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Tributes pour in for Matete

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MASERU – The football fraternity is mourning the untimely death of Seephephe ‘Mochini’ Matete, a man regarded by many as one of the greatest players to have played football in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Matete lost his battle against lung cancer on Sunday after he was admitted to a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, recently, according to a family spokesman, Nkau Matete.

Matete was speaking to Lesotho Television on Monday.

The 65-year-old made a name for himself playing for Matlama in the 1970s in a career that spanned more than two decades. He also had short spells playing in South Africa in the mines and for Bloemfontein Celtic.

He started playing for his country as a 17-year-old during the qualifiers of the 1974 World Cup. After hanging his boots in 1993, Matete immediately moved into coaching after he was appointed player-coach at his beloved Matlama.

‘Mochini’, as the legendary left footed attacking midfielder was affectionately known, had a love-hate relationship with the country’s most decorated club, but had recently returned to Tse Putsoa as they represented the country in this year’s CAF Champions League.

He also served the government of Lesotho working at the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation where he worked as a sports organiser, but later moved to the Lesotho Football Association where he started as a coach for its junior teams.

He later moved up the ranks from the Under-17 up to the senior team as well as working as the technical director, which is the senior most technical position in a football organisation.

He and Leslie Notsi are the only coaches to have led the Lesotho Under-20 side Makoanyane XI to the then CAF Youth Championship with Matete having been the first to qualify for a continental tournament in 2005.

Matete also reached the final of the COSAFA Under-20 Championship with Makoanyane XI in 2003. He was the second Lesotho coach after the late April ‘Style’ Phumo to be accredited as a CAF and FIFA instructor.

His last coaching job was with LMPS in the previous season of the Vodacom Premier League, where the club finished in sixth position.

For many who saw Matete during his playing days donning the blue and white of Matlama, he was an iconic player in the same mould as football greats like Jomo Sono in South Africa as well as Diego Maradona in Argentina.

Joang Molapo, a former government minister who was a football player himself, was among many high-profile people in the country who took to social media to mourn the football icon.

“I watched him many times for Matlama and the Lesotho national team. He was an awesome talent and one of the best players this country has ever produced,” Molapo said.

“I played against him a few times; he had a left foot for the ages. Skill, strength, and guile. In 1985, LDF had picked him for some international matches together with Ice Ntsonyana and they arranged a practice match under floodlights at the National Stadium against us as Arsenal.”

The former BNP leader went down the memory lane reminiscing about a match in which LDF had picked Matete to play for them ahead of an international match, but before that they played a friendly match against their now defunct Arsenal.

“Their midfield consisted of Buti Buti Sefali, Mochini, and Ice. Buti Buti and Ice played as the pivots at the base of the midfield while Mochini played in the half space. He was awesome that day and gave Likhetho Mokhathi, Letlotlo and me a master class on midfield play,” Molapo recalls.

“He kept turning away from us and playing in Telephone Seutloali on the left overlapping or finding the runs of Katiso Sekamane in the channels. Litšitso Khali scored a brace for us on that day which awakened a lot of people to his awesome talent but ‘Mochini’ was just out of this world,” he said.

Molapo also posted a picture recalling a match where he was acting as the Minister of Sports and Matete gave him the opportunity to address the Likuena players ahead of a World Cup Qualifier match against Kenya.

“The picture was taken in the dressing room ahead of Kenya vs Lesotho in a World Cup qualifier in Nairobi. He asked me to say a few words to the players before the game and introduced me by saying to them ‘ le mo mamele motho enoa o la ka e bapala nthoena (Listen to him because he played football,” added Molapo.

“Together with Tšeliso Khomari, Thulo Leboela and Likhetho Mokhathi – ‘Mochini’ Matete is among the greatest players Lesotho has ever produced,” he said.

Former LeFA technical director, Leslie Notši, knew Matete very well as he played under him as a player at Matlama and had him under his wing when he started his coaching career at both club level and the national team.

“Yes, he brought me to be his assistant coach at the national under-17 team, but before that, I worked with him at Matlama as his player when he was a player coach and won the league championship in the early 90s,” Notši said.

“He had a very long career as a player because when I was at St. James Primary, he was already a star playing for his school as well as Matlama. I think he received his first national team call-up when he was 17-years old.

“That’s how good he was because we used to carry bags of other senior players that we adored, and he was already a star playing for a senior team.”

LeFA’s Coach Education Officer, Lehlohonolo Thotanyana, who worked with Matete as sports officers at the Ministry of Sports and later reunited at the football governing body, described Matete as a very bubbly personality that was full of jokes.

“I must say, I knew him from a distance until we worked together at the Ministry of Sports, which in those days was under the ministry of tourism in 1993 I think,” Thotanyana recalls.

“When it comes to football, we were working under the late ‘Style’ Phumo as our mentor, where we worked as sports organisers at the ministry and later worked together for LeFA. Matete was the second person in the country after ntate Phumo to be accredited as a FIFA and CAF Instructor.

“I also worked with him as his assistant coach for the Under-20 team that eventually qualified for the Africa Youth Championship in Benin, 2005. His family and football in general have lost a giant. Many of the coaches we have here in the country were groomed by him. He has done a lot for his country,” he said.

Thotanyana feels there are no bigger achievements than serving your country as a technical director as well as becoming a FIFA and CAF instructor as technical experts and believes Matete lived his dream when he occupied the two positions.

“I think the fact that he served LeFA as the technical director and was a CAF and FIFA Instructor, from the technical point of view, those are the topmost milestones or achievements in football,” Thotanyana said.

“Secondly, he was instrumental and led Lesotho Under-20 to the African Youth Championship being the first person to do so. I think those are too distinct milestones and defining moments in his career,” he said

Mikia Kalati

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Why LCS boss resigned

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MASERU – Former Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) head coach Shalane Lehohla said he is taking a break from coaching until the end of the season after parting ways with LCS last week.

Lehohla said he felt he could no longer make a difference in the team and decided to resign and leave.

LCS played their first game without Lehohla on Saturday against Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and lost 1-0.

Lehohla would not reveal what he meant when he said he could not change the team but said he did not want to stay at a place where he could not make a difference.

His resignation was accepted by the club’s management who first tried to come up with solutions and not lose a coach mid-season.

However, the two sides were unable to reach a compromise and LCS had no choice but to accept Lehohla’s resignation, according to the club’s spokesperson Kofa Rantai.

Lehohla said the coaching journey is not an easy one and that leading people is difficult.

He said sometimes people no longer see things the same way.

“I am going to rest, if I go back to coaching it will be next season. For now, however, I will try to think about new things, learn and try to improve where I can,” Lehohla told thepost.

At the beginning of the season, there were reports that Lehohla wanted to leave ‘Masheshena’ and he aired his concerns to the management. The issues appeared to have been fixed because he stayed.

However, in December, LCS were 35 minutes late for their final game before Christmas when they played Lifofane in Butha-Buthe.

Lehohla cut a frustrated figure on the touchline in the game against Lifofane which ended in a 1-1 draw and when asked about LCS’s lateness, Lehohla directed the question to the team’s management.

After a promising start to the season, LCS are fourth in the Vodacom Premier League, ten points behind leaders Bantu after 16 games.

In the interim ‘Masheshena’ will be led by Moitheri Ntobo who is working alongside Poloko Mohale, Lawrence Molengoane, as well as goalkeeper coaches Sam Ketsekile and Daniel Jousse.

Rantai said the club will not be bringing in any new players during this January transfer window except Kananelo Maoela who is returning to the club.

“Coach informed the team he could not continue anymore, and the management tried to sit-down and find a resolution but when that could not be found, they had no choice but to accept his resignation,” Rantai said.

Meanwhile, struggling Swallows have sacked head coach Teele Ntšonyana after a 2-0 loss to Matlama on Sunday. Ntšonyana joined Swallows last season when they were on the brink of relegation and miraculously saved them. The Mazenod based side are 14th on the log and have managed to collect just ten points from 16 games.

They are level with Naughty Boys and Galaxy who are also swimming in the same relegation pool.

Many Swallows supporters have voiced their disappointment at management’s decision to fire the beloved Ntšonyana and feel the players have been responsible for the team’s poor results.

Tlalane Phahla

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Rabale bags more accolades

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MASERU – Lesotho women’s team captain Boitumelo ‘Queen’ Rabale continues to bag more accolades in South Africa after a scintillating season helping Mamelodi Sundowns retain their Hollywoodbets Super League title.

The talented attacking midfielder played a starring role netting 27 goals in all competitions for ‘Banyana Ba Style’, who also reached the final of the COSAFA qualifier and the CAF Champions League.

Rabale was in December crowned the Hollywoodbets Super League Player of the Season, walking away with M50 000 cash, after helping Sundowns successfully defend their league title, where she scored 24 goals.

The 26-year-old Mehalalitoe star was at it again over the weekend winning the Most Improved Player award at the Mamelodi Sundowns award ceremony for their male and female teams.

She as the top goal scorer of the women’s team along with Namibia’s Peter Shalulile, who is the top goal scorer in the male’s team, were the only players handed awards on the day.

Rabale’s impressive campaign also saw her make the CAF Women’s Champions League team of the tournament having scored three goals as Sundowns failed to defend their title losing to AS Far from Morocco in the final.

The Sundowns star, who came through the ranks playing for the boys’ teams in the dusty grounds of Qoaling is now in contention to win the South African Football Journalist Association (SAFJA) Women’s Footballer of the Year award.

She is contesting for the award against the likes of Mpumi Nyandeni of JVW, Amogelang Motau of UWC, Busisiwe Ndimeni of TUT and Lonathemba Mhlongo of UWC.

“Sundowns recently held the awards for its senior teams in the male and female categories. The only awards that were handed out on the day are those that went to me and Peter Shalulile as the most improved players from both the male and female teams, who also happens to be the top goal scorers from the two teams in the 2022/2023 season,” Rabale said.

“My attention has now shifted to the SAFJA awards because I’m confident of taking it as well. The just ended season was meant for me and I’m very excited.”

The Mehalalitoe star stated she gets to interact a lot of with Sundowns players playing for the male’s team such as Shalulile.

“I interact a lot with Shalulile and he is my biggest critic when I don’t perform well. He will be telling me that I’m lazy, but he is always there supporting and pushing me to perform to the best of my abilities,” Rabale said.

“To be honest, the rest of the Sundowns male team have been very supportive including the coaches and they were all super proud of what I achieved with the club this past season.

“It is always good sharing the platform with them and it was good that I and Shalulile were rewarded because we worked hard for it. It was well deserved for both of us,” she said.

Mikia Kalati

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Kolokotoane dreams big

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MASERU – It has been a decade since ‘Mathabo Kolokotoane started her winding journey in football refereeing.

Being a woman in a profession dominated by men has made the ride all the more challenging and, unsurprisingly, Kolokotoane’s journey has been one filled with many ups and downs.

It has been worth it, though. Today Kolokotoane is one of two Lesotho women, alongside Nteboheleng Setoko, who are on the FIFA list of international referees.

The annual list, which was released earlier this month, represents the highest level of achievement in refereeing and is a golden chance for match officials to showcase themselves on the international stage, on and off the field.

The FIFA list also includes two other local women, Puleng Mahomo and Polotso Maapara, who are included in their capacities as assistant referees and they regularly fly Lesotho’s flag abroad alongside Kolokotoane.

Just last September, Kolokotoane took charge of the 2022 COSAFA Women’s Championship final in South Africa which demonstrated the esteem in which she is held within refereeing circles.

It is more than Kolokotoane could have dreamed of when she started her basic refereeing courses back in 2012 when her goal was just to become a referee.

Today she is one of the most recognised referees in the country. It is a Friday afternoon when thepost meets her at Setsoto Stadium where she trains to keep fit.

It is two days before all match officials are due to undergo the Lesotho Football Association’s (LEFA) fitness checks which they go through at the beginning of every year before the second round of the league season starts.

Kolokotoane is understandably busy but she is able to spare a few minutes to speak to thepost and take a deep dive into her decade in refereeing.

Kolokotoane says she could not have imagined her staying-power in a male dominated industry and her experiences – good or bad – have never deterred her from dreaming big.

“It has not been an easy journey, especially when you are a female officiating men’s games, but I was able and I am still able to do it,” she says.

“A lot happens on the football pitch,” Kolokotoane adds.

“Sometimes it’s just (men) underestimating you (and saying) that ‘it’s a woman, she is not going to be able to do it’. You know, there are some things we say as Basotho that have to go in one ear and out of the other because they are not nice. Even if I enjoy the game on the field, spectators will always say what they want. It’s life.”

Kolokotoane had to overcome professional lows as well.

In 2020, she was invited to the boys’ COSAFA Under-17 Championship. It was a trip she was looking forward to but it never materialised because she failed a fitness test and was removed from the FIFA panel.

It was a crushing blow to a referee who had become renowned locally and was already enjoying a stellar career which included regular appointments at regional championships.

However, Kolokotoane did not let her removal from the panel define her, instead she used the setback to work hard to meet the required fitness levels needed to return to the FIFA panel.

In 2022, she regained her spot and retained it in the recent list released by FIFA.

Before the season resumes for the second round, referees run a fitness test in January to determine their fate. It is, therefore, important to stay in shape and maintain a certain level of fitness required for referees.

Failure to meet the standards has repercussions. For international referees, for instance, they could be removed from the FIFA panel. For Vodacom Premier League referees, they could be demoted to the second division.

Before moving into refereeing, Kolokotoane was an Under-17 girls coach in Mafeteng.

Born in Ribaneng in Mafeteng’s rural outskirts and with a few opportunities, she jumped from one sport to another while at school. Kolokotoane tried her hand at volleyball, netball and even shot-put and although she says she always had basic knowledge about football, it is one sport she hardly played.

Adjusting to a male dominated field like refereeing was not easy and, indeed, it is easy for any woman to quit.

Kolokotoane says such instances have presented themselves but she has persevered to become one of the well-known names in refereeing.

It is not just the supporters she has to deal with, it is coaches’ antics on the touchline and players who think they know better, but these are things she has come to accept as part and parcel of football.

As a woman working with men, she also has to deal with men who are always proclaiming their undying love for her. She says it is easy to be put off by such behaviour if one is not strong mentally.

“I am not someone who likes to lose,” Kolokotoane adds.

“When I see a man do something I say I can do it as well; if it needs physical ability, I can use my mind.”

The perks of being a top referee also keep her going.

“You realise there are a lot of benefits especially when you are an international referee so you get the urge to work hard,” she explains.

“I remember my first trip abroad; I was like I am going to take an airplane and was wondering what it’s like inside an airplane.”

“You realise they just need you as a referee. You don’t know how much it costs; all you know is that it will take you back home again. So, once you go, you get the urge to work hard to go back again and even the games become even nicer and you get to enjoy more,” she says.

Since 2014 when she became an international referee, she has been to several COSAFA championships at national team and club level. Her most recent tournament was the COSAFA Women’s Championship in Port Elizabeth last September.

Kolokotoane went all the way to the final where she took charge of Zambia’s high stakes win over hosts South Africa.

There are light-hearted moments on the field as well. Kolokotoane is often laughing with the players because either one has cracked a joke or called her Mr Ref.

It is a genuine oversight from players which she finds quite funny and says she is now used to.

“It’s nice inside the pitch, we are friends. The players will say jokes and some players will even say when this game is over ‘I am marrying you’. They call me Mr Ref, and I respond. It’s one of the funny things that happen on the pitch,” she says.

“One thing though, every woman who officiates now is ‘Mathabo and I tell them you are going to be in trouble because if ‘Mathabo made a mistake in the past games, once they see a woman, they are going to be saying ‘Mathabo this and ‘Mathabo that,” she laughs.

While Kolokotoane is happy to be climbing the ladder and carving out her own legacy in refereeing, she says helping those coming behind her is something that is close to her heart.

She says her wish is to see more women get into football and officiate big games.

“I am willing to help anyone who wants to be here; I want to also see myself officiating the likes of Matlama and other big clubs,” Kolokotoane says.

“I am ready to do so but one thing they have to know, it is not easy, you cannot be doing it just because so and so is doing it, there are so many challenges that can discourage you.”

Tlalane Phahla

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