We are ready, says Mahlaha

We are ready, says Mahlaha

Maseru – There are only two weeks left until the Vodacom Premier League roars back to life and, as with every season, the 2017/18 campaign presents different challenges to the various teams.
In preparation, teams and their scouts have been working tirelessly to recruit new players, and strengthen their weaknesses while also releasing players they deem surplus to requirements.One club where stakes are always high is Lioli.

Champions in 2015 and 2016, ‘Tse Nala’ agonisingly missed out on the league title to Bantu last season and they enter the 2017/18 season determined to reclaim the championship.
Most notable amongst Lioli’s moves so far is the addition of Spaniard Antonio Flores as technical director.
However, there could also be departures with star winger Tumelo Khutlang still expected to move to South African side Mthatha Bucks.
With just 17 days until Lioli begin their league campaign against Sundawana, ‘Tse Nala’ coach Halemakale Mahlaha sat down with thepost’s sports reporter, Lucia Phahla, to outline his plans for the season and how the Teyateyaneng giants plan to win every trophy on offer.

thepost: What can be expected from Lioli this season? What will be your focus?
Our focus is to win all trophies available this season. The target I have been given by management is to win two trophies and among the two there should be a league title. However, personally, I want to win all of them (league, Independence Cup and Lesotho National Insurance Group Top 8). When I sit down and analyse our team, I think it is possible to win every trophy and we are determined to achieve that.

What is Antonio Flores bringing to Lioli?
He has a lot of knowledge that can help us improve more and for the better. When we combine what he has and what we have, it gives us something valuable. What gives us an even bigger advantage is that he is from a country (Spain) where football is professional and we need that in our premier league.

What are some of the lessons you can take from last season going into the new campaign?
We have to work together as a team and be more committed. We need to make sure everyone is ready to compete so that we have enough squad rotation in order to make sure fatigue doesn’t catch up with us like it did last year. (Last season) after we won the (LNIG) Top 8 we played a league fixture immediately afterwards and we had people who did not have enough game-time, so we had to use the same players that were in the final and it did not work out for us. If we can rotate the squad and make sure everyone is on the same level I think it will help us a lot.

Despite not winning the league, Lioli still finished with two trophies last season. What has been the key to the progress since you took over?
If you look at last year’s record, we didn’t win any of our finals through penalty shootouts and we were contenders until the last minute in the league. We scored 49 goals (in the league). One thing that makes me happy is seeing teams from outside the country being interested in my players. It makes me happy that whatever I am giving to the players is helping them to improve personally. Whatever it is, I hope everyone in the team can catch it and then I think we can have a highly competitive team.

Some sections of Lioli supporters were not happy about losing the title to Bantu. To Lioli supporters what does success look like?
Honestly, I don’t know. Everywhere where people are working, people always differ in opinion and people think differently. People do have their favourites as well. Personally, I know there are some (supporters) that are not happy for their own reasons which I don’t know; but I also have my own theory as to why they are not happy.
For example, some of them have unlimited friendship with the players and if their (favourite) player is not playing then they will start with ‘this person is wrong, and this and that’. But, generally in life you cannot be loved by everyone – you are not money.

What would you say is success to those fans?
I am not sure. I have not had time to talk to them. Perhaps it would help if we had a platform where we can talk and see what makes them happy and doesn’t because for the past seven years or more we have managed to beat Bantu and very convincingly. So I am not really sure.
Are there any new players in the team, how are they adapting to Lioli?
Yes, they are here, even though they haven’t all arrived. I think by the time the registration period closes (at the end of August) they will all be here. The new players are adapting well. If you watched our game this past weekend (at the Alliance Winter Challenge) there was a small boy from our development (Retšelisitsoe Moepa). He is not even 20 (years old) but he has adapted well to the team.

Who are some of the players leaving during this transfer window?
So far I know only about Tumelo Khutlang and Liteboho Mokhehle who went to trials at Mthatha Bush Bucks and in Swaziland. I don’t know about any new developments, I haven’t communicated with them. But Makhopo (Khutlang) was here this weekend. As for Liteboho, he is still in Swaziland.

If they are successful how is their departure going to affect your plans?
We will have to adjust according to the material we have because the way Makhopo was playing was unique (and) Liteboho is a good goalkeeper. For a team to succeed it needs quality players, but we just have to adjust.

Who do you anticipate will be your biggest challengers in the upcoming season?
The biggest challenge will be the big clubs Bantu and Matlama because they are also preparing and they are trying to buy quality players that can improve their squads. Let me make an example with Matlama. Let’s say Phafa (Tšosane) is not available, they are trying to avoid a situation where they have a problem when it comes to how to replace him. Even small teams are also preparing to work hard so that they can be where we are. But we have to plan differently according to who we play on a week by week basis.

Have you and the players focused on anything specific in preparation for the new season?
Yes. Our team plays a passing game and that’s what we have been working on – to make sure we don’t change our style but instead make sure we add more speed to it. We are 90 or 95 percent ready for the new season. There are a few things we are still working on like our finishing so that we can convert our chances better next season.

Staff Reporter

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