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MASERU

THIS week we give you a summary of the fixtures and key players who will do battle for Likuena in the COSAFA Cup tournament that begins in Namibia on Sunday.

Lesotho’s 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup fixture:

Lesotho v Mauritius (Sunday 12 June)

Angola v Lesotho (Tuesday 14 June)

Malawi v Lesotho (Thursday 16 June)

 

Likuena’s COSAFA Castle Cup Squad

Goalkeepers

Daniel Jousse (Lesotho Correctional Service)

Jousse goes into the COSAFA Cup following a stellar season at Lesotho Correctional Service. With the agile goal-tender between the sticks, ‘Masheshena’ harboured hopes of an expected league title for much of the season and it is that form that has probably earned him Likuena’s number one jersey in these final weeks ahead of the COSAFA Cup. Jousse has played for Lesotho’s Under-15, 17, 20 and 23 teams. Now he gets the chance to make himself Likuena’s first choice.

Liteboho Mokhehle (Lioli)

Mokhehle spent the 2015/16 season competing for number one jersey at his club with Kananelo Makhooane and Mohau Kuenane so his campaign was stop-start one.

So, despite his top-class displays wherever he played, the fact he was not his club’s undisputed keeper is probably the reason why Mokhehle is likely to start the COSAFA Cup as Maliehe’s second choice. Nonetheless, Mokhehle’s excellent communication and aerial skills make him a valuable option and, as such, makes the goalkeeping department is Lesotho’s strongest area which probably hasn’t been the case since the late Tšeliso Thite.

Defenders

Basia Makepe (Lioli)

Makepe is the first name on the team-sheet not only because he is captain of the team, but because he is its most reliable performer. He is ever-present and ever steady and is coming off another successful domestic campaign. Makepe’s strength is his positioning and reading of the game but he also has the physical prowess to win physical battles.

Kopano Tseka (Lioli)

Tseka’s form is arguably the most crucial piece of the puzzle in Namibia. Why? Because Tseka has been tabbed as the man to partner Makepe in the heart of defence. He is a full-hearted defender but can be prone to a rash error. Lesotho needs Tseka to be on top of his game if the team is to succeed.

Bokang Sello (Lioli)

Another member of Lioli’s vaunted defensive unit, Sello is the team’s first choice at left-back. He has earned the spot through his consistent displays at club level, including on the continent, over the past two years.

Mafa Moremoholo (Lioli)

Moremoholo started at right-back against Ethiopia which means he has the inside track to start on Sunday against Mauritius. He has good pace, a calm head and brings plenty of international experience despite his young age.

Motlomelo Mkhwanazi (Sandawana)

Mkhwanazi shot to prominence over the past year as part of the Sandawana side that upset the applecart to finish fourth in the league. A rock at the back, Mkhwanazi has played himself into the Likuena set-up despite not being in Maliehe’s 24-man preliminary squad at the start of April. He is the centre-back plan B behind Makepe and Tseka.

Sepiriti Malefane (Bantu)

Despite not starting against Ethiopia, Malefane’s versatility is important for the team and he could still find himself a key player at the COSAFA Cup. As things stand, Lesotho’s right-back and central defensive midfield positions are still up for grabs.

Midfielders

Montoeli Sonopo (Lioli)

Sonopo burst onto the scene in 2010 as a high-flying winger in the colours of Nyenye Rovers. He quickly earned a mega move to Lioli and, after impressing at the CAF African U-20 Championship in 2011, earned himself a move to Spanish giants Atletico Madrid. However, his stay in Spain was short-lived and the episode seemed to affect Sonopo. His form dipped and the winger found himself out of favour at national and club level. This season has been a renaissance one for Sonopo, however, and he has worked himself back into the national fold. He remains a blistering talent.

Jeremea Kamela (Lioli)

Kamela has been a standout player for club and country for the past year. However, such is his versatility, it remains to be seen where Kamela will actually play in Namibia. Against Ethiopia he started as Likuena’s anchor-man in midfield but didn’t have his normal influence on the game. If his talents can be harnessed correctly, Kamela can be a difference-maker for Lesotho at the COSAFA Cup.

Hlompho Kalake (Bantu)

Kalake is comfortable on the ball and possesses a wide range of passes. The creative midfielder has risen to prominence since moving to Bantu in 2013 and is one of several players that could move abroad with a strong display in Namibia.

Kefuoe Mahula (Matlama)

Long touted as a future prospect, Mahula thrived under Maliehe’s guidance at club level with Matlama this past season. Even though he was deployed in a deeper midfield role, Mahula lost none of his inventive powers and took over as Matlama’s primary creative force.  He is not a first choice but could work his way into the starting line-up.

Jane Thaba-Ntšo (Matlama)

Thaba-Ntšo has become one of the first names on the team-sheet and the Matlama attacking midfielder is only getting better. He is that rare gem in football, a goal-scoring midfielder, and such a player’s presence allows the team to pursue solidity in midfield while losing none of its offensive threat. This is why Thaba-Ntšo will be important in Namibia. Maliehe is likely to start with one striker and it is vital Likuena’s midfielders provide a goal-threat if the strategy is to work.

Phafa Tšosane (Matlama)

The Matlama captain finds himself down the pecking order in Likuena’s midfield stakes but could yet find himself in the line-up in Namibia. His strengths are his immaculate passing, vision and set-piece delivery. However, whether he can cope with the physical demands of facing sides such as Angola and Malawi remains to be seen.

Mabuti Potloane (Matlama)

With Maliehe’s overhaul of the squad, Potloane now finds himself as the experienced head in the team. He is also likely to be its central creative fulcrum as the link between the midfield and the striker.

Strikers

Thabo Seakhoa (LCS)

Seakhoa worked himself into the Likuena squad thanks to his strong late season form. He is direct and strong and could turn out to be a key player if Maliehe seeks a more direct approach.

Tšepo Seturumane (LMPS)

Seturumane is the best finisher in the team and has experience of the COSAFA Cup having been part of the side that reached the semi-finals in 2013 in Zambia. He is likely to be Lesotho’s starting central striker on Sunday against Mauritius.

Tumelo Khutlang (Lioli)

Arguably the most exciting prospect in the team, Khutlang is an offensive machine. For now it appears as though his role may be to create havoc off the bench. However, he has the talent to light up the group stages.

Motebang Sera (Matlama)

Sera is in the Likuena team on the back of his sterling campaign with Matlama where he finished the season as the league’s top goalscorer with 14 goals. However, Sera struggled in recent friendlies against Swaziland and his place in the starting line-up may be under threat.

Lesotho’s COSAFA Cup Records:

Biggest win: Lesotho 2-0 Swaziland, 2013, Lusaka (Mojela Letsie, Tšepo Seturumane)

Biggest loss: Lesotho 0-3 Zimbabwe, 2000, Maseru. Zimbabwe 3-0 Lesotho, 2000, Bulawayo

Top all-time scorer: Thapelo Tale (four goals)

 

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Lifofane in dreamland

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Lifofane are enjoying their best top-flight season since winning promotion in 2019.

The Butha-Buthe side are seventh in the Vodacom Premier League after a four-match unbeaten run and a win over relegation-threatened Manonyane on Sunday could see them catapult into the top six and within touching distance of an improbable top four finish.

The roots of Lifofane’s success can partly be traced back to 2020 when they shocked the country by capturing the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) Top 4 tournament.

The Buthe-Buthe outfit bagged M195 000 for winning the knockout competition in Matšonyane and that money has helped the upstart club progress.

Lifofane were able to buy training equipment and gear to improve their on-field product and, off the field, some money was saved to cover the team’s food and transport costs on away days.

Five years later and Lifofane are reaping the benefits of their prudent management.

Their management choices include the hiring of Katiso Mojakhomo as coach in March last year and his arrival has been a home run – Lifofane have developed into a disciplined, well-oiled machine this season.

Mojakhomo is one of Lesotho’s most successful coaches having won back-to-back league titles in 2007 and 2008 with the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) and his experience has allowed Lifofane to punch above their weight which was perfectly epitomised in their last two matches, a pair of 1-1 draws with Matlama and defending champions Bantu.

Both opponents were traditional giants desperately chasing the league title but Lifofane matched them blow for blow.

Mojakhomo said he is delighted with the improvement he has seen in his charges but there is still room to grow.

“It is our expectation to see the team at the top by the end of this Premier League season and we are going to work as hard as we can to make this happen,” he said.

Lifofane, of course, are not the league’s first surprise package.

Many clubs have had a good season or two before fading away.

Sundawana and Sky Battalion are just two teams over the past decade that have taken the elite league by storm for one campaign only to vanish from memory.

Mojakhomo said Lifofane’s vision extends beyond just doing well this season.

He said the club are determined not to allow their smaller stature to hinder their ambitions of establishing a long-term status in the premiership and competing with the big boys for seasons to come.

“There are many challenges that the team faces but we try to overcome them in as many ways as possible,” Mojakhomo said.

“The team’s management work together to come up with solutions.”

Moipone Makhoalinyane

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Seema wins top award

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Lesotho football legend Lehlohonolo Seema has praised his Sekhukhune United players after he was named Coach of The Month for February and March in South Africa’s DSTV Premiership.

It is the first time Seema has won the prestigious award in his coaching career and it rewards the impressive job he has done at Sekhukhune since joining the club in November from Polokwane City.

Sekhukhune United, or “Babina Noko”, are unbeaten over the last two months.

In the process, they have scored 11 goals and conceded just three times to shoot all the way up to fourth place in South Africa’s elite league.

Their unbeaten 2024 includes a five-match winning streak in which they beat Richards Bay 3-1 and Golden Arrows 1-0 in February and then dispatched Royal AM 1-0, Swallows 4-1 and Soweto giants Orlando Pirates 2-1 in March.

Seema told thepost he is delighted to receive the recognition, especially because it is his first time winning the award.

He also praised his players for their role in the team’s success.

His captain, Linda Mntambo, was named the DSTV Premiership player of the month and it is the first time a player and a coach from Sekhukhune United win the award.

“This recognition is the first-ever recognition in my life and for ‘Babina Noko’,” Seema said.

“I honour my players a great deal because, without them, I would not have been recognised. Their effort and passion has brought us this far.”

Seema said it is not easy coaching in the pressure cooker that is South Africa’s top-flight but his side have managed to navigate through the challenges they have encountered.

“The pressure in the DSTV Premiership is real. Every team is fighting but what helps me and the team is taking it one game at a time,” Seema said.

The highlight of Sekhukhune’s run over the past two months was their stunning 2-1 win on March 30 over Orlando Pirates, a side Seema captained during his playing days, which must have made that particular victory all the more sweeter.

The former Likuena captain said beating big teams like Orlando Pirates is not an easy assignment and Sekhukhune United’s victory showed him that the team was growing.

Now, Seema is gunning for nothing less than a top four finish at the end of the season.

A first-ever CAF Champions League spot for Sekhukhune United is also possible.

Finishing in the DSTV Premiership’s top two spots earns a coveted ticket to Africa’s premier club competition and Seema’s side are four points behind second-placed Stellenbosch with eight games to go.

Sekhukhune United’s next opponents?

Stellenbosch, at home, next Wednesday.

“Now we have to prepare well, more than before,” Seema said.

“Our schedule for the next games is very tight. If we will be playing against Stellenbosch on the 17th (of April) and on the 20th we are playing again against Cape Town Spurs, two days will not be enough – we have to start now to prepare for both games,’ he said.

Seema said his appreciation also goes to Sekhukhune United’s supporters.

“Their presence lifts us to win.”

Relebohile Tšepe

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Linare players set for windfall

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Linare players are dreaming of walking away with M330 000 at the end of the season by snatching second place in the Vodacom Premier League.
‘Tse Tala’ have won five of their last six matches and are the hottest team in the top-flight right now.

Linare are unbeaten in the league since February 10 and no team has collected more points than the 16 the Hlotse side have amassed in that period.

Their fine form continued on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and now Linare’s players want second place, at least.

Linare are fourth in the Vodacom Premier League with 43 points from 24 games, 11 points behind second-placed Matlama with six games to go.

It is a longshot to crack the top two, but ‘Tse Tala’ believe they can do it and midfielders Tšepang Sefali and Tšepo Makhanya said they have not given up hope of even stealing the league title.

“We would be so grateful if we can reach second place but if (league leaders) Lioli lose three or four games, we will have the opportunity to be the champions,” Sefali said.

Linare’s confidence is soaring high because they don’t know what a loss feels like since Bob Mafoso took over in early February.

Their only defeat came last month in the People’s Cup semi-finals against Matlama and that was on penalties.

Mafoso took over after Leslie Notši’s departure in January and Sefali and Makhanya said they have felt the difference.

Linare finished second in the Vodacom Premiership last season under Notši, an impressive feat, but they had dropped to seventh place by the time he departed.

With a top four finish slipping away, Linare found a new spring in their step when Mafoso arrived and Sefali said they hit the ground running because they knew what their new coach demanded and expected of his players.

“Almost all the players in the team have met and faced (Mafoso) before (when he was coaching other teams) and they all understand his strategies and techniques,” Sefali said.

“Our players already knew what he wants from the players, so we do not want to waste any time but do exactly (what Mafoso wants),” he said.

“Yes, coach Leslie Notši did a good job and we appreciated his effort but now we are seeing what we expected in the league because of the presence of (Mafoso),” Makhanya said.

Sefali said the competition for places has skyrocketed over the past two months and that is pushing every player to work hard and fight to play every match.

“There is too much competition; everyone wants to prove his talent to coach. Everyone wants to play every game but I am happy that our coach gives every player a chance to play which makes the team improve,” Sefali said.

“Even though we have not had much time with (Mafoso), his presence has brought a positive impact on the team,” he added. “I believe going forward; we will do more than what we are doing. I believe it is not early to praise him.”

Makhanya said one of the keys has been the togetherness Mafoso has brought to the team and they are confident to say they will stay in the top four and even finish the Vodacom Premier League season in second place.

A top four finish would be real progress for ‘Tse Tala’ because they have not had consecutive top four finishes since 2004, mainly because Linare have been consistently inconsistent from year to year.

Mafoso told thepost on Monday that very experienced coaches mentored the team before his arrival. He said his predecessors, Notši and South African guru Teboho Moloi, did a lot of good work so the reception of the players has made his job easier.

“I would like to appreciate the reception they gave me,” Mafoso said.

“Every team is good because of the players it has, so I accepted the assignment (to coach Linare) because of the quality that I believed the team could have. It is a long process that is at its start, but we are happy with how we are growing,” he said.

Mafoso said Linare are ready to win as many games as they can to finish the season on a high note.

“The dedication and attitude of the players satisfies me a lot, it is why we are doing well,” Mafoso said.

Relebohile Tšepe

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