Lucas Radebe is more serious than he ever was on a football field during his illustrious career when he says, 'As footballers we’ve got to learn to be better fathers'.
It’s a subject the former Leeds United and Bafana Bafana legend is extremely passionate about, particularly now that his eldest son is also embarking on a career as a professional footballer.
It’s why he also applauds the news of the inaugural Kaizer Chiefs and Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout. This 31 August experience, which is exclusive to Vodacom Red clients, will see Kaizer Chiefs’ fathers and their sons connect with their beloved football club like never before, as 100 fathers and father-figures and their sons (aged 4-10) will camp out in style at the Kaizer Chiefs Village at Naturena. The bigger drive behind this experience is to give fathers and sons quality time with each other under the hashtag #BeAPresentDad.
Radebe believes this experience should be part of a greater conversation within the football community.
'As ex-footballers, we need to have these conversations with the young players to help them deal with these issues. It’s very important for big brands like Kaizer Chiefs and Vodacom having programmes like this that deal with these issues. Family comes first.
Your joy comes from your family. If your family is happy, then even as a footballer you’ll play to the best of your ability without any regrets and knowing you looked after your family as best as you can.
'We have a lot to give back to the game, not only as coaches but as role models and people who want to see the current players succeed in life. The best thing we can give back to young players is showing them what we did at the top level to be able to live the kind of lifestyle we do now, after football.'
Radebe is doing exactly this within his own household as he mentors his teenage son Lucas Radebe Jnr in the early stages of his dream to become a professional footballer at Leeds United.
“It’s difficult because I can’t be his coach, but I can advise him as his father. My job is to guide him as a father and give him advice. The demands at the highest level of football are very intense. Once you get into football you are fully committed to the game, at the expense sometimes of things like your education. Then you have examples of players who are affected by the lifestyle of a footballer. Your son doesn’t want to hear that side. He just wants to hear the good things. And it’s so hard to get the balance between him wanting to play football, which I can’t blame him for wanting to do, and being his father and also advising him well.
“I try to be neutral and just be his dad, showing him what can happen in life. I don’t just advise him in terms of football, but in terms of life as a whole. I’m not trying to steer him in a different direction, but just trying to show him that each and every individual must take responsibility for their own lives if they want to be successful.”
Radebe achieved legendary status at Leeds United, but says the challenge for him as a father is to help his son make his own way in the game.
“You know, sometimes he may think that because I’ve played the game and been there it will be easy for him because of my name. But he needs to make it happen for himself. He needs to make his own name. As a father I’m trying to show him that he must be passionate about his career in order to be able to make the sacrifices, to suffer the pain and to be able to take it upon himself to build his character.”
It’s exactly these sacrifices that football demands that Radebe says even he, as successful as he was in the game, struggled with.
'When I walk on the street, a fan looks at me and just sees football. They’re thinking ‘Rhoo’. They’re not seeing Mr Lucas Radebe. They see you as a footballer, but they don’t see you as a man also trying to be a responsible father.
'It’s so tough as a footballer because of the little time that you get for family. That is very painful because you realise that this is your career and what puts food on the table for your family, but you can’t disregard your family. Your family’s happiness is your happiness. They must be happy in order for you to do what you do at your best. You won’t be delivering your best if there isn’t happiness at home.
'I remember there were times when it was just football and then home. There’s nothing in between where you can say to your family we’re going out for dinner or going away. It’s all about the commitment you’ve made in football where you’re playing so many games that you need to rest in order to perform better. And then you need quality time with your family, which was hard for me because in a week you maybe have a half-day where you can stay at home and give your kids what they need from you as a father. It’s tough to balance. It’s hard to go away and be busy with football and then you come home and your son celebrated his second or third birthday and you weren’t there. You’re not there to form that bond of experiencing their characters as they’re growing up. I found that very tough. I found that a very painful sacrifice to make.'
Radebe’s own experience is why he believes so passionately in sharing this with the young footballers of today, and supporting the father-son conversation and initiatives such as the Kaizer Chiefs and Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout.
'I’m really impressed with Vodacom and Kaizer Chiefs having this kind of initiative whereby they want to improve fathers’ relationships with their sons. When I played, we had programmes where we worked in the community because that has an effect in terms of being humble, which also leads to the importance of being a family man and looking after your kids.
'We need more programmes such as this to help our young footballers become better fathers.'
To be one of the 100 lucky Vodacom Red fathers or father-figures to stand a chance to win a camping spot at the Kaizer Chiefs and Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout on 31 August, register your entry before 12 August by at www.redrewards.co.za (click on Red Soccer Rewards).
Follow the conversation at #RedFatherAndSon and #BeAPresentDad
Vodacom Red. For those who Expect More.
Only Vodacom has the connection to Kaizer Chiefs to make this money-can’t-buy experience a reality for their Red clients.