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Kick4Life seek to kickstart season

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MASERU  – What a difference a year makes. Last season Kick4Life were the toast of the town – the surprise fourth-place package and the new cool kids on the block. But, in these early days of the 2017/18 Econet Premier League campaign, things are very different with Kick4Life closer to the relegation zone than to the top boys they hung with last season such as Bantu and Lioli. Whereas last term had the feeling of steady progression for the Old Europa side, this year has also been particularly stop-start. Part of that is down to fixture accidents.

Just three months into the new season, Kick4Life are already two games behind the schedule thanks to matches against Sky Battalion and Sundawana that were not played because their opponents did not show up. Those, by the way, are games Kick4Life would have expected to win.
It means a potential six points, for now, is lost.

As things stand, Kick4Life are in tenth place instead of perhaps being higher up the table — so things may look worse than they are.
But there is also a deeper problem at hand, however — Kick4Life’s form in 2017.
Since the start of March, Kick4Life have only won twice in 14 league matches. Six of those games have been drawn and the other six have been lost.
So while Kick4Life ultimately made it into fourth spot last season, the concern is whether the club is slowly regressing after a meteoric rise masterminded by Leslie Notši over the past two years.

Undoubtedly — as Notši himself admitted — Kick4Life were seen as potential title challengers this season thanks to a run that has seen them progress from promotion in 2014, to sixth in 2016 and fourth last season. All of this makes Saturday’s Econet Premier League clash against champions Bantu at Setsoto Stadium a critical juncture already. Kick4Life can’t afford to lose any more ground and they need to make a statement that they can indeed hang with the best – which is where the club aims to be.

“In football there is always pressure,” Kick4Life boss Notši admitted on Tuesday. “If you look at our profile from last season, people were expecting Kick4Life to be challenging for titles (but) things haven’t been going our way. We have been having games that are postponed and teams not turning up while other teams are playing and getting results. It is frustrating when others are playing and you are not because they are moving forward.”

Bantu, though, are not the best opponent for anyone trying to turn the corner right now.
The log leaders are yet to lose a game this season and have already been crowned Independence Cup champions, a tournament in which they dispatched of Kick4Life in the semi-finals.

Bantu’s attack is also on song – 14 goals in seven games – and the last time they tasted defeat in the league was in the first week of January, a 1-0 loss to Matlama and an incredible run of 20 games. The Mafeteng side, for the record, have won 17 of those 20 games.
“It is going to be a very tough encounter,” Notši said.

“Bantu are the defending champions. They have been doing well so far in all the matches they have played and it is not going to be easy for us. They have a quality team. But, at the same time, I believe we have players who also can surprise and do well.”
One key to victory Notši has identified is to play an open, attacking game.

The Bantu defence marshalled by captain Thapelo Mokhehle and Itumeleng Falene has only conceded one goal in seven league games this season.
However, the belief in some circles is that it hasn’t been tested enough with Liphakoe being the only side in the top six ‘A Matšo Matebele’ have faced this season.

“I believe we just have to play an open game,” Notši said.
“We need those points (on Saturday against Bantu); we should just go there with an idea of getting maximum points. We need to open the game and play. If we sit at the back and park the bus I don’t think it will be worth going there. We just need to push them to the limit,” added the former Lesotho coach.

To do that Kick4Life have to find a way to solve the goalscoring woes that have plagued them since losing the Lesotho international duo of Thabiso Brown and Thapelo Tale before the start of this season. Brown, who top scored with 17 league goals last term, left for Bolivia while Tale retired. Kick4Life have struggled to replace them with Moorosi Tšiu and Masoabi Nkoto yet to find form. Kick4Life have scored just four goals in five matches.

Notši, however, remained upbeat Kick4Life can ignite their season in Saturday’s weekend headline tie against Bantu.
“Our players have done well before,” he said. “All they have to do is to dig deeper and hopefully luck will be also be on our side. (Luck) is something that has been missing in our games.”

A win over Bantu would only move the Old Europa outfit up to ninth place. However, more important than more positioning, a victory on the biggest stage against the champions would prove Kick4Life aren’t a one-season wonder – it would kick-start their Econet Premier League season.

Luciah Phahla

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ACE Maseru basks in glory

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ACE Maseru were crowned the champions of the Nedbank 8 on Saturday after defeating Quthing LMPS 3-1 at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena. ACE Maseru, who are headed to the Vodacom Premier League after winning the A Division South Stream, went into the competition as hot favourites.

In the end, their ruthless dispatching of the Quthing LMPS showed why many bet on them in the tournament featuring the top eight teams from this season’s first division campaign.

They are on their way to Premier League next season after their first-ever promotion and they say they have no plans to come back to A Division.
The champions are preparing to face the winners of North Stream Limkokwing University on Sunday in the Nedbank Championship.

They could become the second team after Machokha to win their stream, the top 8 as well as the championship. They have already played Limkokwing in the quarter finals and beat them 2-1, they are now aiming for the double over the North Stream winners.

ACE Maseru were by far the most entertaining team in the competition an in each game showed why they are now a Vodacom Premier League team. It’s not just about winning for them, it’s how they do it.
They like to have the ball, and play expansive style of football. Head coach Mofihli Makoele said they want the ball to touch every blade of the grass and reach every part of the ground.

He said he knew North Stream teams would not make it far in the competition as the South Stream teams are ahead of them. He was not shocked to see that only one Sehenehene reached the semi-finals, while the other three Limkokwing, Lilemela and Mzamane were knocked out in the quarter finals.

Sehenehene went on to finish third and went home with bronze medals. They defeated Likhopo 3-2 on penalties in third place play-off after a 1-1 draw in regulation time. The final was an all-South Stream show piece.

“The football played in the Premier League is different to the one we play here, we have to start preparing and playing against Premier League teams. I am sure you saw even the way they play, they just put the ball in front of them and run, we don’t play like that. We want to hold it get behind them and score,” he said.

Makoele was critical of the football other teams play and said the quality of coaching in the A Division needs to be improved.

“We don’t care about the way we play football here at home, I think it’s just us, Majantja and Likhopo who make sure the ball goes to every part of the ground until it gets to where we want it. Some just kick it, in other words we don’t care to improve football. I think our A Division, LEFA has to work on the coaches there is a problem,” he said
“What happens here at home is that you just play your own game, you don’t care how other teams play but we are saying we are going to play so it doesn’t help us,” he continued.

Makoele made a surprising admission that he has not watched the Premier League teams and therefore had no idea what to expect. He said he has only seen Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) play once and there was nothing to write home about. However, he said they will be playing the Premier League teams during the preseason to prepare themselves.

Normally in the preseason, as teams are still trying to get back their fitness and testing out new season. Sometimes one may not get a clear picture of what to expect in the new season, especially newly promoted teams. Both ACE Maseru and Limkokwing will take Swallows and Galaxy’s spots in the Premier League, both teams their relegation fate was sealed last week.

“We did not play Premier League teams, we need to learn about them and watch them. I was not watching them I think I have only seen LCS and there was nothing scary but we have to play them and see where to fix and improve,” he said.

Nedbank 8
ACE Maseru (M25 000, gold medals and trophy)
Quthing LMPS (M20 000 and silver medals)
Sehenehene (M15 000 and bronze)
Likhopo M13 000All quarter-finalists will each receive M10 000

Individual awards

Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Rasebetsane Khosholo (ACE Maseru) M2 000
Top Goalscorer of the tournament: Lebohang Chocholo (Mahlaseli) M2000
Player of the Tournament: Rorisang Maine (ACE Maseru) M2000

Nedbank Championship
Sunday (Bambatha)
ACE Maseru vs. LU FC (14:00)

Tlalane Phahla

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Big shake-up for football

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MASERU – The Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) says it plans to repackage local competitions in a bid to jazz up the country’s football.

LEFA says it is going to present cups in a different format because it can help to attract sponsors from the corporate world and the football fraternity.

The new strategy was revealed by the association’s secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi at a Strategic Framework Session held on Friday at the association’s headquarters, Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena.

The repackaging is one of many goals the country’s football governing body is set to embark on in hopes to improve the local game.

In his presentation, Mohapi said the goal is to transform the current status of the local league and have competitive representatives in CAF club competitions.

Mohapi said LEFA also aims to improve the financial stability of clubs.

“The first objective will be to improve the organisational functionality at management level and have productive responsible football clubs,” Mohapi said.

“(We need to address) our visitors in club management because we have studied and we have seen that, at club level, they are visitors, they use it for other reasons not to make football a viable industry on its own,” he said.

“Football management should be in (a) cordial environment with the mother body (LEFA), the relationship can be much better and, if it is, we will be able to leave each other’s spaces and all be successful. If the national team needs help, it will be helped, and our teams will understand the bigger picture because at the current rate we are having about 90 percent coming from the league,” he continued.

The association is set to clamp down on the number of foreigners that are eligible to start a match in the Vodacom Premier League in order to increase more slots for Basotho. Currently, each top-flight team is allowed to register five foreign players.

Over 50 foreigners play each weekend and occupy key positions that Likuena could benefit from if Basotho were playing instead, LEFA argues.

Mohapi said while the federation does not want to discriminate against foreign players, the influx of foreign players becomes a problem for the national team, Likuena.

“The problem is that the most key positions in the league that can represent Likuena are played by foreigners. Go to big teams – Bantu, Linare, Matlama – if we say: ‘let’s try to replace (Lesotho captain) Basia (Makepe) as a centreback’, whom can we replace him with, because the centrebacks are foreigners. If we try to find a replacement for (Motebang Sera) at centre-forward, (the strikers at big clubs) are foreigners,” he said.

“I am proposing we reduce it to three (foreign players) that start a match. We cannot discriminate against foreigners because they are coming to help us, but we are realising that we are not performing well with the national team, (so) let’s increase the slots for Basotho,” he continued.

LEFA’s eye is not just on the players, the federation has also closed the door on foreign coaches who come to Lesotho to earn the CAF A Licence, only for them to leave. The A Licence is the second highest coaching qualification offered by CAF and it is a must-have requirement for a coach to sit on the bench during CAF competitions.

It is cheaper to acquire the licence in Lesotho as it is heavily subsidised by LEFA. In other countries it is difficult to get a CAF A Licence because it is expensive and can cost upwards of M80 000.

In Lesotho it costs a mere M2 500 and few foreigners have benefited from that generosity, but the association has now closed the tap.

“The (LEFA technical director Lehlohonolo Thotanyana) has agreed that from now on we are not allowing foreigners unless they are nominated by their countries to be part of our coaching courses because after they acquire their licence they leave, we take even assistant coaches we make them A Licence coaches and they leave,” Mohapi said.

LEFA president Advocate Salemane Phafane added that the quota of youth players has to increase as part of the repackaging of local competitions

Phafane said the majority of players in the A Division should be Under-20 players. Currently, in the A Division the youth quota is two players.

“We have to increase the youth quota; in this day and age can we really be proud that a 35-year-old man is playing for a C Division team? It should be young kids of 17-years (playing). When you go to A Division, 90 percent is U20. I think next season it’s going to increase,” Phafane said.

“We will only be developing if a minimum of five are players are Under-20,” the LEFA president added.

“We are not going to develop if we continue using old players and yet when it comes to the national team people start saying coaches are playing old players, where will they get the young ones when we play old players in the league?”

Tlalane Phahla

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Lebetsa delighted with Likuena call-up

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MASERU – Linare youngster ‘Mellere ‘Miller’ Lebetsa is over the moon to have made Likuena’s preliminary squad for the upcoming 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Comoros and the COSAFA Cup scheduled for June and July respectively.

The 22-year-old has impressed playing for Linare, who are in second place in the Vodacom Premier League under the mentorship of Leslie Notsi.

He is among a group of youngsters in the Likuena squad that are yet to win caps for the senior team alongside the likes of Seahlolo Mosoeu, Koenehelo Mothala, Lelula Phoshuli, Mokoteli Mohapi and Makhetha Mohlomi.

“It’s very exciting and a big honour for me to be handed this opportunity to train with the national team,” Lebetsa said.

“To be honest, it has always been a dream for me to one day find myself playing for the senior national team because I got a chance with the Under-20 in 2019 playing at the COSAFA Cup in Zambia.”

The young defender explained that having several of his seniors from Linare in the national team set-up has helped him settle.

“It was not really a big challenge for me to adapt after the call-up to train with Likuena as a I have a number of my teammates from Linare, who have been with Likuena for some time,” the 22-year-old said.

He stated that he looks up to experienced defender Rethabile Rasethuntša, who has been part of the Likuena set-up for the last three years and is also one of the captains at Linare.

“He is one player I look up to since I joined Linare from Nyenye Rovers in 2019 because I think he is a very focused player, who is disciplined on and off the field.

“It’s not a surprise that he has been part of the national team set-up for such a long time because he has been consistent for Linare and I would like to emulate his successes,” he said.

Lebetsa said he will make the best out of the opportunity handed to him by the Likuena coach to continue where he left off during his time with the national Under-20 side, Makoanyane XI.

“I know there is still a long way to go for me as a new face in the team, but just being part of the team says a lot about my potential to one day represent my country at the highest level,” he said.

“I tasted international football before with the Under-20 playing the likes of Mozambique and Mauritius at the COSAFA Championship held in Zambia in 2019, unfortunately I missed out on other games because of my injury.

“Age is still on my side and with opportunities like this, I have no doubt that I will become a better player for Linare and the national team,” he said.

Lebetsa is part of the Linare squad trailing Bantu by four points going into the last two fixtures in the race for the Vodacom Premier League title.

Mikia Kalati

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