'Don't be like me' - Pule warns school pupils
FALLEN soccer star Jabu Mahlangu, who went from hero to zero because of his naughty habits, has told pupils at Giyani High School that he wasn't prepared for the fame and glory that came his way.
The myriad achievements that Mahlangu, better known as Pule, chalked up in a short space of time include scoring a winning goal during his first game for Kaizer Chiefs at the age of 18.
"The following day my name was splashed on the covers of all newspapers and overnight I was a hero," says Mahlangu.
He was motivating pupils during the handover of soccer kit by local doctor Edwin Mathonsi and urban planner Benny Makasani, both former pupils at the school.
Other ex-soccer stars in the entourage were former Bloemfontein Celtic star Kenny Makara, Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana captain Edward "Magents" Motale, SuperSport United defender Japie Motale, Ria Stars' Thapelo Liau, Molefi Ntsoelengoe of Moroka Swallows and Pirates' dribbling wizard Steve Lekoelea.
Mahlangu said his downfall was because he came from a poor family and he thought a soccer career would make a difference at his home.
"Can you imagine at the age of 18 getting everything you need in life?"
He says most of those whom he considered friends were actually not interested in his welfare as all they did was to supply him with booze and women.
"It is because of my bad habits that my career ended prematurely," he said.
Mahlangu said he was now 33 and happily married with three children.
He added that he chose to become a motivational speaker because he did not want to see young people blow their chances the way he did.
He urged pupils to have a purpose in life and to be focused. He warned them against bad friends.
After a controversial but successful career at Chiefs, Mahlangu went on to play for Austrian side Mattesburg.
He was sent packing after being arrested while sleeping in his car on a freeway, apparently after a heavy night out.
Upon his return to South Africa, the likeable midfielder joined Orlando Pirates, where his demons followed him until he quit the game.
He has also tried his hand at stand-up comedy.
Greater Giyani mayor Pat Hlungwani urged the pupils to take Mahlangu's speech seriously.
"He is frank and if the wheel was to be turned back he would not behave the way he did," he said.
"You must not do as he did but do as he says. Firstly, concentrate on your studies and if you have any sporting talent, treat it as a bonus on top of a good education."