Kick4Life seek to kickstart season

Kick4Life seek to kickstart season

MASERU  – What a difference a year makes. Last season Kick4Life were the toast of the town – the surprise fourth-place package and the new cool kids on the block. But, in these early days of the 2017/18 Econet Premier League campaign, things are very different with Kick4Life closer to the relegation zone than to the top boys they hung with last season such as Bantu and Lioli. Whereas last term had the feeling of steady progression for the Old Europa side, this year has also been particularly stop-start. Part of that is down to fixture accidents.

Just three months into the new season, Kick4Life are already two games behind the schedule thanks to matches against Sky Battalion and Sundawana that were not played because their opponents did not show up. Those, by the way, are games Kick4Life would have expected to win.
It means a potential six points, for now, is lost.

As things stand, Kick4Life are in tenth place instead of perhaps being higher up the table — so things may look worse than they are.
But there is also a deeper problem at hand, however — Kick4Life’s form in 2017.
Since the start of March, Kick4Life have only won twice in 14 league matches. Six of those games have been drawn and the other six have been lost.
So while Kick4Life ultimately made it into fourth spot last season, the concern is whether the club is slowly regressing after a meteoric rise masterminded by Leslie Notši over the past two years.

Undoubtedly — as Notši himself admitted — Kick4Life were seen as potential title challengers this season thanks to a run that has seen them progress from promotion in 2014, to sixth in 2016 and fourth last season. All of this makes Saturday’s Econet Premier League clash against champions Bantu at Setsoto Stadium a critical juncture already. Kick4Life can’t afford to lose any more ground and they need to make a statement that they can indeed hang with the best – which is where the club aims to be.

“In football there is always pressure,” Kick4Life boss Notši admitted on Tuesday. “If you look at our profile from last season, people were expecting Kick4Life to be challenging for titles (but) things haven’t been going our way. We have been having games that are postponed and teams not turning up while other teams are playing and getting results. It is frustrating when others are playing and you are not because they are moving forward.”

Bantu, though, are not the best opponent for anyone trying to turn the corner right now.
The log leaders are yet to lose a game this season and have already been crowned Independence Cup champions, a tournament in which they dispatched of Kick4Life in the semi-finals.

Bantu’s attack is also on song – 14 goals in seven games – and the last time they tasted defeat in the league was in the first week of January, a 1-0 loss to Matlama and an incredible run of 20 games. The Mafeteng side, for the record, have won 17 of those 20 games.
“It is going to be a very tough encounter,” Notši said.

“Bantu are the defending champions. They have been doing well so far in all the matches they have played and it is not going to be easy for us. They have a quality team. But, at the same time, I believe we have players who also can surprise and do well.”
One key to victory Notši has identified is to play an open, attacking game.

The Bantu defence marshalled by captain Thapelo Mokhehle and Itumeleng Falene has only conceded one goal in seven league games this season.
However, the belief in some circles is that it hasn’t been tested enough with Liphakoe being the only side in the top six ‘A Matšo Matebele’ have faced this season.

“I believe we just have to play an open game,” Notši said.
“We need those points (on Saturday against Bantu); we should just go there with an idea of getting maximum points. We need to open the game and play. If we sit at the back and park the bus I don’t think it will be worth going there. We just need to push them to the limit,” added the former Lesotho coach.

To do that Kick4Life have to find a way to solve the goalscoring woes that have plagued them since losing the Lesotho international duo of Thabiso Brown and Thapelo Tale before the start of this season. Brown, who top scored with 17 league goals last term, left for Bolivia while Tale retired. Kick4Life have struggled to replace them with Moorosi Tšiu and Masoabi Nkoto yet to find form. Kick4Life have scored just four goals in five matches.

Notši, however, remained upbeat Kick4Life can ignite their season in Saturday’s weekend headline tie against Bantu.
“Our players have done well before,” he said. “All they have to do is to dig deeper and hopefully luck will be also be on our side. (Luck) is something that has been missing in our games.”

A win over Bantu would only move the Old Europa outfit up to ninth place. However, more important than more positioning, a victory on the biggest stage against the champions would prove Kick4Life aren’t a one-season wonder – it would kick-start their Econet Premier League season.

Luciah Phahla

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