‘Player power’ pushes out Mahlaha

‘Player power’ pushes out Mahlaha

Maseru – Halemakale Mahlaha has blamed “player power” for his resignation as Lioli coach.

Mahlaha quit as ‘Tse Nala’ boss on Monday after only one year in charge following the club’s disastrous showing during last weekend’s Independence Cup tournament.

The performance, which saw Lioli finish last in the four-team showpiece, was the final straw for a marriage that was on the rocks thanks to fans’ displeasure at the team’s displays under Mahlaha despite the coach delivering two trophies in his spell in charge.

Speaking to thepost on Tuesday, Mahlaha refused to fully disclose the reasons for leaving the Teyateyaneng giants saying he gave his explanations to Lioli’s executive committee.

However, Mahlaha claimed there is player power at Lioli and he said he found it difficult to deal with some of the club’s established stars.

One example came on Sunday during Lioli’s 2-1 third-place playoff defeat to Kick4Life in the Independence Cup when captain Tšoanelo Koetle snubbed Mahlaha’s handshake after he was substituted for Motlalepula Mofolo.

Mahlaha also accused fans of having undue influence on the club’s executive committee.

“I wrote my reasons to the club, they have them,” he said.

“I have talked to (the executive committee) about this (before) and it’s like I am fighting. For example, the Maseru branch has influence on the committee and they influence the players,” Mahlaha added.

“They communicate with these players and you realise it when you try and talk to a player to show him something and they don’t listen knowing very well there is nothing you can do (as a coach).”

Lioli released a statement on their social media pages on Monday addressing Mahlaha’s resignation. The statement said the club’s executive committee accepted the coach’s parting but lamented its suddenness.

“Lioli FC executive has accepted the resignation even though it regrets the fact that it denied both sides an opportunity to engage and understand the challenges in depth,” the statement read.

‘Tse Nala’ were the defending champions of the Independence Cup but spectacularly crashed out in the semi-finals last Saturday after a penalty shootout defeat to Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).

Lioli then put in an even worse display the following afternoon, meekly losing 2-1 to Kick4Life in the third-place playoff.

The squad immediately left the stadium after the loss on a weekend the Teyateyaneng giants would like to forget in a hurry.

It was the latest low ebb in Mahlaha’s tenure as Lioli boss after a promising start.

Mahlaha took over from the popular Mosholi Mokhothu last August and delivered two trophies, the Independence Cup and Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8. However, crucially, Lioli failed to win the league finishing behind rivals Bantu. It was an outcome which robbed ‘Tse Nala’ of the chance to become just the second side to win three consecutive league titles after Lesotho Defence Force in the 1990s.

Approached for comment on Wednesday, Lioli vice-president Mthoalo Mthoalo refuted Mahlaha’s claims about player power at the club.

“There is nothing such as player power at Lioli, everything is going very well,” he insisted.

“It is just that when people are working together they might not get along or agree on everything. It happens everywhere, but there is no such (thing as player power at Lioli).”

Mthoalo also poured cold water on Mahlaha’s suggestion fans influence the executive’s decisions.

“He might have such feelings but he was hired to coach the team not to communicate with the supporters,” Mthoalo said. “Everywhere he will go the supporters will always talk and there is a person dealing with the supporters which in this case would be our CMM (communications and marketing manager Tšeliso Lerata).”

However, Mthoalo seemed to acknowledge that Koetle slighted Mahlaha against Kick4Life and he offered an apology to the former Lesotho youth boss.

“It has not come to our attention as the management that our captain did not shake hands with him, it is something we are just hearing,” Mthoalo said.

“Had we known about this we would have disciplined Tšoanelo. However, if this happened, as the management we would really like to apologise (to Mahlaha).”

Whatever the reason for Mahlaha’s departure, it leaves Lioli in a precarious position.

The five-time league champions have appointed long-time assistant coach Motebang Makhetha as interim boss until January when the club will announce a new coach.

However, Makhetha has no previous experience of coaching a top club in the top-flight and Lioli already find themselves chasing first-placed Bantu in the Econet Premier League.

Mahlaha’s record at Lioli:

2016/17 league runners up

2016 Independence Cup winners

LNIG Top 8 winners

2017 Independence Cup 4th place

Luciah Phahla

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