Connect with us


Kolokotoane dreams big



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

Continue Reading


Mohlolo rescues point for LDF Ladies



A last-gasp strike by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies striker ‘Maseriti Mohlolo rescued a point for the Women’s Super League (WSL) champions against Malawi’s Ntopwa in the opener of their CAF Women’s Champions League COSAFA Qualifiers yesterday.

Mohlolo’s goal keeps LDF Ladies in contention to progress to the next round with two teams from the four-team group set to qualify for the semi-finals.

Although LDF Ladies were not outplayed in the game, they missed many chances and their set-pieces left a lot to be desired.
Maybe that can be attributed to a last minute coaching change that saw Pule Khojane replace Lengana Nkhethoa as head coach of a side that won the WSL unbeaten last season.

Speaking after the game, Khojane said even though he realised early on that the Malawian team were tough physically, he still wanted LDF Ladies to play their normal passing game.
In the end, Khojane was left to lament the number of chances his side created but couldn’t convert.
Khojane said that will be a point of emphasis before LDF Ladies step onto the field again tomorrow against Botswana’s Double Action.
Tomorrow’s tie is probably a must-win with the group’s other team being defending champions Green Buffaloes of Zambia and LDF Ladies will need to convert their chances.

“We play with four at the back but with two attacking full backs, most of the time if a team plays long balls like (Ntopwa) we struggle a lot but we don’t change our game. We want to play; we want to go forward.
“That’s why sometimes we made a lot of mistakes when the ball was played high behind our backs but we still wanted to play our game and win. We were just unfortunate not to score more goals but we were playing (well),” Khojane said.

LDF conceded a late goal in the first half and were perhaps lucky to go into the half time break just a goal down.
Before Ntopwa took the lead they were awarded a penalty for a reckless foul in the box but they missed the chance to open the scoring.
LDF recovered in the second that but could not find a way into the goals.

It looked as if Lesotho’s representatives at the regional showpiece would begin their campaign with a defeat. However, Mohlolo rescued the Lesotho champions when she latched onto a poor back pass from a defender. She stole the ball and levelled matters with less than three minutes to go.
There was no time for the LDF to get a winner and they had to settle for a point in their opening group game.
They will now be looking to improve and sharpen their scoring boots for tomorrow’s showdown against Double Action of Botswana.

LDF Ladies fixtures:
August 30
LDF Ladies 1-1 Ntopwa
Double Action vs. LDF Ladies
Green Buffaloes vs. LDF Ladies

Tlalane Phahla

Continue Reading


Makepe quits Likuena duty



Likuena captain Basia Makepe has retired from international football after leading the senior national team to silver at the recent COSAFA Cup tournament held in Durban, South Africa.
This was the first time since 2000 that Likuena had reached the final of the regional tournament where they lost 1-0 to Zambia.

The Leribe born defender will go down as one of the most decorated defenders in the country having represented his country 87 times and winning several accolades in the process.

Makepe’s leadership skills were spotted from a young age, where he was appointed captain of the national U-20 team, Makoanyane XI by Leslie Notši.
He led by example as Makoanyane XI qualified for the CAF Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in 2011, which in those days was knowns as the African Youth Championship, where the side eliminated countries like Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya to qualify for the tournament.

Makepe won his first Likuena cap in a 2-1 victory over Eswatini during an international friendly match played at Setsoto Stadium in October 2012 and went on to make the squad for the 2013 COSAFA Cup in Zambia.
However, Makepe was an unused substitute at the tournament as Notši went for the tried and tested defenders such as Moitheri Ntobo, Tlali Maile and Thabo Masualle as Likuena reached the semi-finals.

He would later be appointed the Likuena captain as coach Moses Maliehe went for a younger generation at the 2016 COSAFA Cup in Namibia, where Likuena won all their group stage matches but were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Shakes Mashaba-coached Bafana Bafana.
Makepe has not only enjoyed success with the national team but won several domestic trophies at Lioli, where he was also handed the captaincy after joining from boyhood club and now defunct Joy FC.

After leaving Lioli, he joined the police outfit, LMPS FC, where he is employed as a police officer and believes he still has a few years left in his tank playing for Simunye, as the police outfit is affectionately known.

“I think I have had a career that you can say was decent and can be accepted as satisfying to the football fraternity,” Makepe said.

“For me I can say it was a good career that has had challenges here and there as well as successes here and there, which started way back with the Under-20 team.

“With Makoanyane XI, we became the second team to qualify for the Africa Youth Championship and fortunately I had the honour of being the captain of that team.”

The 32-year-old, who has come up against the best forwards on the continent from the young Mohamed Salah during the 2011 Under-20 Africa Youth Championship to the likes of Victor Osimhen, Riyad Mahrez, has singled out former Burkina Faso striker Jonathan Pitroipa as the most troublesome opponent he has faced.

“I have come up against the best from this continent from the likes of Salah and others, but I think Pitroipa of Burkina Faso was the most troublesome forward I have come up against,” he said.

“I think the successes with the senior team especially as the captain are many having reached the COSAFA semi-finals a number of times with Likuena and twice going unbeaten in the group stage in Zambia 2013 and Namibia 2016 respectively.

“Being the captain of the team was the cherry on top and getting bronze medal in 2018. I end my chapter with Likuena having played a role in helping the team get to the final for the first time in 23 years,” he said.

Makepe admitted that the 2016 edition of the COSAFA tournament was very special for him as it was the first he captained the side and they won all their group stage matches.

“The COSAFA tournament in Namibia in 2016 stands out for me especially that game against South Africa, which unfortunately we lost on penalties, but it was a good tournament overall,” he said.

“All in all, I think it was a very satisfying career with the national team though you always want more as a player. I’m happy to bow out having helped Likuena re-write history. It’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.

“I’m very grateful to all who have supported me throughout my career, my teammates, coaches, administrators and the supporters, who were always by our side and of course the Lesotho Football Association for giving me the opportunities to lead the national team,” he said.

Mikia Kalati

Continue Reading


Notši picks squad for Ivory Coast tie



Lesotho interim coach Leslie Notši has named a provisional 27-man squad for the side’s final 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Ivory Coast which is scheduled for September 9.
By virtue of being the hosts of next year’s showpiece, Ivory Coast have already qualified for the tournament while Likuena no longer have a chance of joining them after back-to-back defeats with Zambia in June.

With nothing to play with but pride, Likuena can draw inspiration from their performance when the sides met in their first Group H encounter last June which ended in a goalless draw.
The match was played in Soweto and Lesotho’s memorably dogged display against their much more fancied opponents is something Notši’s charges can look to for inspiration.

Several new faces could feature in that return game in Ivory Coast.
Fresh off last month’s COSAFA Cup final display, Notši has called up some fresh blood to bolster the squad such as Khubetsoana Kamela, Tšeliso Botsane and Teboho Letsema who have each represented Lesotho’s junior teams but are yet to make the leap to the senior side.

Notši’s squad also includes the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) trio of Morena Moloi, Lebesa Lebesa and Victor Ferreira who have been called up to the national team set-up for the first time in their careers.
The most surprising inclusion is perhaps that of Ferreira who spent the majority of last season making cameo appearances from the LDF substitutes’ bench.

Speaking with LEFA’s media team, Notši said the new faces are intended to give him depth going into the 2024 African Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifiers which start in September and are reserved only for locally based players.
It means the handful of Likuena players plying their trade outside the country will be ineligible to play. The first round of the 2024 CHAN qualifiers is set to begin from September 22 to 24.

“We all know that AFCON qualification is out of our reach and the bigger picture is to prepare the team for the CHAN qualifiers, which are coming very soon,” Notši said.
“Most of these boys have come through the ranks playing for our junior national team and it’s the association’s investment that needs to be given a chance to grow,” the Lesotho mentor added.

The 27-man Likuena squad will be trimmed down to a manageable size towards the side’s departure to Ivory Coast, but the core of the players that went to the COSAFA Cup in July are expected to retain their places in the team.
Likuena have a busy schedule ahead with the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers also in the pipeline this year. Notši needs to have as strong a team as possible to compete in all the competitions.

Likuena provisional squad:
Sekhoane Moerane, Teboho Ratibisi, Mosoeu Seahlolo.
Rethabile Senkoto, Motlomelo Mkhwanazi, Mohlomi Makhetha, Rethabile Mokokoane, Rethabile Rasethuntša, Lebesa Lebesa, ‘Mellere Lebetša.
Lisema Lebokollane, Khubetsoana Kamele, Tšeliso Botsane, Lehlohonolo Fothoane, Thabo Lesaoana, Tumelo Makha, Koenehelo Mothala, Tšepang Sefali, Victor Ferreira, Tshwarelo Bereng, Teboho Letsema, Neo Mokhachance, Tšepo Toloane, Morena Moloi.
Thabiso Mari, Jane Thabantšo, Motebang Sera, Katleho Makateng.

Tlalane Phahla

Continue Reading