Chabangu, from zero to hero: Road to the MTN8 final
Football always has its bad boys, rebels if you will, or just plain lost causes. From George Best to Adriano and Carlos Tevez, Lerato Chabangu was a part of that elite group of troubled footballers, but he has since defied his critics and is relishing in the new lease of life given to him by the Dube Birds.
Rewind back two years ago when he was released by Mamelodi Sundowns, Chabangu was team-less, broke and hitting the booze hard, but desperate for another chance.
After he was turned away by nearly every coach in the Absa Premiership, like a guardian angel it was Gordon Igesund who gave him his second wind at life. And like most players under Igesund, he managed to get the best out of Chabangu and it has only been further emphasised under Zeca Marques in their road to the MTN8 final.
"He is a different class when it comes to football intelligence, reading the situation, with two-footedness and composure on the ball," said the coach. "He is such a modern player. If you put him in a Barcelona or Spanish side, he would fit in."
Against AmaZulu in the MTN8 quarter-final match, the 27-year-old pulled all the strings for Swallows when he scored the goal and bagged the assist to help hand them their 2-0 victory.
They say revenge is a meal best served cold and so it was for Chabangu when he was named Man of the Match against the side who gave up all hope in him, Sundowns.
In the first leg of the MTN8 semifinal, the Thembisa-born player showed his improved form when he spread like a rash on the field. From clearing balls off his own goal line to supplying three assists for his teammates, this was just the calm before the storm.
Sunday’s second leg match against the Brazilians was when he unleashed his full fury as he produced a brace inside 14 minutes to help send his team through to the final.
The final will take place against last season’s Nedbank Cup winners SuperSport United, and another team he was shunned away from after just nine appearances; Gavin Hunt and company better beware.