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Early questions for Lioli

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MASERU – It is a new Econet Premier League season but some things stay the same.
On Sunday, Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) maintained their hoodoo hold over Lioli with a 1-0 mugging at the LCS Ground to continue a dominance of ‘Tse Nala’ that now stretches three years.

The win puts an early spanner in the works for Lioli who came into this season with high hopes under new coach Thabile Secker especially after their preseason Econet Soccer Spectacular triumph just two weeks ago.
However, instead of an opening weekend celebration, there are early worries in Teyateyaneng and questions if this team can really win Lioli’s first league crown since 2016.

Secker himself was at a loss for words after the defeat to LCS and he ruefully bemoaned bad luck for his side’s defeat.
Things would have been different – Secker said – if new Lioli signing Tsietsi Motšeare had been available.
The speedy striker joined ‘Tse Nala’ from Bantu in the offseason as part of a high-profile swap with Tšoanelo Koetle but he was missing on Sunday because of a family bereavement.

“Motšeare was not available due to family commitments, he lost his brother and, of course, we are giving him all the support he needs. We are expecting him to be back and (I) believe he would have made a difference but we have to trust the players we have,” Secker said.
Maybe Motšeare would have made a difference but at some stage Lioli will also have to overcome this ‘Masheshena’ hoodoo.

The last time ‘Tse Nala’ registered a win over LCS was in March 2016 with a scrappy 1-0 victory.
To put the misery into perspective: four coaches – Halemakale Mahlaha, Morena Ramorebodi, Lehlohonolo Thotanyana and now Secker – have failed to solve this LCS riddle that is sabotaging Lioli’s hopes on a yearly basis.

Lioli’s recent league record against LCS:
2019/20

LCS 1-0 Lioli

2018/19

LCS 0-0 Lioli

Lioli 0-1 LCS

2017/18

LCS 1-0 Lioli

Lioli 1-1 LCS

2016/17

Lioli 0-0 LCS

LCS 1-0 Lioli

2015/16

Lioli 1-0 LCS

LCS 0-0 Lioli

2014/15

Lioli 1-1 LCS

LCS 0-2 Lioli

Another riddle Secker has to solve quickly is Lioli’s apparent lack of firepower, a carryover from last season’s disappointing Econet Premiership campaign in which ‘Tse Nala’ finished seventh.

Lioli’s next four games:
22 September – Lioli v Kick4Life

28 September – Swallows v Lioli

13 October – Lioli v Bantu

19 October – Matlama v Lioli

On Sunday, LCS struck early through Keketso Snyders but despite having the rest of the game to come up with an answer, Lioli couldn’t break Masheshena down.
Secker’s side took ten shots at goal after halftime but still returned to TY empty-handed.

Last season Lioli scored just 28 goals in 26 games and Sunday’s blanks raise the question if ‘Tse Nala’ adequately addressed their frontline issues in the offseason.
A lot still depends on Cameroonian striker Swithbert Kum Bin who again led Lioli’s line against LCS and is the side’s only proven goalscorer at the elite level.

Tumelo Makha and Diutlwileng Boikanyo are exciting attacking talents but are not natural goalscorers and, without Motšeare, ‘Tse Nala’ simply didn’t have the required cutting edge against LCS.
Can Lioli muster enough offence over the course of a season to mount a credible title challenge?

Secker said it is an issue ‘Tse Nala’ have discussed.
“It is something we have been working on all these weeks (in the preseason) but if you don’t have luck, you don’t,” Secker said.
“On the field there are things we can agree on but when there is no consistency things like this happen.”

Lioli’s next two league games are against Kick4Life and Swallows. After that they are scheduled to face Bantu and Matlama.
‘Tse Nala’ will have to get on track fast.
“Our target is to be among the top four teams in December when we go for the Christmas break,” Secker insisted. “We have plenty of time to get things in order.”

Around the league:
LCS’s win over Lioli was not the only talking point because the return of the Econet Premier League was everything fans had hoped for.
The opening weekend had drama, excitement, frustration and immediately sparked debates on social media amongst fans.

A total of 18 goals were scored with only one game producing a goalless draw – the always edgy meeting of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) against Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) on Sunday.
That game apart, every other match produced goals and champions Matlama led the way with a 6-0 mauling of Swallows on Saturday at Setsoto Stadium.
Lesotho national coach Thabo Senong was in attendance and he was also at the LCS Ground on Sunday.
It is safe to say several players grabbed their chance to impress him.

For Matlama, their crushing of Swallows was a statement of intent under new coach Charles Manda with Jane Thaba-Ntšo, Khoanyane Mokoena, Mabuti Potloane and Lisema Lebokollane all getting their names on the score-sheet.
2017 and 2018 league winners, Bantu, will fiercely challenge Matlama for the title and they also launched their season with an important result, a 2-0 victory over the always dangerous Sefotha-fotha on Saturday at Setsoto.

Even with a long-term injury to one of their most influential players in Lindokuhle Phungulwa, ‘A Matšo Matebele’ comfortably collected all three points, thanks to goals from Hlompho Kalake and Lazola Jokojokwane.
It was also a happy weekend for Katiso Mojakhomo as his Kick4Life side beat Liphakoe 2-1 to begin his reign as coach with a win.
Elsewhere, Likhopo were made to sweat buckets for their point against newly-promoted Lijabatho. ‘The Red Army’ came back from two goals down to draw the game 2-2 thanks to a brace by Santi Ntšohi.

Opening weekend results:
Bantu 2-0 Sefotha-fotha
Swallows 0-6 Matlama
Kick4Life 2-1 Liphakoe
LCS 1-0 Lioli
LDF 0-0 LMPS
Lifofane 0-1 Linare
Lijabatho 2-2 Likhopo

Tlalane Phahla

 

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Moerane signs for Orbit

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CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe made a bold statement during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire that this tournament will go down as the best in the history of the beautiful game.

The tournament has indeed lived up to those expectations as it reaches the quarter-final stage. The continental showpiece has entertained us with everything that every football fanatic would expect from a big continental tourney like the AFCON.

His decision to join Orbit FC ends months of speculation where he was linked with several clubs in South Africa in both the Premier League and Motsepe Foundation Championship.

The Mazenod-born goalkeeper had been the centre of attention after years of impressive displays playing for his country in various competitions.

Moerane had not only been a hit in Southern Africa, where in 2023 he was named the Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the COSAFA Cup, but had also been given standing ovations in countries like Cote D’voire and Nigeria, where Likuena surprised the continental powerhouses.

The goal-minder was also the 2022/2023 Vodacom Premier League Goalkeeper of the Season adding that he was sad to leave the police outfit, who had been on an impressive run in the current season.

LMPS remains the only team that is still unbeaten in the league.

“This has been a challenge I have been looking forward to and I’m very happy that it has finally come true,” Moerane said after his arrival in South Africa.

“I know that it will not be easy as I come to a new country, new team, new teammates and new coach, which I all have to win over to trust me as their new player.”

Moerane is adamant the presence of experienced Likuena teammate, Tshwarelo Bereng, who is a journeyman and is well respected, will help him settle down quickly at his new club.

“He is a very experienced and respected player, whose presence at the club, I have no doubt will help me settle down quickly at this club,” he said.

“This is a new chapter of my career, where I need to start all over and make a legacy like I did during my time with LMPS.

“I have been preparing myself for some time now and I think I’m mentally and physically ready for this new challenge,” he said.

Moerane said the First Division will be a good stepping stone for him to make a name for himself in South Africa.

“I’m happy with the move to the First Division, it’s a good platform for me to make a name for myself and I believe I will still get to the bigger league or clubs, but it has to go through the right channels,” he said.

The agency that represents the player, Opus Sports Group with renowned football administrator Chris Bullock as the managing director, stated that they felt the first division was a good platform for Moerane to gradually grow into South African football.

“The move was about Moerane taking the next step of his career. He will get a good opportunity to get exposure at a good NDF club and if he does well, it will be a chance for him to progress further,” Bullock said.

“We liked how Orbit conducted themselves throughout and their vision for Sekhoane too and I think everyone is on the same page.

“It’s now up to Sekhoane to work hard and perform the way we know he is capable of and the rest will take care of itself,” he said.

Bullock also expressed gratitude to LMPS FC for allowing Moerane, who was recently promoted to the rank of Sergeant, to leave the country for greener pastures.

Mikia Kalati

 

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Manonyane boss blames injuries for poor run

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Manonyane head coach Mosholi Mokhothu has blamed injuries for his side’s poor Vodacom Premier League campaign.
After a promising 2022/23 season in which they won two of their final four games and finished 11th, Manonyane have taken a major step back and find themselves languishing in 14th place.

The Roma side haven’t won a league match since a 1-0 win over Machokha on November 18, a run of nine games that includes five losses.
Manonyane have been so bad, in fact, that they haven’t scored a goal in all three games they have played since the turn of the year.
Their poor form has, unsurprisingly, dragged them firmly into the relegation picture.

Manonyane are four points above 15th-placed CCX who occupy the final relegation place, and the Roma side are in real danger of relinquishing the coveted top-flight status they gained in 2020.
Mokhothu pointed to Manonyane’s lengthy injury list as the reason for their struggles.

Thabang Tsakajoe (midfield), Bokang Matobo (striker), Molise Masoabi (midfield) and Bakoena Mosola (fullback) are all injured while Moraphate Nkejane has only recently returned to training.

All five players are key and their absences have hurt a squad that doesn’t have great depth.

“(After the injuries) it became difficult to use the available players in positions they do not play,” Mokhothu said.
The former Lioli and Lesotho Correctional Service mentor admitted Manonyane have to turn the corner quickly.
“We are at the point where we are fighting for a win in every game,” he said.

“We are trying to not put the players under pressure (but) we are in a risky position now, we are now discussing how we can move up the table,” he added.
Having won the league with Lioli and LCS, Mokhothu has experience of what it takes to navigate the challenges of a season. He said Manonyane’s improvement needs to start on Sunday when they host Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) who haven’t had the best of seasons themselves.

The army side, who finished third last season, are in ninth place with 22 points from 12 games and have fallen short of their own pre-season expectations.
“I believe starting from this coming week; we will work hard on winning game after game,” Mokhothu said.

“It might happen that we win or draw in those games but, most importantly, we want to see if our results are pushing us up (the league table) or not,” he said.
He said the team plays well but do not have enough knowledge of how to score goals, something that was evident in their latest blank last Sunday when they lost 1-0 to LCS.
“Last season, we were creating many chances, even if we lost some of the games but we were still converting them unlike the LCS game. On Sunday, most of my attacking players were not there so I ended up making forced changes because of the situation,” he said.

Mokhothu said the LCS game taught him valuable lessons about his players, however.
“We saw who can play where and where some (players) need assistance and I am pleased that if they can hear me out, we can change our way of playing and results,” Mokhothu said.

For that to happen, the club’s supporters will also play a big role, he added.
“The players really need the supporters, so they should always show up and give (the players) hope,” Mokhothu said.
“It is true that the supporters are supporting us with crying hearts but I promise them that, one day, they will get what they expect.”

Relebohile Tšepe

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Afcon lives up to expectations

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CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe made a bold statement during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire that this tournament will go down as the best in the history of the beautiful game.
The tournament has indeed lived up to those expectations as it reaches the quarter-final stage. The continental showpiece has entertained us with everything that every football fanatic would expect from a big continental tourney like the AFCON.

In the last edition of the tournament held in Cameroon, I was able to put my head on the block from the word go that the Terranga Lions, as the Senegal national team is popularly known, would go all the way, which they did as they were crowned champions after defeating Egypt on penalties.

I have tried to do the same with this tournament and I must confess, it was very difficult to make a prediction as to who will walk home champions when the tournament ends on February 11.

At the completion of the group stage, a lot of people had their money on the defending champions Senegal and Morocco, who looked unmatched in the group phase as each won all their games.

Fast forward to the last 16, both countries were eliminated by Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa respectively. Worse for Cote d’Ivoire, their tournament looked to be over when in their last match of group stage, they suffered a humiliating a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Equatorial Guinea, who everyone regarded as minnows.

That was the biggest defeat suffered by AFCON hosts but the Elephants were thrown a lifeline into the round of 16 qualifiers as one of the four best-third placed finishers.
The Ivorian FA didn’t waste time and sacked Frenchman, Jean-Louis Gasset, which didn’t come as a surprise to me as the Elephants were not convincing at all during his spell in charge of the West African country.

I managed to watch his team closely as they played against Likuena in the qualifiers. During the first leg played at the Dobsonville Stadium, the two countries played out to a goalless draw while in San Pedro, the Elephants secured a narrow 1-0 victory.

Former Ivorian international Emerse Fae was tasked with the responsibility of saving the sinking ship of the Elephants, a job he did with aplomb as the hosts fought their way back from a goal down to salvage a 1-1 draw against defending champions, Senegal taking the last 16 tie to penalties, where they won 5-4.
I must say the Elephants looked a different side to the one I saw under Gasset as Fae got them firing to stun the defending champions, who have since packed their bags and gone home.

Cote d’Ivoire were indeed very lucky as the same cannot be said of the likes of Ghana and Algeria, among the big guns sent packing in the group stages of the tournament.
The poor performance of the Black Stars and the Dessert Foxes led to both Chris Hughton and Djamel Belmadi agreeing to step down as the coaches of the West and North African countries respectively.

Morocco is another country that was tipped to contest for the AFCON title, but they also failed to come to the party in their last 16 encounter.
Bafana Bafana won the match 2-0 to book a place in the quarter-finals.
Bafana Bafana have proved a hoodoo for Morocco, who many people thought would win the continental showpiece after their exploits at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, where they became the first African country to reach the semi-finals.

Their struggle against Bafana Bafana is nothing new as it dates to the days of former African Footballer of the Year, Mustafa Hadji.
Bafana Bafana’s opponents in the quarter-finals, Cape Verde, have been the surprise package of the tournament. The Blue Sharks’ remarkable journey in Cote d’Ivoire saw them win a group that had both Egypt and Ghana.

They have since inked a milestone in the history of their country winning a knockout match for the first time after beating Mauritania to set up a showdown against South Africa in the quarter-finals.
Mauritania themselves punched above their weight to have made it to the last 16 at the expense of a powerhouse like Algeria, who they beat 1-0 in the group stage. I have been impressed by their coach, Amir Abdou, who is making a name for himself as one of the best coaches in the continent having achieved a similar feat with Comoros in the previous edition of the tournament.

The one team that was under the microscope going into the tournament for unconvincing performances is Nigeria.
They eliminated Cameroon in the last 16. Their talisman Victor Osimhen has lived up to the billing of having recently been crowned African Footballer of the Year.
He has been the main man for Nigeria so far in the tournament by not only scoring goals, but also providing assists. His attitude and commitment in the field of play has been second to none.

I must say, the Super Eagles looked ordinary without Osimhen as they struggled to get their groove in matches played before AFCON where they were held by Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa have all looked very solid in their last 16 matches and I have a feeling they all have a very good chance of making it to the semi-finals. My gut feeling tells me that the AFCON trophy is going to remain in West Africa with Nigeria or Cote d’Ivoire winning it.
I really think that they tournament has lived up to expectation both on and off the field. Credit goes to the continental football body CAF under the leadership of Patrice Motsepe and Cote d’Ivoire as the host country, for putting so much effort to make the tournament a success.

To the government of Lesotho, this is yet another lesson of how football can be powerful when it has the support of its government as witnessed with countries like Mauritania and Cape Verde, who were deemed as minnows but are making strides in major continental competitions.
I have managed to visit some of these countries as well as others like Comoros, who have also qualified for AFCON tournament in recent years. Their governments have invested hugely in football infrastructure hence they are able to go pound for pound with some of the best in the continent.

Mikia Kalati

 

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