Lebese reflects on first season abroad

SA Players Abroad

Former Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns star George Lebese has reflected on his first season abroad with USL Championship side Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

In December last year, after spending the previous 11 seasons in the PSL with the Amakhosi, Masandawana and SuperSport United, Lebese left South Africa for the first time in his career to team up with the Switchbacks for the 2020 USL campaign.

Scroll through the gallery above for a selection of the best images from Lebese's time at Colorado Springs Switchbacks

The 31-year-old's decision to move abroad came just three months after his contract at Chloorkop had been terminated, and he has since revealed that the opportunity presented itself following an interview he did on television. 

"I did an interview about me being clubless and that caught the attention of some coaches, including the one at Switchbacks," Lebese tells Kickoff.com. "He contacted me and asked me if I was interested in a new challenge. So, I just made sure I got the opportunity and the right support to take that on. 

"I think it's every player's goal to try and grow and challenge yourself. You don't want to be too comfortable in what you know and in being a good player here at home, which is obviously a great, competitive league. I've always had that [ambition to play abroad]. I always kept believing that it would happen one day for as long as I'm still playing and I'm glad I've had an opportunity to do that."

Lebese ultimately played a hand in two goals and two assists in 16 appearances during the COVID-19-disrupted season, including a wonder-goal against Austin Bold in August, but with the Switchbacks having failed to impress, he feels there is room for improvement from himself and his teammates. 

"There's a lot of improvements, there's a lot I wish I could have done better, but I think it's fair to say that I did OK," the three-time PSL winner reflects. "Obviously, not taking away the fact that I still needed to do a little bit more, but there were also goals – legitimate goals – that were disallowed, so yeah, I did okay.

"As a group, I would have expected us to do better and compete, but, I mean, short space of time, COVID, and those other factors that came in, it was really difficult for us."

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With the 2020 season now over and with his contract having come to an end, Lebese's future in the US has once again become the subject of speculation over the past few weeks, and more questions have been raised following South African head coach Alan Koch's decision to resign over the weekend.

"[Koch and I] had a brief chat about it. Obviously, he has his personal matters that he had to handle and it was really difficult for him to make that decision," the Mamelodi-born star explains. "For me, personally, I spoke to the club and they said, 'we understand the reason you came here is because of the coach and now that he's leaving...'

"The team says they're still interested in keeping me if I'm willing to come back for another season so that's the conversation I've had with the club and I was glad that they reached out. It showed me that the team is still interested in keeping me. So, that's where I'm at right now. Nothing concrete yet, but it should be concluded, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, but some time soon."

ICYMI: Koch resigns from US-based role

While his future looks set to be decided in the next few days, Lebese has also admitted he has not yet closed the door on a potential return to South African football and the PSL some time in the future. 

"When I came back [to South Africa during the off-season], my contract was done so I was hoping while I was here, maybe an offer or something would come. But nothing came back so I need to appreciate the opportunity that I'm getting," he adds.

"I don't know what the future holds, I don't want to say no or say yes and then I don't come back, but I only have a little bit of time to enjoy the talent that has been given to me so I'm just taking it one season at a time."

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