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Mokhothu’s Lioli return

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MASERU-New Lioli coach Mosholi Mokhothu says he wants to rebuild ‘Tse Nala’ into a powerhouse after returning to lead the Vodacom Premier League giants on Tuesday.
A year ago Mokhothu refused to rule out the possibility of returning to coach Lioli if the opportunity presented itself.

At the time the highly-respected tactician was in charge of Manonyane in the first division.
Mokhothu eventually masterminded Manonyane’s promotion to the elite league and on Tuesday his love affair with Lioli was reignited when he was named Lioli’s new coach by the club’s management.
It is the fourth time Mokhothu takes charge of ‘Tse Nala’ and all previous occasions have brought silverware to Teyateyaneng.

Shoes, as Mokhothu is affectionately known, is the most successful coach in the club’s history and it can be argued that, apart from club president Lebohang Thotanyana, he is most responsible for Lioli’s rise over the past decade and a half.
Mokhothu first took charge of Lioli in 2008 and a year later won the league title which was the club’s first championship since 1985. That victory ushered in a new era of success for Lioli who at the time hadn’t won a trophy in over 20 years.

In the following decade they claimed three more titles to bring their tally to five. Only Matlama (10), Lesotho Defence Force (8) and Lesotho Correctional Service (6) have won more league crowns than Lioli.
Several other trophies have also been won along the way and Mokhothu is directly responsible for two league titles, two LNIG Top 8 wins and an Independence Cup triumph.

His latest return has been welcomed with open arms by ‘Tse Nala’ fans who regard Mokhothu as a “Lioli man” and cherish the good times he brought to the club.
In 2016 Lioli memorably claimed a rare sweep of trophies in one calendar year when they won the LNIG Top 8, league and Independence Cup.

However, the team has slowly declined since Mokhothu’s departure in 2017.
Lioli haven’t won the league since 2016 and haven’t held a trophy since the Independence Cup in 2018 which is a considerable drought for club that has become accustomed to success.
To make matters worse, ‘Tse Nala’ have had to watch from the sidelines as bitter rivals Bantu and Matlama have both enjoyed championship wins in that span.

Speaking to thepost on Tuesday, Mokhothu said this time around he aims to build a team that can perform even after he leaves.
“This time around I wish to build the team again, but we should set a target, a timeframe on how long we going to do it. We should build a team that will be able to stay on and compete even after me. What I think happened is after we left the team just fell off,” Mokhothu said.

Although his return is marred by the usual circumstances football finds itself in, there is again a sense of optimism around the club and Lioli are hoping ‘Shoes’ can steady their ship.
The past two years were tumultuous and saw Lioli embroiled in boardroom turmoil that saw the committee change tree times.

They have also finished outside the top four in the past two seasons and just when things appeared to be getting better, they lost coach Thomas Tshabalala when he died in January just months after he was appointed.
Over the past few weeks Lioli management made it a mission to get Mokhothu back and he resigned from his post as Manonyane coach after brief negotiations.

Details of Mokhothu’s contract have not been revealed, but he said he hopes to be with ‘Tse Nala’ for at least two seasons.
“For me to be able to say this is a team (I have built), I should be with them at least two or three years. The main challenge is how they gel together,” he said.

What will help Mokhothu is the fact he is not a stranger to Lioli and the familiar faces in club management made his decision to return easier.
Building a team that can win trophies and challenge for the league title is a long-term goal, he said.
For now, finishing amongst the league’s top four teams again is the priority and, luckily for Mokhothu, there is plenty of time to do so.
Lioli are in seventh place with two wins and a loss from their three games so far. They still have enough runway to take off under Mokhothu when the league resumes.

And, known for his pleasing style of football, Mokhothu said he wants to bring back the stylish football Lioli were famous for under his reign.
“My style is to entertain the fans when they are watching, it is just not to win which is important, but it is to entertain. Yes, that has to go with goals and victories,” Mokhothu said.

“I speak with different people from different clubs who have expressed to me how they wish I could return to Lioli. They want that fierce competition back and it’s just not Lioli fans who are happy.”

Tlalane Phahla

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Women rugby stars picked by Free State

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Two Lesotho women’s rugby stars, Thato Moeti and Mookho Lesoetsa, have been selected to the Free State senior team for the 2024 season.
The duo have been selected after their sterling performances for Lesotho in the on-going Free State Women’s Rugby League in South Africa and now Moeti and Lesoetsa can look forward to competing in the Cheetahs League, which marks a major step in their rugby careers.

Moeti told thepost yesterday that she is “very grateful for the opportunity” to be part of the Free State squad.

“It has always been my wish to be selected and, finally, I made it in the eyes of the Free State management,” Moeti said.

“I believe that if (Lesotho rugby) players can play with heart and spirit, and if they show their talent in the league, they can also be selected next season,” she added.

The management of the Free State women’s team scouted players from Lesotho to join in their squad last year as well.

12 months ago, it was Palesa Pitso, Mosongoa Monaheng and Nthabeleng Lebetsa who were picked, and they remain with the squad.

The selected players sign yearly contracts with the Free State team and Lesotho’s contingent at the club is now up to five.

The team manager of the national women’s rugby team, Tumelo Phenya, said Lesotho’s players seem to improve and “become very competitive” when they compete across the border because everyone wants the exposure and opportunity to compete outside the country.

He said being part of the Free State Women’s Rugby League allows Lesotho’s players to showcase their talent and opens doors for them to be selected for the Cheetahs League the following year.

“We are very lucky that South Africa recognises our players, especially because rugby in South Africa is at a high level. It shows progress for us as a country that we can produce players that can be competitive internationally,” Phenya said.

Phenya said he aims to see Lesotho compete at the Women’s Rugby Cup one day.
The showpiece is held every four years and the next tournament is next year in England.

Phenya said Pitso, Monaheng and Lebetsa, who have now gained experience and exposure outside the country, are excellent products to promote rugby in Lesotho.
Pitso also happens to be the team manager of the Lesotho men’s rugby side.

“When we go to schools with them, students fall into the sport because they want to be like them. Even Pitso’s title says a lot to students, they see growth in rugby,” he said.

Unfortunately, rugby, especially the women’s game, is hamstrung by a lack of finances and support.

As a result, Phenya said there are many tournaments and invitations Lesotho fails to honour because of no funds.

Phenya pleaded with Basotho and local companies to invest in their sport so that women’s rugby can grow and improve.

Lesotho is currently part of the Free State Women’s League that kicked off last month and will end early in May.

The national side played two games.

Lesotho beat Spartans 34-12 and lost 34-7 to Central University of Technology (CUT).

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Seema speaks on good run

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Lesotho legend Lehlohonolo Seema has spoken on Sekhukhune United’s impressive run in the DSTV Premiership since taking over the reins at the Polokwane-based outfit in December last year.
“Babina Noko”, as Sekhukhune are affectionately known, were in 12th place when its management appointed the former Likuena captain as its new coach last year, but the team has since ascended to third position.

Seema joined Sekhukhune from Polokwane City, who were then in sixth position but now find themselves in 10th position since the Lesotho mentor left them for their rivals from the same province.
Speaking exclusively to thepost following a run of five victories which includes a 2-1 win over former club Orlando Pirates and Tuesday’s 2-2 draw against Cape Town City, Seema attributed the impressive run to the hard work his team has been putting on the training ground.

“I’m not surprised by the way the players responded to my way of doing things since I took over the reins. On beating Pirates, it’s not even about Pirates, it’s all about collecting points,” Seema said.
“Beating a big side is always a bonus and giving yourself a chance to finish in a better position. There was nothing personal, but we are taking it one game at a time. We are happy as a club to collect the three points because competition is tight, and the margins are very close, and we just want to collect as many points as possible.

“Remember this team was playing in the Confederations Cup though it was not doing well in the league, but they have shown that they won games in the continent in countries like DRC to have made the group stages of the continental competition,” he said.

Seema believes being together in their camp has also worked wonders for his team to be the most inform team in the DSTV Premiership at this juncture.
They are now in third position behind defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns as well as another surprise package in Stellenbosch FC.

“There is no secret honestly in the form that we have been enjoying as a club, but just hard work on the training pitch, having a common goal, respecting each other, and listening to each other,” Seema said.

“We have remained humble on and off the field as a team, we have made it easy for players to work with us by asking questions on the training ground and we give them answers to come up with solutions for problems that we have as a team.

“Credit must go to the whole technical team, the analysts, fitness team, medical team because since I arrived here, we have had a very tough schedule and we don’t have a big squad, but they have managed it very well.

“The analysis team has been doing a magnificent job giving us everything we need on time to plan on our team as well as the opponents and our team has coped with all the challenges thrown at us,” he said.

Seema also opened up on Lesotho international, Teboho Letsema, who was registered by Sekhukhune in the January transfer window.

“Letsema is our player, we have signed him but could not register him because we already had five foreigners but because we could not miss out on such a talent, we had to get his signature,” Seema said.

“We managed to loan him out to Orbit, who are in the Motsepe Championship and competing. It’s good for him and he is a player to watch next season,” he said.

Mikia Kalati

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Lioli captain says job not done yet

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Lioli captain Mafa Moremoholo insists the job “is not done” in the race to claim the Vodacom Premier League crown.

Last weekend was a game-changer in the title chase and Lioli are now firmly in the driver’s seat to lift the league trophy after results went their way in dramatic fashion.

The drama started last Saturday when recently crowned People’s Cup champions Matlama were stunned 3-0 by Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).

24 hours later, Lifofane held fellow title rivals Bantu to a surprise 1-1 draw and the weekend ended with Lioli five points clear at the top of the table after ‘Tse Nala’ overcame Liphakoe 1-0.

Although Lioli, with 56 points from 24 matches, have played a game more than Matlama (51 points) and Bantu (49 points), points in hand are better than those still to gain.

Furthermore, if Lioli win their remaining six matches, they will be crowned champions regardless of other results and that has uncorked joy in Teyateyaneng (TY) with some fans already planning festivities for when Lioli end their eight-year title drought.

List of champions since 2010:
2010 Matlama
2011 Lesotho Correctional Service
2012 Lesotho Correctional Service
2013 Lioli
2014 Bantu
2015 Lioli
2016 Lioli
2017 Bantu
2018 Bantu
2019 Matlama
2020 Bantu
2021-22 Matlama
2023 Bantu

Moremoholo however warned against any premature celebrations and insisted Lioli have not reached the levels the club’s players and coaches want to attain.
The stalwart defender said the gap the TY giants have established at the top means nothing because they still have six crucial games to play.

“As for being the champions of the league, I cannot comment on that because we are on a serious journey,” he said. “The title can be missed by an inch, so we do not want to praise ourselves now.”

Moremoholo pointed out that the league’s intensity has picked up in the second half of the season, and even though Lioli won 1-0 on Sunday, Liphakoe’s performance surprised him.
It was night and day from the first round clash in November when Lioli won 2-1, he said, this time Liphakoe were prepared and ready to fight.

It is going to be that way in every game for the remainder of the season because all teams want to improve their league position, Moremoholo added.

“Our games with Liphakoe are never easy because we have our own fight over our (similar) logos. We are birds of the same feather,” he said. “They approached us in a different way from the first leg, which surprised me. They gave us pressure and we had to fight. We still need to improve how we approach our games.”

As one of the leaders of the team, a lot of that responsibility will fall on Moremoholo.

So far, the skipper has led with aplomb and has been the epitome of consistency while marshalling a defence that has conceded just 13 goals in 24 games. Only LMPS (11 goals conceded in 24 games) have a better defensive record.

Moremoholo’s leadership has duly been recognised around the league and ‘Tse Nala’ coach Motheo Mohapi called him Lioli’s best player after their win over Liphakoe.
Mohapi said the defender’s efforts as captain and his willingness to work to lift his team has been key to their success.
Moremoholo preferred to praise his teammates, though.

“It is through the hard work of the team for someone to be recognised. I really appreciate my teammates for setting the spotlight on me to be recognised (by Mohapi),” he said.

The Lioli skipper added that the club’s targets extend beyond this season – they want to see ‘Tse Nala’ recognised in continental competitions in the next two to three years, and their focus is not on just winning the league.

For them to become a competitive fixture in CAF competitions, Lioli will need to continue their noticeable improvement under Mohapi.

Last season they finished eighth place in the league with 42 points, 26 points behind eventual champions Bantu. Lioli have already shattered that points total in Mohapi’s first season in charge and Moremoholo believes there is more room to grow.

He said the core of Lioli’s players are still young which gives them a chance to improve and reach their goal of future dominance while the presence of Mohapi as coach is another reason Moremoholo sees a bright future for the team.

“Most of our players are still young, they are early in their 20s, and they will hold the team for some years while they gain experience. I also appreciate (Mohapi) for being part of our team and holding our hands to return the dignity of the team,” he said.

The club’s collective efforts have manifested the return of Lioli fans to grounds this season and that vociferous 12th man, which was key to Lioli’s successful title-winning teams in the past, will again be crucial in their next game on Sunday against Lijabatho.

“Seeing supporters at our games lift our spirits and it gives us hope to win every game,” Moremoholo said.

“(The Lioli fans) should never give up on us because through their presence, we get motivated.”

Weekend fixtures:
Saturday
Bantu vs Liphakoe
Manonyane vs Likila
Lifofane vs CCX
Lijabatho vs Lioli
Sunday
Machokha vs LDF
Naughty Boys vs Matlama
LMPS vs Linare
ACE Maseru vs LCS

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