LMPS’ search for ‘holy grail’

LMPS’ search for ‘holy grail’

MASERU – Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) have never won a Premier League title and it has been ten years since they won a trophy of any kind.
That triumph came all the way back in August 2009 with success in the now defunct MGC Supa 8.

In the intervening years ‘Semunye’ have consistently finished in the league’s top eight but have lacked the cutting edge to go further and win silverware.
Former Lesotho international striker Teele Ntšonyana was hired in January to change that.

Ntšonyana has seen ‘Semunye’ make positive progress since his hiring and he guided them to a strong sixth-place finish last season.
LMPS then started this Econet Premier League season by winning four of their opening six games but in recent weeks they have spiralled.
‘Semunye’ have lost their last four games which has plunged them from second place all the way to eighth.
Ntšonyana, however, remains confident in the club’s chances of ending their decade-long trophy drought.

The former Liphakoe and Linare coach said LMPS remain far from realising his vision for the team but he insisted it is a long-term journey.
As Ntšonyana sat down with thepost this week he described his targets for LMPS. At the top of the list is winning a trophy this season.

thepost: How would you summarise LMPS’s season so far?
Ntšonyana: We have been able to hit some of the targets that we set for ourselves.

Our major failings came as a result of a bad fixtures list because we have been subjected to a situation where we had to play four games in 11 days. That’s too much; that’s not how football should be anywhere in the world.
The maximum number of matches you can play in 12 days is three but we have played four. That means we have never had a day to rest for the past two weeks, either as passive rest or active rest.

That is too much for our players because some of the players are from the national team and you may find that the way we train here and the way they train (with the national team) is different.
The most unfortunate part is that the teams we were competing against which had players in the national team, such as Bantu and Matlama, did not play three consecutive games in two weeks except us.

We lost three games because of fatigue. There are a lot of things that scientists say we can do to recover but our situation in Lesotho is such that we still don’t have the means.
Some of those (recovery methods) are the ice baths, (and) a lot of massages and we have to hire people for that. This team, as it is, doesn’t have support. A lot of people think (LMPS) is an institutional team so it shouldn’t struggle but it’s not like that. We have problems with finances.

Are you still in-line with the targets you set?
We are slightly offline but we have to regroup because in the second round we have to truly be competent.
We had our targets and we were coming along until tragedy befell us. We are not far off the mark; we are still thereabouts so I believe if we can regroup we can still come back.

What will it take for LMPS to compete and win the league?
There are a lot of things that are needed for every team to perform well; one thing is sound management.
Management in football is the same as in companies. Things that need to be there in massive companies for them to be successful must also be there in football management.

Marketing has to be very good and you must have very good playing personnel (because) quality players make a difference, everywhere in the world teams are trying to buy good players.
I believe we are not too far away from winning a trophy; I have a competent bunch of players here. If we can prepare ourselves mentally we can win something this season. We are good enough, we can match anybody in the league and I am not fearful.

We respect everybody in the league but we are not scared. All that it takes is to grow mentally and it is a process, it doesn’t come in a snap of a finger, it happens gradually. We are on our way (and) I believe we will get there.

How do you find consistency against so-called smaller teams?
It’s a mental thing. In sports those who know better say 75 percent of the success is from being strong psychologically and the remaining 25 percent is shared between things like social tactics (and) technique.

If we are strong mentally we shouldn’t have lost to smaller teams because there is a little bit of irony if you beat Matlama, you beat LCS, you beat Kick4Life, then you lose to Swallows and you lose to Linare; it shows there is something wrong mentally.

We need to get that one right. Like I am saying, it is a journey; it is not easy to build a team.
A lot of competent coaches out there have a problem at their clubs to have psychologically strong players. It is a problem caused by the lack of a sound development base.
Teams don’t develop players; the psychological aspect I am talking about comes from down there (at development).

If we start there then when it comes to where we are in the elite league the players already have the psychological part they acquired through development.
But we don’t have sound development structures. That’s a problem and a big one in the country.

How would you describe your philosophy as a coach?
We use what I call SHEGS; I wrap that into a philosophy.
We have to play smart, which engages a lot of thinking. We have to play hard, we have to be entertaining, we have to be quick and we have to score goals. That drafts my philosophy. It’s called SHEGS, my players know about it. Everywhere I have been I have been adopting that.

I developed that type of philosophy according to what we have in the country.
The types of players we have are mostly physically small. When you go outside the country you are going to meet people who have height, which means you have to be smarter than them if you don’t match their physical aspect.

You have to be smarter and you have to play harder. Our players need to combine their energy meaning we have to work more as a team. That is the tactical aspect of the game.
There’s more to the philosophy but my main reason is because the players we are exposed to are not players that can compete one-on-one with anybody outside country. One-on-one we struggle, so we have to combine our energies to win.

Your team has received lot of yellow cards and red cards this season. Is it frustrations on the field or ill-discipline?
It is ill-discipline. I am sorry to be saying that because I am coaching this team. I should be saying by now I have a team that is disciplined enough.
I inherited LMPS, a team that started competing in 1948. If LMPS has not won the league since 1948 you can imagine the mentality within LMPS.

Mostly we are playing for the sake of doing it; we don’t really understand (what it takes to win). That has been the trend. When I arrived here and asked a lot of questions about what happened (in the past), I found out that the history doesn’t really favour us.

But if I can be here for two seasons I believe we can change that. We can try to manage players in a way that they can be a lot more disciplined because what is football without discipline?
Worse, we are a disciplined force. LMPS is an institution that works with discipline and our players should represent the institution well. It is one of the things we are working on. It is a journey. It will take a little bit of time. I am not happy with our ill-discipline.

What are your personal targets for LMPS?
It is mainly to improve our league position from last season and win a trophy or two which is possible.
If you ask me where LMPS is at in terms of my vision as the coach, I will tell you we are far; we are at 30 percent, so we still have 70 more to cover.

It’s a lot of work that will come with time. But I believe at 40 or 50 percent we can win some trophies, we can improve our positioning in the league, we will do well. When we get to 70 (percent) we will be invincible. We can beat anybody.

Tlalane Phahla

 

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