Khutlang wants to make a mark

Khutlang wants to make a mark

MASERU – Lesotho star Tumelo Khutlang is eager to make his mark in South Africa, the next step of a journey that has taken him from Maseru to Butha-Buthe and Teyateyaneng and now finally to Limpopo. Early last month the former Lioli favourite sealed a blockbuster move to newly-promoted Premier Soccer League (PSL) outfit Black Leopards following a spectacular showing at the COSAFA Cup held in South Africa’s Limpopo province in June.
The 22-year-old’s performances for Lesotho – which helped inspire Likuena to their first-ever bronze medal at the regional showpiece – caught the eye of many including, as it turned out, the scouts of the Limpopo-based Black Leopards.

After protracted negotiations with Lioli, Khutlang finally packed his bags for South Africa’s northern most province four weeks ago, fulfilling a childhood dream of playing abroad and erasing pain from the same time last year when a move to South African National First Division (NFD) side Mthatha Bucks fell through at the last minute.
Unsurprisingly, the mercurial winger has promptly hit the ground running in the sweltering Venda conditions and, as he speaks to thepost, an excited Khutlang says he wants to use his golden opportunity at Black Leopards as a stepping stone to even bigger things.

“I have to work hard in training and wait for my chance to come; but when it comes I have to grab it with both hands and continue to work hard,” an upbeat Khutlang tells thepost.
“It’s obviously a big stage for me; personally, I have not played here before but I am hoping to do my best and, who knows, I could move to a much bigger side, the likes of SuperSport United or Bidvest Wits,” he adds.
Such a stellar move would be in keeping with Khutlang’s meteoric rise since he broke onto the top-flight scene six years ago with Likhopo as a fearless teenager who terrorised grown men with blistering pace and skill.

His daring style impressed and he was voted the Premier League’s young player of the season successively for the 2012/13 and 2013/14 campaigns before moving to Sundawana.
In Butha-Buthe, Khutlang was again spectacular helping a debutant ‘Tse Bo Yellow’ side finish eighth in the 2014/15 premiership season and soon Lesotho’s big guns were calling.
He chose Lioli and he became a fan favourite winning two league titles, two Lesotho National Insurance Group Top 8 trophies and one Independence Cup crown during his time in Teyateyaneng.
Now as he embarks on the biggest challenge of his career in one of the continent’s grandest leagues, Khutlang is characteristically fired up to get started.

The 2018/19 PSL season itself kicks off this weekend and Black Leopards begin their campaign with a Limpopo derby against Polokwane City at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday.
Needless to say excitement is palpable in the football-mad Venda region as Black Leopards prepare to make their first return to the PSL since 2013.
Since winning promotion in May via a three-team playoff against Jomo Cosmos and Platinum Stars, Black Leopards have signed a total of eight players for head coach Joel Masutha to mesh into a competitive team.

Khutlang says the early signs are positive and three weeks ago ‘Lidoda Duvha’ won the Limpopo Soccer Legacy Spectacular pre-season tournament in Giyani during which the Lesotho international featured prominently off the bench.
Although he is not expected to start on Saturday at Polokwane City, Khutlang believes there is still time for all players to impress Masutha.

“You can’t really say (Black Leopards) have a set team; it’s true, they just won the play-offs, but I think there is still a chance for everyone to make it (into the starting line-up),” Khutlang says.
“The league they will be playing in this time is different from the one they were playing last season and I think getting into the 18-man squad is the first target and then I want to stay in the team.”
Helpfully, Khutlang joined ‘Lidoda Duvha’ alongside another Likuena international – Luciano Matsoso.

The duo being together certainly increases their chances of success and Khutlang admits it has been helpful to have someone to communicate with as he adjusts to Venda.
It is crucial.

Over and above their move to Black Leopards, Khutlang and Matsoso are the first Lesotho players to ply their trade in South Africa’s top-flight league since Lehlohonolo Seema retired in 2011 and, whether the two know it or not, much is riding on their success if Lesotho is to finally start exporting players across the border.
“Coming here with (Matsoso) has been nice,” Khutlang acknowledges.

“It’s always good to have someone who understands you and understands the language you speak, someone who comes from the same place as you.”
“So far everything is going well,” he continues.

“We are training and playing friendly matches, too. It was a bit difficult when I first came in because, as you know, when you are a new player coming into the team they don’t know you and they don’t pass you the ball. But it has been good.”
Coach Masutha – Khutlang adds – has also been helpful, especially while he was finding his feet as a substitute in friendly matches.

Now the serious business of the PSL season is finally here and the hard work – for Black Leopards, and for Khutlang – really begins.
“It will not be easy to get into the starting team but I am ready to take my chance when it comes,” Khutlang says.
“I am not intending to make it easy for the coach to drop me once I’m in the team.”

Luciah Phahla

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