Mohapi wants to roll back the good times

Mohapi wants to roll back the good times

Maseru – Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) haven’t tasted league title glory since 2004 when they were the country’s most dominant force. What is left now is a shadow of that juggernaut.
Picking up the pieces and trying to return the good times to the Ratjomose-based side is club legend and former Lesotho coach Motheo Mohapi.

Sohle-Sohle haven’t won a trophy since 2008, the longest drought in club history. LDF are tenth in the Vodacom Premier League and their best hope of ending their painful trophy-less run is in the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 where they are involved in a finely poised quarterfinal tie against Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).
In this detailed interview with thepost, Mohapi reveals how he is trying to revive the spirit at the club and the challenges he is facing.

Mohapi, who was a key player in a historic LDF team that captured three successive leagues in 1997, 1998 and 1999, also touched on his stint in charge of the national team a decade ago.
He also hit back at critics who accuse the LDF of playing ugly football and revealed his football philosophy.

LDF has had an inconsistent season, what has been the reason for this?
Most of the players arrived last season and most started playing this season, so they do not have the experience needed at this level.

LDF are in tenth place in the Vodacom Premier League, 20 points behind the first placed team. What are your targets for the rest of the season? Do you believe you can still secure a top four finish?

At all times we always fight to win cups, whether it’s the (LNIG) Top 8 or any other cup. Whether the player is new or not, he is expected to perform. What killed us this season are injuries and suspensions.

I remember we did well in the beginning and we were third (in the league) when we were hit with injuries and suspensions; that’s what derailed our performance.
It is true we lack consistency, but we were doing well (before we had injuries and suspensions).

The last time LDF won the league was in 2004. What has been the reason for LDF’s decline after it was Lesotho’s most dominant team?
LDF stopped outsourcing players from outside and started only using players from inside (the army), that is when the performance started declining because the people who played in 2004 were likes of (Sello) Ramakau, Eric (Makara), and (Mpota) Khoanyane.

That’s when LDF stopped winning the league; this shows that a lack of quality players is the cause as to why LDF is where it is today.

Can LDF challenge for the title again in the near future? And how difficult is it to build a winning team as coach of LDF?
To be honest, building a winning team is not that difficult if you are working with experienced players like any other teams. If you can have two or three players who are experienced it would be easy to build a winning team.

But, if I have to groom the team from the goalkeeper, to the front-man and even to the reserves, it is not easy for me to succeed.
That’s why you see around world teams buy a player who is said to be the most expensive in the world.

It is not because such a team has money and they are flashing it around, it is because they are looking at the quality of the player and what he is going to do for them.
So, if we (at LDF) are working with only what is available, it means we are working with quantity and not quality therefore our results will be affected.
There are chances that we can challenge for the league title in the near future but I will need a certain amount of time to make sure I reach every player in the squad and put them at the required level where they can now play and challenge for a league title.

Looking at your squad, which areas would you say need more improvement?

Looking at the job I have done already, the areas we need to improve right now are not that many. We are only left with one area that still needs improvement, the goal-scoring department.
Our goalkeeping department we are satisfied, the backline we are satisfied, the midfield we are also satisfied; the main problem right now is the frontline.
But, it is still not easy because when it comes to scoring goals you have to find the right person. What you do as a coach is to polish the talent that is already there, not to groom what’s not there.

So, when the new (army) recruits arrive, we are always looking to see if we can find the right people for the striking department but, for now, honestly we do have problems upfront.

You are one of the most tactical coaches in Lesotho. Are the players at your disposal able to understand and carry out your instructions?
Yes, they can. Like I said, to put the ball in the back of the net is the technique, to release it is now something left to the individual and it also goes with decision making; is it the right time to score? Am I kicking the ball the right way depending on the positioning of the goalkeeper?
Those are some of the things that come down to the individuals; it’s no longer the team. Collectively the team can play well, combine well and reach the final third but now this is where a person has to kick the ball into the back of the net.

Those are things we are suffering from and that is where I will go back to what I said before — that we need quality in the scoring department.
Veteran striker Mojela Letsie has had another superb season scoring 10 goals so far in the league. How much longer can he go for at this level? What is the secret to his longevity and success?

In short, Letsie works very hard. He did not just score those goals because he reached the box many times. He works hard at training and in the field of play.
What we need now maybe is two or three Letsies upfront, then I would tell you our team is complete. Age is starting to catch up with him and that’s where he needs young players beside him who are already learning from him.

We do have some young prospects and they are trying but they are not where we want them to be and that is why we are suffering.
Now if you can realise that if Letsie doesn’t score then LDF doesn’t score, it becomes very easy for opposition teams to mark him because they know LDF goals will come from him.
When a team is like that it means they have a problem in the striking department. You played a 0-0 draw with LCS in the first leg of the LNIG Top 8 quarterfinals.

There is still a chance you can advance to the semi-finals. Do you believe you can win the cup and why?
This is our cup. We played well against LCS. The backline was good, the goalkeeper was good and the midfield was good, it is just upfront where we have to take our chances.
I can tell you we are going to create chances; it’s just a matter of whether we will be able to use them wisely.
The big assignment right now is to work on the frontline to make sure we put the ball in the back of the net, that’s what left. This (LNIG) Top 8 is ours.

Being one of the most experienced coaches in the country; how has the style of play at the Premier League level evolved over the years, if at all?
I don’t see any change, what’s changed is the experience of the individuals. The players nowadays are no longer at the level of those from the past, but I don’t blame them.
What happens today is that there is nowhere these kids are being helped, where they are being developed so that they can do the right things.
There are no grounds. Even at schools the competitions are no longer like in the past when we were still at school. Back then you could have a high school team in the premier league but now it is a big problem.

It’s not the players’ problem but it has to do with the management, including me. I am affected; I can’t help to develop the kids and turn them into experienced players.

At the moment Lioli, Bantu and now Kick4Life are at the top of the league. Does their financial power give them the edge? Do you feel it is difficult for the rest of the league to keep up?
Of course, it gives them an advantage because, for example, if you are Lioli and you are short of a striker then you go out and scout for a striker and sponsors are there to help you get him. It’s no longer like way back when (Lioli) used to play with players from Teyateyaneng only, they look for players all over the country, they even go outside Lesotho.
So, in that way they are able to assemble quality and quality goes together with positive results. That only gives them an advantage over other teams.

You coached Lesotho between 2006 and 2007 and had one of the better records in charge of the national team. Would you be interested in coaching Likuena again?
No, I am very sorry, I can’t. The challenges at the national team are not on the field but are with the management. So, as long as the national team structure is still the same way it is now, I don’t have any interest to go back.

Yes, Lesotho is my country, I love it, I love to work for Basotho, but I don’t want to work for Basotho with embarrassment because things happen that you feel ashamed to tell people.
If you can talk about them, you will discourage people in football. So, until we reach a level where I can see now we are improving in football, I wouldn’t be happy to go back to the national team.

Do you have a favorite coaching moment or achievement?
I coached the national team; I promoted players like Lefty (Bokang Mothoana) from Under-20 to the national team, the likes of Ralekoti (Mokhahlane), Chico (Tefo Maipato) and many more.

It is the moment in my life I realised it is pleasant to be a national team coach because with all those players you wouldn’t repeat yourself twice. So that’s what I was talking about earlier. Those players in that team grew up in football, they got used to getting instructions in football compared to these ones today.
I don’t blame the players we have but you will find that a player is being coached for the first time and sometimes you take 90 minutes saying the same thing because he is old and never got used to being coached at a younger age.

It’s difficult to memorise instructions, you have to repeat one thing all the time and you get discouraged at the end.  But, those players in that national team were a different story. For example, let’s say we were playing Nigeria and they brought all their overseas squad, it wasn’t a problem. I would say to my players: “these people are only better than us when it comes to money not football.

Each and every one of you, go and play the football you know best. If you dribble, do it. If you run, run”. I knew when I said that half of the job was done. That is the moment.

What is your coaching philosophy? What do you want your players and teams to produce?
I love a passing game with an emphasis on going forward but I have a problem that sometimes people say “hey, this coach is playing bad football’. I know such opinions: ‘these soldiers just kick the ball forward’.

That’s not what I like but what happens when you are a coach is you play the kind of football your players can play.
If they are not gifted, I play them according to their capabilities because the best football from what I have learnt at places I have been to around the world is the one that gives you results.

Maybe as an individual you like the Barcelona style of football, that’s what you like. But, don’t say LDF plays bad football. It’s you as an individual who can say ‘I love this style of play’, but don’t say this style of play is the best football or say because someone plays a different way it is bad football. The best football is explained as the football that gives you the best results, that’s what I know. There is no bad football.

Luciah Phahla

Previous Women rugby players join the party
Next Race for top four heats up

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