Maverick Life


My greatest supporter in sport and life — my dad, John Lebogang Molikoe

My greatest supporter in sport and life — my dad, John Lebogang Molikoe
Family photographs of Edith Molikoe and her father John Lebogang Molikoe; Edith Molikoe with her brother, Glen Mojalifa Molikoe. Images: Supplied / Edith Molikoe

Gqeberha-based Edith Molikoe is a field hockey player, part of the South African women’s hockey team. Here she tells of the special bond she shares with her father.

My dad’s name is John Lebogang Molikoe; my family members call him John, and friends usually call him Lebs for short. He grew up on a farm called Alpha Plaas in the Eastern Free State, not far from the Lesotho border, with his parents and his brother. 

During the school terms, he and his two siblings boarded with my great-grandmother in Hobhouse, a small town just 17 kilometres away, attending school at Itokisetseng Bokamoso Secondary School. Every weekend, and during school holidays, they would head back to the farm to enjoy all the fun things they loved. 

The biggest challenge my dad faced when he was growing up was looking after his two siblings when in town, because my great-grandmother wasn’t always in a position to do everything that was required. With Dad’s parents being on the farm and he being the oldest of the children, he had to take on various responsibilities, which in a sense meant that he didn’t really have the kind of childhood experienced by his friends. Although he had his challenges, he didn’t let them define him. 

When my father was a child he took no nonsense from anyone, no matter if they were younger or older than him. He was apparently a very naughty child, and every time he did something wrong — like not milking the cow as he had been tasked to do — then he would run away from home with his beloved dogs, even sometimes for a few days so as to avoid getting a hiding from his father. His favourite hiding spot was up in a tree on one of the hills overlooking the farm; from there he would watch his dad leave the house to go to work on the lands. As soon as it was safe to do so, Dad would grab his opportunity, run down to the family farmhouse, have something to eat and then head back to the hills. 

As a youngster, my father was apparently a busy, active child. He especially loved his sport, taking part in boxing, athletics, and soccer. Soccer was his passion and I am told he was super-talented. He loved soccer; in fact, he loved sport, in general.

My dad is a mushroom farmer, growing and selling mushrooms to various markets. He loves his job but I do know that his dream job was to be in the military, preferably in the army. As a farmer, he is a very hard worker who motivates others to work hard too. Dedication and determination are two of his traits: once he puts his mind to something, giving up is simply never an option.  


One of the many things I really appreciate about my father is that he loves taking care of us, and even though he is most of the time extremely busy, he makes sure we are happy and looked after. He’s been actively involved in my life from the day I was born. When I was very sick in hospital as a young girl of just 18 months, my dad never left my side.

One of my favourite early memories of time with my dad was when he took me to the main farm with him to feed the ostriches that they had. The best part of it all was feeding the little ones and collecting the eggs that had been abandoned. Other good childhood memories involve going to many different beaches in Gqeberha, my favourite being Summerstrand. We both love the ocean and being on the beach has always felt extraordinary. 

Running with my dad when I was very young was also memorable. I remember on one occasion, when we did a morning run together, he was miles ahead of me and all I wanted to do was give up, but he didn’t want me to give up so easily, and kept saying to me, “Ntompi seka imehela ha bonolo tiiselletsa ngwananana ha reye ha reye.” (“Edith, just keep going, keep going. There’s no looking back now; once you’ve started something the only way is to move forward.”)

When I was growing up, my dad was a strict disciplinarian. We had to tread carefully so as to avoid getting into trouble. His most effective form of disciplining us was when he’d say, after we’d done something wrong: “Ke swabile haholo ngkhanaka ke diketso tsa hao.” (“I’m disappointed in you, my child.”) We didn’t like hearing that we’d disappointed him. Those words hurt us more than any other punishment could ever. 

When I started playing sport, Dad was very invested in the various activities I took on. There were times when he thought I was doing too much sport but nevertheless, he was always happy to help me and push me to be my best in everything I did.  

He didn’t know much about hockey. I started playing hockey at Charlo primary school but when I started playing at Woodridge College he always liked to compare it to soccer because they are similar sports in many ways. Despite his not knowing a lot about hockey, and saying at first that he didn’t understand why I would want to play it, he was very involved, making sure that I was training and working hard. He was always supportive and tried to get to matches when his work commitments permitted.  

When I phoned my dad to tell him I’d been selected to go to the Tokyo Olympics, at first, he just couldn’t believe it. Then, once it had sunk in, he said to me, “There’s no going back now, Edith. You have to believe in yourself as I believe there are great things waiting ahead of you. I’m proud of you; I’ve backed you from the word go.” I will always remember those words. 

My dad is just as invested in my hockey now as he was when I started the sport. Even though I’m hardly ever at home, he is as supportive as ever, often checking in, and asking how my training is going. Of course, he now knows much more about the rules, like the fact that there are no off-sides in hockey as there are in soccer. 

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 24: Edith Molikoe of South Africa in action during the Women's Hockey match between South Africa and Ireland on Day 1 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at South Pitch, Oi Hockey Stadium on July 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.(Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)

Edith Molikoe of South Africa in action during the Women’s Hockey match between South Africa and Ireland on Day 1 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at South Pitch, Oi Hockey Stadium on July 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Image: Anton Geyser / Gallo Images

My dad has taught me always to respect my opponents, in fact, to respect all people around me. He and I are very similar, especially in sport — we don’t give up easily, and we always work hard for what we want. He’s engrained that in me: work hard, don’t give up. 

Dad also taught me that I should always take advice from the people around me, and must never look down on anyone. He once said that it’s good to take the chances you are given, even if those chances may not be the ones you may be wanting at the time. “From a chance,” he said, “good things can come.” 

On a lighter note, my dad is a master chef, and when he’s in the kitchen no one else is allowed to be there. That’s his special place.  People often ask if he has a favourite meal. To be honest, I don’t think he has one favourite meal; he just enjoys cooking, anything — just whatever it is he’s treating us to on the day!  

My father loves telling jokes; even though they are such corny jokes, he thinks they are amazing and that he’s the funniest joke-teller ever. (He also thinks he is a great dancer, and although he loves to dance, he’s not the best dancer!) 

I love it when my dad makes us laugh, whether it’s through his corny jokes, or his dancing and the usual boasting that comes with it. And I also love it when he tells us stories about his childhood life and how he met my mother. 

That brings me to her…  I cannot tell this whole story without mentioning both my dad and my mom, as a couple, as my parents. 

My parents were high-school sweethearts. They met at the same school my father attended, Itokisetseng Bokamoso Secondary School, and got married on 14 December 2000. 

Of course, my mom and dad have their good times and their bad times but the great thing about my parents is that when they have their arguments, they don’t let those arguments get in the way of their happiness together. 

I so admire my dad’s loyalty and commitment to my mom; he always makes sure that she’s happy. No matter what they are going through, he always tries to work hard for her, always trying not to let her down. Their relationship is amazing; they are my OTP which stands for One True Pairing! We all know our parents aren’t perfect people but I’m just so grateful that mine will do anything for me and my siblings.   

He’s a special father, a man who puts other people first, and who cares for us. I am very lucky and so thankful for the amazing bond that I have with him. DM/ ML

Lessons from My Father is a series of interviews and stories collected and written by Steve Anderson. Anderson has been a high school teacher for 32 years, 26 of them at two schools in East London and the past six at a school in Cape Town where he heads up the Wellness and Development Department and teaches English and Life Orientation. Throughout his career he has had an interest in the part fathers play in the lives of their children. He says: “This series is not about holding up those who are featured as being ‘The Perfect Father’. It is simply a collection of stories, each told by a son or daughter whose life was, or whose life has been in some way, positively impacted by their father… And it doesn’t take away the significant part played by mothering figures in the shaping of their children. Theirs are the stories of another series!

In case you missed it, also read Zingisa Worthington Ndungane – role-modelling perseverance and keeping family bonds strong

Zingisa Worthington Ndungane – role-modelling perseverance and keeping family bonds strong


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