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Mohapi’s quest to identify talent

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MASERU-In January, Bafokeng Mohapi was unveiled as one of three coaches who will work with Lesotho national coach Thabo Senong in overseeing the country’s national teams.
The change was part of an overhaul by the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) that now sees Senong heading all of Lesotho’s national teams, from the Under-17 side all the way up to the senior squad, Likuena.

Senong has a team of assistant coaches that comprises Mohapi, Mpitsa Marai and Motolo Makepe which allows the South African mentor to focus mostly on Likuena.
Part of Mohapi’s job in the new four-man technical staff is to identify talent throughout the country and nurture any potential gems into future Likuena players.

It is a big task for Mohapi but, fortunately, he is no stranger to the game.
In addition to a vast club coaching career which has included stints at top sides such as Bantu and Majantja, Mohapi worked with the national Under-20 side last year.

In an interview with thepost yesterday, Mohapi said he has spent this year scouting players all over Lesotho, going from the Econet Premier League and A-Division to LEFA’s national Under-15 leagues.

Mohapi revealed there is a criterion he and his fellow national coaches are following as they cover the country’s 10 districts.
“The most important thing is technique, you have to be able to trap and pass the ball, and you must be able to beat your opponent when you have to. Communication, intelligence and speed are some of the other key things you want in a player,” Mohapi said.

The change in Lesotho’s national coaching set-up came because LEFA said it wants the national teams to have similar philosophies and playing styles with the goal being to make it easier for players to successfully move up from the development sides – Under-17 and Under-20 – to Likuena.
“We are instilling the same way of doing things from the senior team to the junior teams,” Mohapi told thepost.

“We want a smooth transition of players,” he continued.
“We want what is done with the senior men’s team to be uniform throughout the national teams. I can assure you, we are looking for players who can make it to Likuena and be able to play for the national team.”
The result is that Mohapi, Makepe and Marai work closely with Senong who was hired as Likuena coach last August.

The hope is that by improving continuity the new system will improve results as Lesotho looks to move up from its FIFA ranking of 139th in the world and closer to its highest-ever ranking of 105 which Likuena achieved in August 2014.

Lesotho is also in the middle of a qualifying campaign for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) which is still scheduled to take place next January in Cameroon.
Mohapi said a strong character and intelligence are crucial traits that Lesotho’s coaching brains trust is looking for.
“We want players that are able to read where the game is going, that can read moments and make snap decisions when they have to,” he underlined.
“You must be able to change the game without having a coach telling you to do so. We want players who can decide for themselves on the pitch and know when to attack and defend. It is very important.”

Mohapi expressed regret the scouring and scouting has been halted by the coronavirus outbreak that forced all sporting activities to be suspended, “but, we plan to work hard after the situation goes back to normality again,” he said.

Mohapi said headway was being made adding that he enjoys working with young footballers because they are always eager to learn.
The former Bantu mentor said local players suffer from a lack of proper development structures but he insisted players that possess the right qualities will almost surely make it to the senior team regardless.
Drawing on his years of experience, Mohapi said he is always looking for players with discipline saying it is the difference between making it in football or not.

Mohapi said it’s not just discipline off the field that counts but also “how you carry yourself on the pitch and avoiding unnecessary bookings on the field that could cost the team.”
“A player must have discipline on the field, you have to be able to hold your temper and avoid bookings,” he said.
“I want disciplined players but I also don’t want to limit them, I want them to have their freedom to express themselves on and off the pitch.”

Mohapi continued: “Players must work hard to win matches and appreciate teamwork. Normally when players have been together for a long time they get to know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. That’s important as well.”

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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