Former AmaGlug-glug star Steve Lekoelea has reflected on an aborted move to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven in 1997.
‘Chippa’ was the talk of the town at Orlando Pirates after joining from Moroka Swallows in 1996, but it wasn’t until the FIFA World Youth Championships in Malaysia in 1997 that he caught the eye of international scouts.
At the time, PSV’s roster included soon-to-be household names like Jaap Stam, Phillip Cocu, Boudewijn Zenden and Eidur Gudjohnsen, and coach Dick Advocaat was keen on adding the young South African star to the ranks.
However, like so many of his peers, Lekoelea struggled with the foreign conditions and language, and returned to the comforts of Pirates before his Dutch adventure could ever begin.
“It was difficult,” Chippa tells FARPost. “I left South Africa for Holland on my own. It was my first time to travel outside the country alone. I was going to get into the wrong flight, I totally got lost, but luckily I was redirected just in time to board the right flight.
“[And] when I arrived at the airport in Holland, I didn’t even know where to go. People seemed to be taking two different directions and I didn’t know who to follow. The language barrier messed me up, I couldn’t even communicate with anyone because they speak Dutch.”
Lekoelea says he had no-one to blame but himself, adding: “It was a great club, looked like they had a rich history that I’d have loved to be a part of. PSV were so good to me, they tried making my stay comfortable. But I got homesick and struggled to settle in. After a week, they let me come back home after I requested to leave.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Lekoelea spent the better part of 10 years with the Buccaneers, picking up a number of trophies, including two League titles.