Mafoso aiming for another top four finish

Mafoso aiming for another top four finish

Luciah Phahla

Maseru

 

Sandawana coach Bob Mafoso is gunning for another top four finish next season after the Butha-Buthe side’s surprise 2015/16 Vodacom Premier League campaign.

Speaking exclusively to thepost this week, Mafoso added that anything below fourth place next year would be “disastrous” and said “Tse Bo Yellow” intend to close the gap on the sides that finished above them this season: Lioli, Matlama and Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).

This past season unheralded Sandawana shocked all and sundry by claiming a top four spot ahead of heavyweights Bantu and Likhopo.

It is the first time in the past decade any club other than Lioli, Matlama, LCS, Lesotho Defence Force, Linare, Bantu, Likhopo and Lesotho Mounted Police Service has claimed a coveted top four spot.

And, quizzed on Sandawana’s prospects for next season, Mafoso said a repeat is their minimum requirement.

“Without putting pressure on the players, next season I think we have to maintain our top four finish, that’s a realistic target for us. We are in the top four now (and) if we end the season below that it could be classified as disastrous,” Mafoso said.

“If you look at the points separating the second placed team (Matlama), third (LCS) and us it is a big margin, and we will try and close that next season,” he said.

The increased confidence in Butha-Buthe is fuelled by Sandawana’s miraculous exploits this past year.

Mafoso joined Sandawana last September with the club winless and stuck in the relegation zone after three games. Their struggles continued after his arrival and ‘Tse Bo Yellow’ remained winless after six outings.

However, things suddenly clicked and Mafoso guided Sandawana on a seven-match winning streak that lasted from the start of October until the end of 2015. In the end, ‘Tse Bo Yellow’ finished the season having won 12 matches and amassed a total of 42 points from 26 outings.

Despite his late arrival, Mafoso pin-pointed the sides’ preseason preparations as the foundation of their success. He also credited Sandawana’s team spirit for helping turn things around.

“I did not have a preseason with the club but I think they had a good preseason because during the preseason a lot of things happen, combinations are put to test and much more, and when you have had a good preseason people will see the results,” he said.

Mafoso added: “We struggled in the beginning but I could see where we were going, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Normally if you start badly with things not going your way, that brings you closer as a team and we held each other’s hands and worked hard. I never lost hope.”

Having climbed to third place with a blistering end to 2015, Sandawana struggled at the turn of the year and by March had dropped to sixth. Mafoso said the second round, which began with back-to-back defeats to title-chasing Matlama and Lioli, was a different challenge to the first.

Ultimately, the key, he said, was maintaining a positive outlook even through the team’s setbacks.

“We finished the first round in third position and the second round was more difficult. The first (two) games were against teams that were fighting for the league. But, I realised that we did not lose our games because we were bad but (because) we were playing against different teams. For example, look at the quality in that Lioli team; we knew after we played with them we would never meet a team with such quality,” Mafoso said.

Looking forward, Mafoso emphasised the need to hold on to the club’s star performers as Sandawana look to come back stronger next season.

Striker Roboama Koloti struck 13 goals to finish second in the league’s scoring charts while defender Motlomelo Mkhwanazi’s solid performances led to a call-up to the Lesotho squad. The two are among several “Tse Bo Yellow” players that have reportedly piqued the interest of the country’s big names.

“I am not expecting to lose any of my players; however, you know negotiations are between the club, the players and the team that wants his services. We talked with the players and told them that we would like to keep them and no one showed any interest in leaving the team. In fact, we would like to add few more players,” Mafoso underlined.

After leading the now relegated Likila United to a similarly unexpected sixth place last season, Mafoso has also seen his profile rise. Nevertheless, the tactician said he is happy to remain in Butha-Buthe.

“I am happy here but no one knows what can happen tomorrow. But, I am happy to be here right now,” he said.

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