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Matete says goodbye

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MASERU – A 45-year veteran in football, Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) vice-president Rantsubise Matete has seen it all in the local game.
Known for his composed demeanour, Matete has been a constant feature at LEFA’s headquarters for over a decade but he believes it is time for him to step away from the governing body.
Matete is serving his third term at LEFA –so far it is 12 years – and is the oldest member at the association.

That run is about to come to an end, however.
In a long chat with thepost from his home on Monday, Matete revealed he will not stand when the next LEFA executive elections come.
In fact, Matete said he was ready to walk away after his last term in LEFA’s executive ended in 2012 but was persuaded to stay on by people who believed he still had a lot to offer to Lesotho football.

During a fascinating chat, Matete went down memory lane and all the way back to 1974 when he began his journey in football at Lijabatho Football Club.
Unlike many of his peers Matete did not have a long playing career; instead he quickly transitioned into administration and management.
As acting manager of Lijabatho from 1976, Matete did almost everything on his own which included registering of the team and its players every season. Lijabatho were promoted to Lesotho’s Premier League in 1978 and Matete was officially elected as a member of the club’s executive committee member in 1979.

Even after being in football for so long, Matete says he remains firmly driven by passion. He says football is his life; it is what makes him leave his home every day to go to work at LEFA.
Matete revealed he has always been deeply invested in the game, so much so that he would work harder in football than at his day job.

At LEFA, executive committee members are volunteers. They only receive income through the allowances they get when travelling abroad with the country’s national teams.
“In 1984, I left for Tanzania to study journalism for two years and when I came back I found (Lijabatho) back in the lower division and I had to start from the beginning,” Matete said.
“I went for an administration course organised by FIFA around that time and it helped me a lot. I know how to run a football club. If you realise, I am the oldest (person) in football that is still active and I am intending to not stand for the next elections. The only person (my age) who is still in football is Pitso Mosothoane but he is only active at Linare, not at the national level,” he added.

After serving Lijabatho for two decades, Matete was elected to the Maseru District Football Association (DIFA) committee and it is through the DIFAs that he ended up at LEFA. He is still involved with Lijabatho, which has now gained promotion to the Premier League, on an advisory basis.

Matete said being a journalist helped him a great deal when he first stood for elections. “Everybody knew who I was from my writing for local newspapers,” he laughed.
He was elected to the executive committee of LEFA in 2008 and one of his main achievements has been restructuring and strengthening of the A-Division Management Committee (ADMACO) which he oversaw from 2012.

The first division organising body is now a stable organisation overseeing a better run league.
“I felt it was not right to stand for elections many times because we need to give others a chance, but a lot of people were saying there is still a lot I need to do in football and then I stood for elections again in 2012,” Matete said.

“After that, the executive committee gave me a difficult job of administering the A-Division. The concern of the (LEFA) executive was that ADMACO was not stable; the people that were in the committee were serving their own interests. I was given an instruction to stabilise ADMACO and right now ADMACO is one of the most stable committees in LEFA’s structures.”
“After that I managed the senior national teams,” Matete added.

“I started with the Under-20 (national side) and then the national team. They gave me a coach, Moses Maliehe. We worked well and we went to all COSAFA Cup tournaments (with the senior side). When we were in Namibia (in 2016) we broke a quite number of records. In the group stages, we won all the three games we played without conceding. Another record that still stands is that of Jane Thaba-Ntšo, he scored a goal after 34 seconds (against Mauritius). The last COSAFA Cup we went to was the one in Polokwane (in 2018) where we reached the semis. All in all, we managed the national team where our most impressive records are in the COSAFA tournaments,” he said.

Likuena have a good recent record at the COSAFA Cup and have reached the semi-finals at the previous two editions. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to other competitions such as the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the World Cup qualifiers.
Matete said he cannot explain why Lesotho has done well in certain competitions but failed in others.

He continued that LEFA’s executive committee has not decided on the future of the national team after its failure to qualify for the 2019 AFCON in Egypt and there are no plans to part ways with Maliehe as Likuena head coach.
Lesotho fell at the final hurdle of AFCON qualifying last month after a goalless draw away to Cape Verde. Likuena needed a win to advance to Egypt, tickets went to Tanzania and Uganda.
“I cannot tell you the reasons (Lesotho failed to qualify), it is something we are still looking at: how we are failing in other competitions but do well in COSAFA,” Matete said.

“I am still talking to my coach (Maliehe) to find out why we aren’t doing well in the AFCON although this time around I must tell you, we did not do well but it was the best record we have had (in qualifying). Although people were looking at qualifying for finals in Egypt, we did well in general and it is going to improve our FIFA rankings. As you are aware, Cape Verde is not an easy team, you see they beat South Africa twice (in 2017),” he said.

“We do sit with the coach, specifically LEFA’s executive committee,” Matete added.
“We sat down with the coach to ask him what happened (in the final AFCON 2019 qualifier against Cape Verde) and what circumstances made us (fail). After grilling him for quite a long time, we told him we want a written report and he has now submitted his report on what happened in Cape Verde like any other games we have played. We played with (Cape Verde) here at home (last September) and they scored us with three minutes (to go in the game in a 1-1 draw). We wanted to know why that happened, and go remedy that,” he continued.
Matete admits it is difficult to administer football in the country because it is not on a professional level and everyone has an opinion.

He highlighted the problems administrators have at club level, mainly that fans have more influence on whether coaches stay or leave at local clubs. However, at executive LEFA level, Matete said the executive committee does what it believes is right and does not appoint managers and coaches depending on what the supporters think.
“They speak and they put us under a lot of pressure but we don’t appoint coaches depending on what the supporters say,” Matete said.

“As the committee we have to tell ourselves that our coach is not doing well, let’s make some changes, but at the moment we are not at that stage. We are not going to do so now, we need to see things first. For example, during the 2010 World Cup and African Nations Cup qualifiers each Likuena player received M8 000 per match yet we did not win any match and these players were getting big incentives of M8 000 per match. They were getting (incentives) from the ministry and they did not win a single game. If you look at Moses now, we need to work with him to make sure he is doing the right things. If he is not, that’s when you can look at it. At club level, administrators do get in danger sometimes and have to release the coach because the supporters are fighting and send death threats, which is not right. At club level, the supporters have a lot of influence on whether the coach stays or goes,” he said.
“We administer football not technical matters,” Matete said.

“Who is playing and doing what, we should not get into that. You could have called so and so, so and so doesn’t do this; we should not do that and we are not doing that, the decision is with the coach. He brings his selection and then we say give us results then,” he added.
“Football is a game known by everyone and everyone has an opinion. It is extremely difficult managing football in this country where it is not professional because everybody has an opinion but it needs a sober mind. Do what you believe is right. They say we don’t listen, but sometimes you need to do what you have to do. It is difficult.”

Tlalane Phahla

 

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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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