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From outcast to inspiration: Mkhanyiseli Siwahla’s journey with Sibongile Marokana

Sibongile Marokana, the enigmatic force behind Lerumo Lions Football Club, envisions a future where soccer is more than just a game! She sees it as a catalyst for change – a game capable of leaving an enduring mark on every life it touches.

After a brief exchange with ‘Boss Lady’ when we meet for the interview, she opens up about her lifelong love for football! It all started in her childhood as a Kaizer Chiefs fan.

Although she never played the sport herself, her passion for it remained strong. This passion led her to embark on a journey in football when she purchased a status in the ABC Motsepe League.

Of course, the team was renamed Lerumo Lions in 2023 and recently finished second in the North West. 

“I’m a very spiritual person. It came to a point when I felt to make a difference I had to be hands-on. I just knew when the time is right it will come and things just aligned,” she tells FARPost. 

“Sometimes you’ve got this eager feeling that there’s something you must do. That there’s more you can do, and this thing just hits you. You long for it until you do. Once you’re there that longing feeling disappears….”

Without a doubt, she has a fire within her soul, a passion to uplift through the beautiful game, leaving an enduring imprint with every graceful step.

Sibongile Marokana businesswoman and owner of Lerumo Lions FC
Sibongile Marokana


When speaking of touching lives, the man seated beside her during our interview – Mkhanyiseli Siwahla – is a testament to her kindness. 

His football journey, marked by both triumphs and tribulations, began at Ajax Cape Town. It led him on a winding path through Bloemfontein Celtic, Mpumalanga Black Aces, and Chippa United, before venturing beyond South Africa’s borders to Mochudi Centre Chiefs in Botswana and KS Proch Pionki in Poland.

Siwahla displayed the potential of a superstar at the beginning of his career in 2004, but his trajectory was marred by numerous allegations of misconduct and disciplinary problems.

Many football fans remember him as much for his numerous controversies as they do for his undeniable talent. His reputation declined so severely that eventually, no local club was willing to take a chance on him. He was considered a lost cause.

In a twist of fate, right at the end of his playing career, a social media live chat led Marokana to cross paths with Siwahla, an Ajax Cape Town prodigy with a record-breaking history. She was hosting a live video session on Instagram when Siwahla, then based in Poland, joined the chat. 

Mkhanyiseli Siwahla
Siwahla cemented his place in PSL history when he scored against Dynamos in 2004 at the remarkably young age of 15 years and 174 days.


“It’s the strangest thing ever. I used to do videos on social media and this guy requested to engage because I used to engage with many people. We were busy having a live chat and people were asking: ‘Mkhanyiseli, where have you been?’” Marokana recalled.

Intrigued by the flurry of comments from viewers recognising the former footballer, Marokana inquired about his story. ‘Ntsimbi’, whose name was etched into PSL history when he scored against Dynamos in 2004 at the tender age of 15 years, five months, and 22 days old, opened up about his life’s path.

“I was just scrolling on Instagram, I requested to join the live multiple times. At one point, I requested and went to prepare something to eat. I came back to request again until she accepted the request,” explains Siwahla.

Upon his return to South Africa, Siwahla found himself at a crossroads, unsure of his next steps. 

Sibongile Marokana with Lerumo Lions FC team
Marokana with Siwahla and Lerumo Lions players

“When everything [football career] stops … I was one of them, I wanted to take my life,” he tells FARPost. “No phone calls, no one cares about you. Your light is not lighting anymore. I even bought a rope to hang my life at some point,” adds the 35-year-old Siwahla.

Marokana chips in: “We sat down when he came back to the country and had a conversation. It was not even about football. We were discussing what he could do after football. Two weeks later there was a guy selling a status. I told him [Siwahla] that this thing was aligning. We agreed it would be good for us to work together.” 


Recognising the valuable lessons he could impart, she invited him to join her football club as team manager. The Cape Town-born ex-midfielder quickly became her right-hand man, taking charge of team management. His personal experiences, both triumphs and setbacks, served as a powerful narrative for the club’s aspiring players.

For Siwahla, this opportunity represents a new chapter, a chance to learn the intricacies of football management and rebuild his life.

And for the captivating ‘Pong Pong’, a familiar figure at ABC Motsepe matches, this endeavour extends far beyond transforming Siwahla’s life alone. It is a mission with a grander purpose. 

In fact, the soft-spoken businesswoman, who founded Lerumo Lasechaba Security and quickly established a reputation for providing high-quality protection services, sees Siwahla’s journey as a source of inspiration for the players at her club. His story is a testament to the importance of resilience and learning from past mistakes. She hopes his story will resonate with them and guide them towards a successful and fulfilling football career.

Her commitment to her football dream is evident in her hands-on approach. She is familiar with each of her players, their names, and their personalities.

Sibongile Marokana of Lerumo Lions FC

But her success – be it in the world of business or football – is not without its challenges. Both trades are male-dominated, and she has had to overcome numerous obstacles to establish herself as a leader in either field. And she has persevered, thanks to an undoubtable determination. 


Interestingly, the vision extends beyond simply owning a club. She aims to make a tangible difference in the lives of young players, particularly in rural areas. Marokana, acknowledging the scarcity of opportunities for budding footballers in North West province, is dedicated to creating a platform for these young athletes to hone their skills and realise their aspirations.

The third-tier club, whose youngest player is 16, is located in Bethanie, a village within the Bakwena Ba Mogopa nation in the Bojanala Platinum District Municipality, approximately 25km from the mining town of Brits.

“A lot of these boys are broken,” she observes, her voice filled with the unwavering resolve of one who has embraced a profound mission. “I always say we’ve opened a hospital because everyone comes with a different story. That story has put them in a position where they’re damaged and need someone who wants to give them a lifeline. They just need that one person who gives them a chance. It’s up to them to take the lifeline.”

Her approach to football management is characterised by professionalism and a focus on player development. Lerumo Lions FC is one of the few clubs in the ABC Motsepe league that provides accommodation, food, and transportation for players.

Sibongile Marokana in Lerumo Lions FC branded outfit

Her ambition for the club is to see it rise through the ranks and become a DStv Premiership club. She believes in starting from the ground up and nurturing the current squad, rather than buying a club in a higher division. This approach reflects her commitment to building a sustainable and successful football institution.

Siwahla, in turn, is freed from the burden of past missteps, no longer haunted by the judgment of youthful indiscretions. He is no longer burdened by the need to justify mistakes from nearly two decades ago, as his mentor has bestowed upon him a fresh start, free from the shackles of past flaws.

“I want to see the team in the Premier League because I feel like there’s a big difference that I can bring to the platform. As it is now, I’m making a big statement about where I am. 

“I see my team in the Premier League, I see it as one of the biggest teams in the SA. But, I don’t see all my players within SA, there are players you see whose style of play will not be successful in this league,” Marokana explains. 

It’s a mission to which she is unwaveringly devoted, a calling that resonates deep within her soul and compels her to act, regardless of the circumstances.

Siwahla’s story is a testament to the power of second chances and the importance of compassion in a judgmental world. It serves as a reminder that even those who have made mistakes deserve the opportunity to rebuild their lives and contribute to society.

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