Galaxy star Zakhele Lepasa waits for Pirates to decide his future
Bucs could recall on-loan striker whose goal caused cup final upset
TS Galaxy’s man-of -the-moment Zakhele Lepasa will wait for Orlando Pirates to decide on his future after a glorious weekend that saw him win a major trophy for his lower-tier club and then pip established Kaizer Chiefs’ stars Khama Billiat and Bernard Parker to a personal award.
Lepasa’s lone strike helped his National First Division (NFD) team beat Chiefs 1-0 in the Nedbank Cup final in Durban on Saturday night, and the following day he won the Nedbank Cup player of tournament award at the Premier Soccer League (PSL) awards.
“As a player, I think I’m good enough to play [at Pirates], but they will be the ones to decide‚” said Lepasa.
The 22-year-old Soweto-born striker is on loan at Galaxy from Pirates and his exploits in the final and his performances in the competition — his last-gasp goal against Chiefs from the penalty spot was his fourth in the tournament — could lead to Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic giving him a chance next season.
Lepasa said he thought that Chiefs‚ the team he supported as a boy‚ had good chances to win the game but failed to capitalise on them.
When he scored in the referee’s optional time after Chiefs defender Teenage Hadebe had brought him down inside the box‚ Lepasa thought the game was in the bag as there was not much time left on the clock.
“The goal means a lot for me and for my family‚ the team‚” he said. “Like I said during the build-up to the game‚ it wasn’t a fluke that we got to the final. A lot of people are happy and there will be a lot of changes because of this win. I’m very happy.”
The young striker was not happy, though, to start on the bench as he thought he had done enough to convince coach Dan Malesela he was ready to start.
“I was not surprised‚ but I was upset obviously‚” he said. “Even before this game I was starting, but you have to trust the coach. He’s definitely one of the best.
“He was unlucky not to have won anything before. So now that he’s won something let’s just hope that it opens doors for more championships for him. It was perfect timing when I came on and scored in the last minute. It was really hard for them to come back.”
Taking the penalty in a high-pressure situation was not that much of a problem for Lepasa as he had done his homework.
“I knew I had to take it because I am always practising at training‚” he said. “The responsibility is fully mine‚ I knew that I had to take it and make sure I scored.”
Malesela said the decision to start Lepasa on the bench was deliberate.
“He has potential and can grow as a player. The reason I’m playing him in patches is because I know there are a lot of things he still needs to learn as a striker.
“One of the biggest issues is that he needs to be a team player than more of an individual. I have told him that. It takes a lot to teach some players because of all the hype that goes with scoring goals when they’re young.”