Matlama’s date with fate

Matlama’s date with fate

….Giants one win away from league title…

MASERU – This weekend is one of the most important in the history of Matlama, Lesotho’s most successful club.
Saturday is the final round of the 2018/19 Econet Premier League season and ‘Tse Putsoa’ are one last win away from clinching a 10th championship, a feat that would extend their record of league title triumphs.

Matlama have been at the top of the league for the majority of the campaign and, in 2019 in particular, they have been a runaway train winning 12 of their 14 matches.
Title rivals and defending champions Bantu temporarily halted Matlama’s momentum two weeks ago with a 2-1 reverse that momentarily re-opened the title race.
However, Matlama erased any doubts over their nerve with a consummate 2-0 win over Sefotha-fotha on Sunday.

The victory moved ‘Tse Putsoa’ to 59 points while Bantu have 57 and it all means a Matlama win over Linare on Saturday at Setsoto Stadium would seal the title and cap a dream debut season in charge for Thabile Secker who took over as coach last August.
At the time of his arrival Secker’s signing didn’t receive much fanfare perhaps because he was replacing Mosito Matela who had just guided Matlama to last season’s Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 title or because the former Lioli stalwart hadn’t won a trophy in his young coaching career which until that point only included a lone season of work in the top-flight – the 2016/17 campaign with Sky Battalion.

Nine months later, though, and Secker is on the verge of ending Matlama’s nine-year league title drought and joining the pantheon of celebrated coaches who have led ‘Tse Putsoa’ to the championship such as the late Ntebele ‘Tata’ Taole who was the last man to guide Matlama to a title in 2010.

It hasn’t been without drama, however.
This is Matlama after all and speaking on Tuesday, Secker said the last few days have been a nightmare to prepare his players for Saturday’s Linare finale because “suddenly everybody now wants to have an input”.
Secker admitted the distractions, which he said include former coaches and players holding secret meetings with his players, are confusing his charges ahead of the biggest game of their careers.

And, that is what Saturday’s game is because despite their individual talents and achievements, many of Matlama’s stars such as Mabuti Potloane, Jane Thaba-Ntšo, Phafa Tšosane and Motebang Sera have never won the league title.
“Now that we are heading towards the end everyone wants to have an input, even former coaches take players for secret talks, so it is really becoming a problem for us because now everyone wants to be involved with the glory,” Secker said.

Nevertheless, Secker, who won the 2009 title as a player with Lioli, insisted that ultimately the entire club is aware of what a win over Linare would mean and he counted on experienced heads such as Bushy Moletsane to help guide ‘Tse Putsoa’ over the finish line.
Secker said Matlama showed the mettle required to win titles by bouncing back from the disappointing defeat to Bantu and overcoming a Sefotha-fotha side that is always tough to beat.
The Matlama boss added that Linare will be similarly tough to beat and he made it clear ‘Tse Putsoa’ have to be mentally ready for a difficult game at Setsoto.

Despite being 11th in the Econet Premiership and having little to play for, Linare are coming off a 3-0 demolition of Likhopo last weekend and the Leribe side would love nothing more than to spoil the party for their traditional Maseru rivals.
“The approach will be the same as with any other team because I respect every team that is playing in this league,” Secker said when asked about Saturday’s finale.
“Linare is also a big team and the game will not be easy at all. I think the game will be tough because (Linare) will be motivated to win especially after beating Likhopo this past weekend.”

At the end of the day, though, ‘Tse Putsoa’ are now only 90 minutes away from capturing the Econet Premier League crown from Bantu.
Everyone in Lesotho knows it is Matlama’s game and title to lose.
Is there any chance ‘Tse Putsoa’ could slip up on the final day under the limelight?
Not according to Secker.

He said he is confident his charges will finish the job against Linare and end nine years of waiting for Matlama fans.
“It was important for us to bounce back (against Sefotha-fotha) after the Bantu defeat,” Secker said.
“I saw the strength of my players. They played well and they won, so we are expecting a win again this coming weekend.”

Final weekend fixtures:
Saturday (15:00)

Matlama vs. Linare (Setsoto Stadium)
Likhopo vs. Liphakoe (Bambatha)
Swallows vs. LCS (LDF)
Galaxy vs. LMPS (DIFA Maputsoe)
Kick4Life vs. Lioli (LCS)
Majantja vs. LDF (Mohale’s Hoek)
Sefotha-fotha vs. Bantu (PTC)

Nkheli Liphoto

 

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