Greatness beckons for Ramalefane

Greatness beckons for Ramalefane

MASERU – The 2017/18 season was a campaign to remember for Matlama goalkeeper Monaheng Ramalefane.
A relatively unknown entity a year ago, the 19-year-old is now the hottest goalkeeping property in Lesotho having won the best keeper award for the 2017/18 Econet Premier League season after a year of spectacular saves and maturity beyond his tender years.
Today, the fresh faced Ramalefane is the undisputed number one at one of the country’s biggest clubs and, according to many, is even knocking on the door of the national team, Likuena.

The journey
Born in Ha Mphakala, Mohale’s Hoek, on December 22 in 1998, Ramalefane – like countless keepers – didn’t start off between the sticks.
Instead, the young Monaheng was a striker at his first club, Emmanuel Football Club, dreaming of scoring winning goals in finals.
Little did Ramalefane know that he would be saving them.

In March, Ramalefane turned in one of the 2017/18 season’s most memorable displays when he repeatedly denied Bantu in a thrilling Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 final to hand Matlama a rousing 3-1 win and their first trophy since 2010.
It was a triumphant affirmation of the young man’s talent, on the biggest stage, too.

“I think the best save I made (last season) was against Bantu when we won 3-1, it was an effort from Lazola (Tjokotjokwana),” Ramalefane beams as he sits down with thepost.
That afternoon at Setsoto Stadium was certainly a high for Ramalefane who made the leap to Matlama from second division Emmanuel FC in 2015.
At the time ‘Tse Putsoa’ were under the guidance of current Likuena coach Moses Maliehe and it was a big step up for a 16-year-old Ramalefane.
“Arriving at Matlama was a different environment altogether and even the competition was much higher,” Ramalefane remembers.

“The club had the likes of Thabiso Lichaba and Makhetha Thakeli (as keepers) and I learned a lot from them, they taught me how to communicate on the field.”
Midway through his debut campaign, Maliehe then surprisingly thrust Ramalefane into the starting line-up.
The youngster, however, rarely looked out of place and Matlama ended the season a point behind Lioli in the league title race.
It was both the start for Ramalefane, and a preview of things to come.

The change to keeper
Despite showing some promise at Emmanuel, Ramalefane only began taking football seriously after an opportunity to train with Likhopo under the late, great Bishop Molatoli presented itself while he was in primary school.
“I started taking football seriously in 2007 after I got chance to practice with Likhopo for a short while; that is when I developed the spirit and the love for the game,” Ramalefane says.
It is then that his love for goalkeeping unexpectedly started as well.

“I was determined to do well during my time with Likhopo and one day one of the keepers was out with an injury so I volunteered to stand between the poles,” Ramalefane says.
“I made great saves and helped the team win, and the coach told me to stay in goals because I was good.”
The rest is history.

From that day Ramalefane was officially a goalkeeper.
A few years down the line he received his first call-up to the national Under-17 side, Bahlabani, a moment that shaped his career.
“I was glad to receive a call-up from the Under-17 national team,” Ramalefane recalls.
“I was shy and nervous but because of the exposure and several games that I had played before I became a better version of myself.”
It was also a pivotal moment because that is when Matlama scouts noticed the youngster in action and approached Emmanuel for his services.

The awards
Today, Ramalefane is the league’s most decorated player, his collection of awards too heavy to carry in one hand.
Last December, while playing for Lesotho at the 2017 COSAFA Under-20 Championship in Zambia, he won the goalkeeper of the tournament award as the Makoanyane XI reached the final.
Last month, at Matlama’s first-ever end of season awards, Ramalefane walked away with three prizes: the goalkeeper, players’ player and supporters’ player of the year awards.
At the Futbolars Club awards show, also in June, he grabbed the goalkeeper and young player of the season trophies.

And all those awards are in addition to the LNIG Top 8 goalkeeper of the tournament crown he won in April.
However, even with his numerous accolades shining in the background, Ramalefane remains determined to improve.
He draws inspiration from top international goalkeepers – from his favourite keeper, Moneeb Josephs, who plays in South Africa, to others further abroad.
“I watch them all the time and try to imitate the moves they make and also learn new things,” Ramalefane says.
“I always try to perform new moves in the goals and in most cases I succeed.
“I love Moneeb Josephs,” he adds.

“Whether he has conceded or not he is still as confident as ever and doing his best so that his team does not concede more goals.”
Improving is, of course, the only option if Ramalefane is to realise his potential and continue denying his adversaries such as Lesotho Defence Force star Tšepo Toloane whom the keeper calls his “worst nightmare”.

“Even best goalkeepers have their worst nightmares,” he jokes.
“There are players all keepers would rather not face and for me that player is (Toloane). Whenever I have to face him I talk tough with my defenders to not give him a chance at all,” he laughs.

The future
Despite being under contract at Matlama for two more years, interest in Ramalefane is growing daily.
He admits other local teams have made contact with the view of signing him but he quickly shoots down any possibility of swapping gloves locally.
His dream is to play for Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa and the recent departure of Tumelo Khutlang from Lioli to Black Leopards has only whetted his appetite more.
The talent, undeniably, is there and, indeed, to some Ramalefane is seen as the keeper capable of joining the pantheon of Lesotho’s true greats between the sticks, legends such as Thabane Sutu and Tšeliso Thite.

To reach those heights, however, Ramalefane knows he has to do well at ‘Tse Putsoa’.
“To be honest, I am comfortable at Matlama,” he affirms.
“Both the technical team and players are highly motivated and focused on winning,” he says.
“I want to keep on improving and to win more trophies with Matlama.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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