Shale: Gone too soon

Shale: Gone too soon

MASERU– Motlatsi Shale, the Majantja coach and man who brought Bantu its first ever league title in 2014, died last Thursday at hospital in Maseru.
He was only 37. Majantja say Shale died from an illness that ailed him for several months and his death robs Lesotho football of a serial champion and a man who left an indelible mark both as player and as a coach.

Sebota, as Shale was affectionately called, will perhaps be best remembered for his role in Lesotho’s fairy-tale run to the 2000 COSAFA Castle Cup final. It was during that epic run where Shale displayed the qualities that came to define him – courage, tenacity and determination.
His and his mates’ finest hour came on July 23, 2000 at Setsoto Stadium when Lesotho pulled off one of the greatest shocks in COSAFA Cup history by beating Angola 2-1 in the semi-finals of the 2000 championship.

At the time Likuena were ranked 99 places below Angola in the FIFA world rankings and were not expected to defeat their star-studded visitors.
But they did and they ended the Palancas Negras’ three-year reign as COSAFA Cup champions.
Shale – who played second fiddle to first-choice strikers Teele Ntšonyana and Lebajoa Mphongoa – didn’t start the game but still left a mark thanks to his never-say-die attitude.

With Angola leading 1-0 and on course for another trip to the final, Shale – in a desperate move by then-Likuena coach Monyane Monaheng – came on for midfielder Motheo Mohapi in the 80th minute.
Immediately the burly striker injected life into the team and four minutes later Shale chested down for Motlatsi Maseela to grab a memorable equaliser for Lesotho.

With the game turned, Likuena poured forward and a minute from time Ntšonyana found the net to seal an unforgettable comeback.
Although Lesotho went on to lose to Zimbabwe in the final, that team and that run will always be remembered.
So will Shale.

“He was a hard-worker,” Bantu vice-president Molefi Lengosane said. “In the time he spent with us at Bantu he did a great job for the club and this is a big loss to the football fraternity. We will remember him. He was one person who was not afraid to stand up for himself. He was stubborn but he would still do his job well,” Lengosane added.

Shale’s fearlessness became a signature of his career. It fuelled his performances and led to a dream move to South African giants Bloemfontein Celtic in 2000. That he stayed in South Africa’s elite ranks for three years is a testament to his character.
Born in Quthing, Shale grew up in Mohale’s Hoek before moving to Maseru where he spent his peak years locally at giants Matlama.
A relentless lover of the game, he took up coaching after retiring and secured his first big job in July 2013 with Bantu.
Arriving at an ambitious juncture for the Mafeteng giants, Shale nonetheless remained unfazed by the pressure and led ‘A Matšo Matebele’ to the title in his first season in charge.

He also guided the club to the Independence Cup during the same 2013/14 campaign and the following season clinched the Lesotho National Insurance Group Top 8 to author Bantu’s most successful period to date.
“He used to challenge us,” Lengosane said.

“But most importantly he was not a ‘yes man’. He was not afraid to leave if he was not happy and we would have to call him talking with him in the language he understood. But we had a great time with him at the club.”
Shale did eventually leave for good at the end of 2015 after falling out of favour with Bantu’s management.
He moved to Linare in January 2016 but left the dysfunctional Leribe giants after ten months. His latest project was with Majantja whom he took over coaching reins in September .

He had made a good start to the 2017/18 season leading Majantja to an unbeaten start after four games before his illness worsened.
As he began missing matches, his side began missing him.
The Mohale’s Hoek side lost four of their next six games to plummet to ninth.

“It was a long sickness, Majantja public relations officer Tšepang Makakula said.
“I can’t even say for how long (he was sick) because when he arrived at Majantja his sickness was already troubling him. It was something where he would be better and work, then it would come back just like it came back now. Unfortunately this time it took his life.”

Makakula added: “His passing has been very difficult for the players and the team in general. For example, all the games that he missed we lost them – we lost badly. We lost three games consecutively and we only won the fourth one, so it is bad.”
Majantja said they are preparing a memorial service for Shale to be held next week.

For now Lesotho will continue to remember one of its greatest football sons.
“It is a huge loss to the football fraternity given he was still young and there was still hope that he would go further,” Bantu’s Lengosane said.
“Everywhere (Shale) went you would see good results – look at what he was doing with Majantja right now.”

Luciah Phahla

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