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LNIG Top 8 roars into life



Maseru – The much anticipated Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 roars into life this weekend with mouth-watering quarter-final clashes at Setsoto Stadium.
It is not often fans can watch Lioli, Bantu and Matlama at the same venue in one day but this Saturday the LNIG Top 8 is bringing the giants together in a double delight for one price.
Struggling Likhopo will kick-start proceedings by facing the competition’s defending champions Lioli at lunchtime before the much talked about main dish between Matlama and Bantu following soon after.

The intriguing first leg tie between the prides of Maseru and Mafeteng is a rematch of an entertaining league encounter at the beginning of the year.
On that day Matlama emerged 1-0 victors, something ‘A Matšo Matebele’ head coach James Madidilane has not forgotten.

Speaking yesterday, Madidilane said although that loss is now water under the bridge, Bantu are not prepared to take any prisoners in this two-legged contest against Matlama.
“We just failed to take our chances in our last meeting against Matlama,” he insisted. “Had we converted all our chances we could have won but that game has passed, now we are going into a cup game which is totally different from a league game, even the way we prepare is different.”

On top of their recent win in the sides’ last meeting, Matlama also go into Saturday’s clash buoyed by an 8-0 rout of Butha-Buthe Warriors in the league game last weekend but Madidilane was unmoved.

“It is good for them and I am happy that they come highly motivated into this game after winning this past weekend with a big score-line,” he said. “But, Bantu is a big team; our aim is to proceed to the next round.”

‘A Matšo Matebele’ are, of course, on a high themselves.  Bantu are top of the league and on course for the club’s first-ever league and cup double in Madidilane’s debut season in charge. The South African mentor admitted expectations had grown in Mafeteng but said the focus should be on being in a good position for the second leg in Mafeteng at the end of the month. “There is pressure on players, there is pressure on the technical team but if we can keep on thinking about winning the double, we will put ourselves under pressure,” he said.
He added: “We are going to take one game at a time. We are playing away; we have to make sure we don’t concede goals. Maybe if we can reach the final, then we can start thinking about the double.”

Madidilane warned his charges to be prepared for a tough encounter against Matlama saying his counterpart Seepheephe Matete is already plotting their downfall.
For his part, the former Lesotho caretaker boss acknowledged the stakes are high as the LNIG Top 8 is Matlama’s last chance to claim silverware this season. ‘Tse Putsoa’ haven’t won a trophy since capturing the league in 2010 and the drought is starting to reach alarming proportions for Lesotho’s most successful club.

“This is our last hope for silverware this season,” Matete confessed. “Like I said before, the league is gone; we can only look to finish in a respectable position. This weekend we have to play like it is our only chance (to win silverware), we have to show it in the field.” Matlama have the slight mental advantage of winning the last three meetings against Bantu but Matete said this cup tie will be decided by which teams wins the midfield battle.“Our win (over Butha-Buthe the Warriors) motivated us and gave us confidence because we scored a lot of goals, but Bantu needs to be countered in the middle of the field, that is where they are very strong,” Matete said.

“We have to match them in the middle. They have good midfield players, so do we. This game will be won in the middle.”
On Sunday the LNIG Top 8 action will move to the Maputsoe DiFA Stadium where the day’s play will be started by two debutants when Lick4Life play host to Sundawana.
In the second game of the day Lesotho Defence Force will take on Lesotho Correctional Service as the chase for the LNIG Top 8’s M100 000 grand prize begins.

LNIG Top 8 quarterfinal fixtures:
First legs
Saturday (Setsoto Stadium)
Likhopo vs. Lioli (13:00)
Matlama vs. Bantu (15:00)
Sunday (Maputsoe DiFA Ground)
Kick4Life vs. Sundawana (13:00)
LCS vs. LDF (15:00)

Second legs
Saturday, 25 February
LCS vs. LDF (13:00, LCS)
Kick4Life vs. Sundawana (15:00, LCS)
Sunday, 26 February
Bantu vs. Matlama (15:00, Leshoboro Sports Complex)
Lioli vs. Likhopo (15:00, LCS)

Luciah Phahla

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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

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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

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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

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