It is an age-old saying that in football things can change in an instant and this is exactly what has happened in the Vodacom Premier League.
Last week’s Moshoeshoe’s Day weekend, the celebration of the country’s founder, also brought a new monarch of the league table.
There is a new leader of the Vodacom Premier League – Matlama.
Football is funny.
Just a week ago Lioli were looking like a team that would defend their league crown quite comfortably. Granted, Tse Nala were unceremoniously dumped out of the CAF Champions League in the preliminary round, but they did beat Burundi’s Vital’O away from home.
Until their back-to-back goalless draws with Likila United and Bantu last weekend, Lioli had held the top spot in the premiership since ascending there in the first week of December.
The Champions League was always going to throw a spanner in the works and so it proved. Lioli were forced to re-schedule games while at the same time competing in the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8.
However, even with the fixture pile-up, what has worryingly showed up in their recent setbacks is a lack of big match temperament.
Lioli‘s league finishes over the past three seasons:
It is a concerning trend for a team that has dominated the local league for the past three years.
Lioli in recent Independence Cup finals
2013: Bantu 1-1 Lioli (lost 4-3 penalties)
2014: Lioli 1-1 Matlama (won 12-11 penalties)
2015: Bantu 1-1 Lioli (lost 15-14 penalties)
Despite their dominance, recent history shows Lioli have made a habit of falling short on the big stage.
They have not convinced in local cup finals and have come up short in their two CAF Champions League encounters — against Angola’s Primeiro de Agosto and Vital’O — when they had the stage set for them to win both times.
Lioli’s inability to recognise the importance of the occasion is of worry. They were lax against Vital’O in the critical first leg at Setsoto Stadium and they lost the Independence Cup final last November when they were favourites against a struggling Bantu. Those are their biggest games of the season so far and Lioli didn’t come to the party despite their plethora of stars.
Again, last Sunday against Bantu it is difficult to say Lioli were anywhere near their best. Are they flat track bullies? They walloped Mphatlalatsane 6-0 two weeks ago but Sunday’s game was the third league game in a row Tse Nala have failed to beat Bantu, again supporting the notion Lioli are faltering in their biggest moments.
It was apparent Lioli felt the pressure against Bantu after drawing with Likila United two days before.
They were timid and did not attack with fervour even though Bantu were down to 10 men in the second half.
Now only five more rounds remain until the end of the season.
Lioli are, of course, still the favourites.
They have a game in hand on Matlama and the best squad in Lesotho. But, this lack of big match temperament may be the issue that worries coach Mosholi Mokhothu most. Certainly, it is something they have to fix if they are to reach their vast potential locally and continentally.
Lioli have another big match this weekend, a title race six-pointer against Lesotho Correctional Service FC (LCS) on Sunday at Setsoto.
It is another chance for Lioli to grab a stranglehold of a championship they have appeared to be the class of. More importantly, it is another opportunity to show they can deliver their best on the biggest occasion.
Vodacom Premier League Catch Up Fixtures
Sunday 20th March 2016
Likila United v Likhopo (15:00, Butha-Buthe)
Lioli v LCS (15:00, Setsoto Stadium)
Linare v Sandawana (15:00, Maputsoe)
Vodacom Premier League Table
Moment of silence for Matete, Ntepane
MASERU – Vodacom Premier League clubs and all the leagues under the auspices of the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) will observe a moment of silence for the late Seephephe Matete and Salang Ntepane.
Some league fixtures last weekend paid their respects to Ntepane before the matches by bowing their heads in silence for a moment.
Ntepane was a referee and he died last week after an illness.
Mochini, as Matete was affectionately known in Lesotho football, died on Sunday after an illness. Condolences have been coming in from all corners as clubs and players have been paying their respects to the former Likuena coach.
Matete was one of the longest serving members of Lesotho’s football fraternity and his death has come as a shock.
Former Likuena coach Thabo Senong, who is now back in his home country, South Africa, also joined the masses in remembering the fallen giant.
LEFA said it remembers Matete and Ntepane for their service and contribution to football.
One of the big Vodacom Premier League matches this weekend will see Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) take on Linare at the LCS Ground.
Linare may still be on honeymoon with their new coach Leslie Notši as they find themselves flying high in third place, however, their record against ‘Masheshena’ is quite concerning.
They have played each other 11 times since 2014 and LCS has the upper-hand winning the fixture seven times. Linare has won twice and two matches have ended in draws.
LCS are hoping to pile more pressure on the log leaders Bantu and keep their title aspirations alive with a win over Linare.
Naughty Boys vs. CCX (TBA)
Galaxy vs. Matlama (DIFA Leribe)
Lifofane vs. Lioli (Butha-Buthe)
Manonyane vs. LDF (Nyakosoba)
Liphakoe vs. Lijabatho (LCS Ground 13:00)
LMPS vs. Swallows (LDF Ground)
Bantu vs. Machokha (Bambatha)
LCS vs. Linare (LCS Ground 15:00)
Tributes pour in for Matete
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
PLMC says still mulling how to punish Matlama
MASERU – The Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) says it is still deciding on how to punish Matlama for the violent attack by their fan on former ‘Tse Putsoa’ coach Mothobi Molebatsi last month.
Speaking to thepost this week, PLMC spokesperson Bokang Phasumane said the league is still conducting its own investigation but vowed the league would not let it pass without any action taken.
Phasumane said once everything is completed, the PLMC will announce its decision.
Last month the league was thrown into shame when Matlama fan Motlatsi Tšele assaulted Molebatsi after a Vodacom Premier League defeat to Lijabatho in Morija.
The PLMC had remained silent on the matter and fears were growing among football fans that it would be swept under the rug.
However, Phasumane insisted that would not be the case saying that as soon as the case arrives at its table, the league will have to act.
He said the PMLC’s silence has been because it cannot comment while the case is still in progress.
“We now have it on our table (and we are) working on it, there are things we still have to finalise but we cannot say anything until they’re completed,” Phasumane said.
The Premier League has refused to say what punishment Matlama might face for the disgraceful scenes involving their own fans.
It is possible, however, ‘Tse Putsoa’ will be fined or even docked points.
Tšele, who is from the club’s Thetsane supporters’ branch, has since been barred from attending Matlama’s home games by the club, and despite leading Matlama to the league championship last season, Molebatsi resigned as coach a day after Tšele’s attack.
The PLMC and the Lesotho Football Coaching Association have collectively condemned the shameful acts which have tarnished the league’s reputation. Many have suggested that such behaviour is why football in Lesotho is stagnant, and perpetrators must understand they will not get away with it.
Matlama are seventh in the Vodacom Premier League with 18 points and have only won one of their last five games.
The champions were held to a frustrating draw last weekend in Hlotse by struggling CCX and they return to Leribe on Saturday to face Galaxy.
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