South Africa's Lerato Chabangu: A bittersweet story

The paradoxical nature of Chabangu’s touching story sheds some life lessons that particularly football players can all adopt or be mindful of. On one hand, it is the perfect epitome of the serious challenges faced by players with regards to various aspects such as financial education.
— Siphosethu Thwala, FirstTouch Africa

Former Bafana Bafana player Lerato Chabangu feels that he can get back on to the football pitch and play professionally once more. The former SuperSport United, Mamelodi Sundowns and Chippa United striker, who has also played for Bafana Bafana in his career, has recently been signed by Baberwa FC in the ABC Motsepe League. Chabangu penned down a six-month deal with the side and is hoping he can revive his career.

Chabangu’s resurgence comes after a long spell off the field that was characterized by a plethora of struggles the player went through. These included excessive indulgence in alcohol, as well as uncontrollable reckless financial spending. Speaking in an interview in late 2018, Chabangu confessed saying, “I do feel like I’m depressed. I comfort myself by watching TV. I disappointed lots of people. I was found in a wrong space, most of my friends were living in the township. I could say that I have destroyed myself, I can’t really blame others. If you are at the wrong space, the negative things will catch you.”

Lerato Chabangu of Tshwane XI and Gennaro Gattuso of Italy during the friendly match between Italy and Tshwane XI at Super Stadium on June 12, 2009 in Atteridgeville, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images) * Local Caption * Gennaro Gattuso;Lerato Chabangu  (June 12, 2009 - Source: Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe)

Lerato Chabangu of Tshwane XI and Gennaro Gattuso of Italy during the friendly match between Italy and Tshwane XI at Super Stadium on June 12, 2009 in Atteridgeville, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images) * Local Caption * Gennaro Gattuso;Lerato Chabangu

(June 12, 2009 - Source: Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe)

But perhaps what is more interesting is how Chabangu rose to stardom and made him one of the greatest players South Africa has ever seen. At some point he was even linked with heavy interest from European teams. However, lack of financial discipline and professional discipline proved to be a setback in Chabangu’s once glamourous career. Then he hit rock bottom. The stories that broke thereafter were rather sad considering the immense talent this player possesses. Chabangu conceded that reckless spending and lack of financial discipline got him into many problems such as booze and spending money on women.

The paradoxical nature of Chabangu’s touching story sheds some life lessons that particularly football players can all adopt or be mindful of. On one hand it is the perfect epitome of the serious challenges faced by players with regards to various aspects such as financial education. Often times than not, teams only pay salaries to their players and distance themselves from what happens to the players when they reach retirement. This means that the onus is on the players to take charge of their finances after retirement, but, especially from an African context, one finds that footballers lack knowledge and expertise on how best they can get the most of their money whilst they are still playing.

Stories like Chabangu’s therefore pose a challenge to players as well as clubs themselves to do more with regards to collaboration and helping players plan for life after football as early as when they start playing. By so doing, this will help avoid situations whereby players struggle and eventually enter dire situations like Chabangu did. What’s your take on financial discipline in footballers? Should clubs do more?