A star has been born

A star has been born

Luciah Phahla

Maseru

A potential star goalkeeper was born last season in the form of Kick4Life stopper Sele Thetsane.

A relative unknown just 12 months ago, Thetsane was named goalkeeper of the season at last week’s Vodacom Premier League 2015/16 season awards.

Thetsane beat out favourites Kananelo Makhooane of champions Lioli and Lesotho number one, Daniel Jousse, of Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).

As he sits to speak with thepost, the 21-year-old admits he was not expecting the honour.

“I am very happy to have won the award; I was hopeful that I would win. When I realised that I was nominated in the category I realised I had a chance, but given the people I was up against I must admit I was hopeful, but I was not expecting it,” he says.

That is probably because Thetsane was not even Kick4Life’s first choice keeper when the season began.

In the 2014/15 season under Motlalepula Majoro, which was Kick4Life’s debut top-flight campaign, Thetsane started just three matches and played second fiddle to Rorisang Moabi.

Even when Moabi was loaned to Sky Battalion last year, Thetsane was not assured of a place in Kick4Life’s starting line-up.

Thetsane finally got his big break after Leslie Notši replaced Majoro as coach last November and he has not looked back.

Thetsane was the biggest winner at Kick4Life’s awards ceremony last month where he gave a moving acceptance speech after he won the club’s player of the season award.

“It has been a tough journey for me to be where I am. I struggled for game time and I have always wanted a chance to prove myself that I can do better,” Thetsane said at the ceremony. “It’s not about me, it’s teamwork, team effort and I would like thank our goalkeeper coach and the other goalkeepers here at Kick4Life.”

It has indeed not been an easy journey for Thetsane and it is perhaps why he remains humble despite being touted as Lesotho’s next goalkeeping star.

Thetsane stresses that team success comes first before individual brilliance. He wants the budding Kick4Life to keep improving, he tells thepost.

“I am always working hard for the club. I want Kick4Life to be better and better every day, that’s what I want for the club,” he says.

“This award has brought a challenge to me, it means I have to improve my performance this coming season and make sure I don’t drop, and I am going to work hard for it.”

He is on the right track.

Two weeks ago national goalkeeper coach Matsoai Shokhoe tipped Thetsane to become one of the best goalkeepers the country has ever produced.

If that high praise was not enough, there is already an outcry for Thetsane to be given an opportunity to challenge for a place in the Likuena team.

“I think I have been asked that question if I am ready for the challenge of the national team many times before. Even now I don’t think I have a straight answer to it,” he says calmly. “A national call-up comes after hard work and, like I said, I want to continue working hard. A call up to the national team will be a cherry on top.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say I am ready or not for the national team but I will accept the challenge and work hard to prove myself.”

With the Vodacom Premier League season done and dusted, a guarded Thetsane does reveal there is one player who gave him a “tough time” last term. That player is Matlama attacking midfielder Jane Thaba-Ntšo who scored twice past Thetsane last season.

“I can’t say there is a certain player that I am afraid of in the league because it’s football, I think anyone can score. I don’t focus on individual players, I don’t panic when a certain player has the ball at his feet, but I must admit that there is one player last season I think gave me a tough time because he scored against me twice, it’s Jane Thaba-Ntšo,” Thetsane says.

In terms of his role models, Thetsane says he styles his game on two goalkeepers, Kaizer Chiefs’ Itumeleng Khune and Bayern Munich star Manuel Neuer, whom he says are the best in the business.

In fact, it is his obsession with the two keepers that has earned him the nickname ‘Khune’ from his teammates.

“I only watch two goalkeepers and to me they are the best. I have copied a lot of things from them,” Thetsane beams.

“In South Africa I only watch Itumeleng Khune. I like his flexibility and his good reflexes and he also has good distribution (of the ball). You can see him when he is holding the ball; Khune doesn’t just kick a ball, he passes the ball. He also has good communication with his defence. This is one thing that I have copied from him. He doesn’t shout all time, he whistles and I think even the Kaizer Chiefs defence now know what he is saying when he whistles to them. I love him.”

He continues: “Manuel Neuer is the only keeper I watch abroad. He is brave. Neuer is not just a keeper, he is also part of the defence and he knows how to deal with crosses. He is a complete goalkeeper. He has got height, he is not afraid to take risks. In every one-on-one situation he has got a 60 percent advantage (against the opponent). Those are the two goalkeepers that I am always trying to model my game around.”

Locally, Thetsane says he does not like to compare keepers in the league. He says they are a brotherhood and are always learning from each other.

“I think as goalkeepers, regardless of the teams we play for, we are a family. We all have our good and bad side and we are always talking and helping each other to grow,” Thetsane says.

For Thetsane the 2016/17 season certainly represents another opportunity to grow and move towards his undoubted potential.

 

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