“I am not a drunkard. I’m a footballer who likes a drink”
Two weeks away from his 32nd birthday many have written off as ‘finished’ the man whose prolific goal scoring ability earned him the nickname ‘Mr King Goals.’
Ditched by the club he served for 12 years as top goal scorer in each season over allegations of indiscipline and alcohol abuse, his career as a footballer appeared to be over.
But now Malepa Bolelang has a new club and a new challenge, and a point or two to prove to his critics.
In a frank and revealing interview with sports reporter Portia Ngwako, the man spoke of his life both on and off the pitch.
Q. Please introduce yourself
I am the first born of a family of four. I was born and raised in Moshopha Village in Tswapong region.
Q. When did you start playing football?
Football is a talent that I was born with, I started it at the age of 12 playing for Moshopha primary school team and the same year I got best player award.
In 1994 when I was doing my form two I became best player at Ramokgonami Junior School.
From 1998-2000 I joined Palapye United and 2001 Ecco City Greens signed me.
In 2003 I was called to join the Under-23 national team under the tutelage of Sam Sono and in 2005 I was chosen for the national team.
I have immensely contributed at Ecco as I found them at first division and I scored enough goals to get them a promotion to the Premier League.
In the 2005-2006 season I won the Mascom League Golden Boot award after scoring 25 goals.
In the 2006-2007 season I was player of the year.
Q. So what does football mean to you?
It’s fun and has opened doors for me. I failed my form two in 1994, but paying for Ecco got me a job at BMC.
In my youth I idolized Thierry Henry. Whenever he had the ball he generated excitement and I wanted to be like him.
Of course I don’t have his money but I think I have generated my fair share of excitement as a player.
Q. What makes a great player?
Listening to the coach’s instructions and using them wisely helps add to what you have as natural ability.
The other thing is that you should play soccer with love, be dedicated and determined – do not wait for the coach to push you.
Keep fit, stay healthy and focused on what you want to achieve.
My late father (Dikgang Diphatsa) was a football player and he was a big influence on my career.
He taught me to always believe in myself and not to doubt my ability.
Q. Most people think you could have been a super star in your career but your attitude killed you.
They believe alcohol abuse has contributed to this.
What can you say about that?
Yes I drink beer but I am not an alcohol addict. I enjoy drinking during my spare time, but not when we have games.
I drink Heineken because it is the beer of stars (he shows me the bottle) can’t you see the star on it? They even sponsor the Champions League!
It is my choice to drink and I don’t know why people are complaining. All over the world professional footballers drink, but here it’s like a taboo.
Besides I play football part time, I am an employee of BMC.
Off course I wanted to play outside the country but unfortunately when I was on form we did not have players playing outside so my talent was not recognized.
Q. Good strikers usually get all the glory and all the women, has that ever happened to you?
Hahahahaha -yes it is true but all you have to do is to know what you want in life and stick to it.
After the game you will find them waiting by the gate to congratulate you and they will want to hug you.
Do not ignore them but try to avoid them so that you do not get tempted. After all ladies are the ones that cheer us most and that’s good for morale.
Q. One football moment you can never forget
(pause for a thought)
When we were playing against Zambia during All Africa games, they were leading 3-1 and I came in as a substitute with Steven Maposa and we both scored.
I remember the ball coming from the right, touching it with my right foot and then cuffing it over to my left then finishing with the left leg.
Chipolopolo goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene was then their Under 23 keeper he knows me very well.
Though we did not qualify it was a good game and it opened doors for me that was when Zebras coach Vesline Jelusic called me to join the squad.
That or my hat-trick against Mogoditshane Fighters when they were relegated in 2010-2011 – I was very pleased with that one.
Q. You have now joined Motlakase how easy or difficult is it going to be to play for a team based in Palapye and you stay in Francistown?
It is just a matter of time to adjust to their style of play then the results will come. I just have to train hard to retain my form since we are from a long Premier League break.
Chouka Chouka is a good side and I do not see us fighting relegation we have a balanced team.
People are going to see wonders with our new signings. I want to prove those who think I am finished wrong.
I have at lease two seasons left in me and I can’t wait for the games to resume.
Q. What message can you give up and coming soccer players?
A player can be a millionaire especially when playing professional football.
I urge them to take their talent serious and always aim higher – the sky is the limit!
If you listen to every person who tells you, you are a fantastic player or a terrible player you will go mad.
I think if you always believe in your ability then that stands you in a good stead and that is what I have always done.
Full Names: Malepa Chippa Bolelang
Date of Birth: 25 February 1982
Place of Birth: Moshopha
Pass Time: Chilling with friends watching football match and drinking beer