Lucas Radebe: I'm a diehard Leeds United fan

Lucas Radebe: I\'m a diehard Leeds United fan

Legendary defender checks in from South Africa to answer your questions

12 years, 262 games, captain of the side which took Leeds United to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, Lucas Radebe is revered by the city of Leeds, so much so that many have named their children after him.

In a special 'Legends Edition' of Deliveroo's #Ask series all the way from South Africa, the former defender answered fans questions about how he got into football, those goals against Spartak and Partizan, the impact of Nelson Mandela on his life turning down offers from Man United and Roma and more!

Watch the full interview on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram now, or you can read some of his answers below.

How are you and the family doing in lockdown?

We're doing well thank you. I think it's a challenge, but luckily for us we have a big family that keeps us entertained, makes sure we're well and healthy, which is the most important thing. The challenge is the online schooling with the kids and just keeping an eye on them. Otherwise, everything is ok, we're safe and well.

What have you been up to since retiring from football?

Retirement is boring to be honest. I couldn't see myself living without football, but since I retired I've actually opened up to other opportunities and it has given me time to spend with the family. There's a business on the side that I've been working on, Lucas Radebe Management Company, which is the collaboration between different brands in South Africa and projects in the community.

Do you still follow Leeds United's results?

I follow Leeds through and through, it's in my blood. Last night I was watching another episode of Amazon's Take Me Home: Leeds United, which is absolutely brilliant. I don't think I'll stop being part of the club. Most of my life I've spent in Leeds, I had a great career there, I still have great friends there and a good relationship with the club, which for me is important. So yes, I'm a die hard Leeds United fan.

Lucas Radebe

What was your favourite thing about living in Leeds?

Definitely not the Yorkshire puddings and roast beef haha For me, what I miss most is the camaraderie in the team, and what the team made the city to be. The city was absolutely buzzing. The impact we made as a club in the Premier League and in Europe was amazing, that helped make my stay very comfortable and enjoy having great neighbours, going out into the city, mingling with the fans, absolutely amazing. My life was absolutely perfect with my family in Leeds, that's all I can say.

How did your move to Leeds come about?

I was playing for the Kaizer Chiefs and I remember Jeff Slate (Leeds United scout) came to watch a couple of times. He was actually looking at Philemon and we were playing for the international team in Australia but I was injured. He had a glimpse at Phil and obviously someone must have whispered in his ear about me, so I came to babysit Phil and make him comfortable at the club. I really respect Howard (Wilkinson) for taking that chance on signing me for the club in the Premier League, which was brilliant. 

When I came over, there were obviously a few challenges in terms of the environment, weather conditions etc, but the rest is history. 12 years playing at the club, living and playing in Leeds, which absolutely was an achievement for me, and all the great memories, just being part of the family was amazing.

How did you first get into playing football?

I think for us in the township, football was just something to keep busy with when you came back from school . During Apartheid, we weren't allowed to move out of our area, you're confined to the community/zone where you live, so we just played football all the time. I think the important thing was we played in a narrow street and having houses on both sides, you couldn't become careless. As a defender you weren't allowed to clear the ball, so the only thing I could do was to learn playing the ball on the ground, short passes, otherwise one of the other houses' windows would get broken. I had a few broken bones, and I used to get told off by my parents for coming home late, getting my clothes dirty and causing damage, but for us, it was exciting.

Lucas Radebe

Did you always want to be a defender?

Haha not really, no. To be honest, for me it didn't matter. I started my career in goal because I just wanted to be on the field of play. My passion and love of the game meant that if I could get a game, I'd be happy. So I was a goalkeeper until I got injured, then came back and played as a central defender where I feel like I excelled. So I like to think the position chose me.

You ended up going in net against Man United, how was that?

You know that is one moment that will live with me forever. It was absolutely amazing, it's so difficult to tell you how I felt. The atmosphere around the stadium and because we were playing against our fierce rivals, I think that made it special as well. I remember the jersey and gloves were big, but the one I take from the game is that I enjoyed that game, I had great fun. I remember Howard Wilkinson coming to me after saying "I don't think we should have a goalkeeper on the bench any more", and I thought no chance, I'm not going back there again. The credit I got from the manager and the referee, I think it's a moment I'll never forget.

What was the highlight of your time at Leeds United?

That's an unfair question. For me representing the club, week in, week out was absolutely fantastic, being with such a team that was so versatile and had those character was amazing. One of the memories that stands out were the Champions League nights, especially the game against Spartak Moscow, where I scored goal which took us through to the next round. That's one moment that stands out. 

Lucas Radebe

What was it like playing at Elland Road?

Wow! The fortress! The atmosphere, the passion, the love for Leeds United from the fans was amazing. You can feel it from the dressing room, through the tunnel as you're coming out, the signing from the fans, especially The Kop was absolutely amazing. I was always motivated and inspired to run out on that field of play. 

Did you practice that goal against Partizan Belgrade?

Haha to be honest, I think that was a fluke goal but that's how agile I am... or was! It was a funny goal. People will remember Ronaldo or Messi's goals, but this one was special, I don't think anyone will do the same, executing it the way I did. I went down for a set-piece, the ball was crossed over, I stumbled and fell, but I remember the ball was just hanging there so I just hit it into the back of the net.

Favourite defensive partner?

That's a good question because you need to get along and forge an understanding, in terms of organisation at the back. I think Woodgate for me, having stepped up to the first team, he wanted to learn and he was a different player to me. He was young, he had pace so I could let him do the work and that allowed me to look from behind. 

Lucas Radebe

How do you feel about a generation of boys being named after you?

It makes me ever so proud to be revered in a foreign country and be appreciated just for my contribution to football. Yes we entertained, yes we did our best, but I think the most important thing was with the support that we had, you could not go out onto the pitch and not give 100%. So for me to have all those kids named after me is special. I just hope they don't have dreadlocks.

How did it feel when you wore the captain's armband for the first time?

What an amazing moment. I wasn't expecting that, especially that early in my career at the club. Speaking to George Graham, it was absolutely rewarding and inspirational, it inspired me even more and made me proud to be at Leeds United. Not just Leeds as a club, but Leeds as a city, and to be part of that. Just to wear that armband it made me appreciate more in life. I learnt more from the club and it put more value on me, the responsibilities that I inherited, it made me the person that I am. It was an honour to be a captain of Leeds United. 

You turned down offers from Man United and Roma. Never tempted?

Who? Who? Haha. You know once I was at the club I never thought of leaving. When I got those offers, I remember us doing so well, the club was developing, the Academy was growing, there was youngsters coming up, and I felt that for the club which has given me the opportunity to play in the Premier League, the very least I have to do is achieve something with them. Being at Leeds United, the way the city is, and the comfort that I had, I didn't see a reason to leave. I wanted to make sure I achieved with the club. It's not about the silverware, for me it was having an impact and changing people's perceptions about football. I always wanted to be at the club until I finished, that was my dream and my dream came true.

Lucas Radebe