Mosehlanyane: a new star is born

Mosehlanyane: a new star is born

Maseru – After years of toiling, Matlama at last ended their trophy bogey last month when they conquered the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 by outclassing Bantu 3-1 in a thrilling final. It was equal parts joy and relief for ‘Tse Putsoa’. Eight long years had passed since the club had last won a trophy and, as the confetti fell at Setsoto Stadium, Matlama’s fans celebrated a new band of club heroes, from Mosito Matela – the first out of a succession of coaches to succeed Ntebele Taole in bringing silverware to ‘Tse Putsoa’ – to captain Mabuti Potloane who produced a masterful midfield display in the final to inspire the team.

The list of LNIG Top 8 heroes, though, started with an unassuming young man who had only joined Matlama a few months earlier – Lebajoa Mosehlanyane. Simply put, Mosehlanyane was the star of this year’s LNIG Top 8, evinced by the player of the tournament award he carried home afterwards. From the moment he scored twice to dramatically seal a second leg quarterfinal comeback against Kick4Life to his winner in the semi-finals to dethrone Lioli, this was Mosehlanyane’s tournament, his breakout moment.

He capped it in the final with a delightful lob that even Lionel Messi would have been proud of to break Bantu’s hearts and finish as the tournament’s top goal-scorer with four goals. By the end Mosehlanyane had also announced himself as one of the country’s deadliest attacking talents. Mosehlanyane’s feats at the top level represent the fruits of a long held dream and a winding road. Born in 1992 in Maputsoe, he always wanted to be a football player and inspiration wasn’t far to find. His father, Mosamo Mosehlanyane, starred for Roaring Lions and seeing his dad perform always left an impression on the young Lebajoa.

“I grew up in a family of people who loved and watched football on a daily basis,” he recalls. “Just like many boys, I grew up idolising my father who played for Roaring Lions from 1996. My uncle was also a football player, so football was more like a family thing.” Quiet but blessed with blistering speed and an eye for goal, Mosehlanyane began buckling down on his gifts when he was 15 years old. “I started taking my talent seriously,” he says. “I dedicated myself to football and I spent most of my time at football grounds – that’s where I enjoyed my game.” He joined Mpharane Celtics in 2009, a newly-formed Leribe club which at the time campaigned in the B-Division.

It turned into a perfect marriage for Mosehlanyane’s formative years. Mpharane Celtics was an ambitious project but away from the limelight. It allowed the starlet to thrive and success came quickly. In his first year Mosehlanyane won the B-Division top scorer award and earned himself a call-up to the national Under-17 team. He was on song again the following year and this time his goals helped Mpharane Celtics win promotion to the First Division. His sparkling displays also earned Mosehlanyane his big breakthrough when he was called up to the national Under-20 team by Leslie Notši for an invitational tournament in Sharpeville, South Africa in March 2010.

Mosehlanyane was the only player in the squad who didn’t ply his trade in the Premier League, and although not a starter, he remained part of the Makoanyane XI setup for the rest of 2010 and a memorable 2011 African Youth Championship qualifying campaign that saw Lesotho shock Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya to reach the continental youth showpiece. At the Youth Championship – which was held in February 2011 in South Africa – Mosehlanyane was as a bit-part player but the learning experience was invaluable nonetheless.

“I remember I played one game at the tournament because I was competing for a position with prominent players in the team, the likes of Litšepe Marabe, Montoeli Sonopo and Tsebang Lebata, but that single game I played served as an experience in my career,” he says. A few months later he helped Mpharane Celtics win promotion to the Premier League. The country’s biggest clubs began circling. “Linare and Lioli started approaching me after seeing me during that season but I declined their offers because my interest was playing for my district, besides Mpharane was doing big things for me,” Mosehlanyane says.

He stayed with Mpharane Celtics for their maiden season in the top-flight helping them finish seventh in the 2011/12 campaign but another spectacular year only intensified interest in his signature. “Lioli started showing their interest even more than before and after long negotiations I went to Lioli,” Mosehlanyane says. His stay in Teyateyaneng was not rosy, though. He was transferred to Linare in 2013 without even kicking a ball for ‘Tse Nala’. Back home in Leribe, Mosehlanyane rediscovered his swagger.

He helped ‘Tse Tala’ win the 2014 King’s Cup preseason tournament and finish third in the 2013/14 Premiership campaign. After two successful seasons at Linare, Mosehlanyane chose a move to Bantu in 2015. “I had offers from three teams but I chose Bantu because they were playing good football and I felt it suited my talent. I played there for two seasons,” he says. Despite winning a league title in Mafeteng, Mosehlanyane never quite established himself as the go-to star he wanted to be and in January he joined Matlama after negotiations with Bantu over a new contract fell through.
It was a low-key move at the time but the forward has turned into the signing of the season helping Matlama to the LNIG Top 8 title and into third place in the Econet Premier League.

He has found new life at ‘Tse Putsoa’ and it has revived his dreams of playing in South Africa. “It was not easy to get where I am today but I believe in God and in working hard, so everything just happened,” Mosehlanyane says. “I had little misfortunes while playing for Bantu with countless injuries,” he adds. “I had a knee injury that put me on the sidelines for more than a month.” Mosehlanyane believes he has overcome those physical ailments and feels in top shape. “Now what I have to do is build my muscles especially for when you come up against physically powerful teams like (Lesotho Correctional Service) and Lesotho Defence Force, but my team is helping me with that,” he says.

The next immediate step is to finish the season on a high. And, having helped Matlama finally win silverware, Mosehlanyane says his focus is on beginning a successful run with Lesotho’s most successful club. “My contract was only for six months with Matlama but I believe they will extend it,” he says. “If negotiations go well I will stay where I am and embrace my talent.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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