JOHANNESBURG – Lebogang Ramalepe is thrilled that her long-awaited move to Belarusian top-flight side Dinamo Minsk finally became fruitful, vowing that she’ll use the opportunity as a springboard to establish her name in Europe.
The new restrictions due to Covid-19 were somewhat of a double-edged sword for Ramalepe: having to understand that the safety and health of all citizens was important, while seeing her first opportunity to sign a professional contract up in the air.
Five months later, the government has been forced to relax the regulations to boost the economy. And therein Ramalepe found a gap to board the flight to Belarus to realise her European dream.
“It (the move) was supposed to have happened maybe in late March. But the pandemic delayed the process until we managed to get the flight late last month to find ourselves here in Belarus,” said Ramalepe during a zoom press conference meeting with the members of the South African Football Journalists Association (Safja) this week.
Before the lucrative move to Europe, Ramalepe had spent her career flying down the right flank at Sasol Women’s League side MaIndies as a right-back. However, it was in the colours of Banyana Banyana where she excelled.
Having made her debut in 2014, the 28-year-old has been a colossal figure for the national team, especially after featuring in all major tournaments since.
It was in the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) where her career really blossomed, earning a spot in the tournament’s best XI after inspiring Banyana to their first Fifa Women’s World Cup in France, last year.
The South Africans were schooled by their group stage oppositions, Spain, China and Germany, as they lost all three matches but Ramalepe yet again stood out, attracting rumours that a top English side were interested in her services.
“It’s been a long wait because after the World Cup there were rumours that Chelsea were interested in me. I just told myself I needed to be patient and eventually it happened (that I came here),” the Ga-Maupa born footballer said.
Given that Ramalepe is not sulking around and moaning about past failures, instead she’s delighted that she’ll be able to showcase her talent in one of the recognised women’s leagues around the globe – after joining Minsk with Banyana teammate Rhoda Mulaudzi.
“I’m overwhelmed because this move happened so fast. I didn’t think it was going to happen any time soon. But since I’ve been here, I’ve quickly settled and I’m enjoying everything that’s been happening,” she said.
The duo was welcomed to Minsk by a familiar face of Bambanani Mbane, a Banyana teammate who joined the club in February.
In her pledge to “work my butt off”, and ensure that she becomes a household in European football, Ramalepe made her debut and played the full match when Minsk thrashed Bobruichanka 7-2 in the Belarus Cup on Wednesday.