadly passed away in September 2019) more than once at the SuperSport Celebrity Golf Shootout.

Chester played his golf fearlessly; perhaps the way he led his life. He would drive the ball 300 meters and on occasion went into the woods or in deep rough. Psychologically, as golfers know, this sets you back just looking at a bad lie, an embedded or unplayable ball or a dropped shot in a hazard. For a seasoned golfer, it is not the shot that you have hit but the one that you are about to hit. Chester has a repertoire of recovery shots and always seemed to be in the game even after some wayward moments. There is a profound lesson in all of this. You have to blank your mind from the negativity or sometimes helplessness and bring a can do and positive frame of reference back into your game (and life). Hit that recovery shot well and get back in the game; that’s what champions do.

We need to now focus our attention on the next shot and try and change the future than stay in the past.

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