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The goalkeeper with big hands

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MAFETENG – FOOTBALL followers will remember the Bantu Football Club goalkeeper with big hands in the 1990s. This is none other than Letsoha Khetsi, a giant, muscular and tall shot-stopper who stood at 1.98 metres. Khetsi has been associated with Bantu football club from his childhood.

Born and raised as a passionate football fanatic in Ha-Motlere in Mafeteng, Khetsi was bound to find a home at a football club near his home and he ended up as part of ‘A Matšo Matebele’.
His home was just a stone’s throw away from Bantu’s home ground in Mafeteng.

“I was introduced to Bantu at an early age when I was only five years old. It was around 1984 when I would accompany Ntsane Mokhachane, a former Bantu player, to training at the Bantu ground,” he said.

“He made me carry his kit to and from the ground. As I grew older, it became my routine to always attend Bantu’s training sessions.”

Khetsi became a ball boy at Bantu’s training sessions.

“During the team’s shooting practice, I would stand behind the goal posts and dive for stray balls that went behind the posts,” said Khetsi.

His actual engagement as a soccer player began when he moved to secondary school in 1991.

“I never played for the school team when I was at primary level because I was still young then,” he said. “You know at primary, older folks were always chosen to represent the school in sports tournaments. I only got exposed to school sports when I was in ’Masentle High School.”

Khetsi played in the inter Form A soccer tournament at school.

“I volunteered to play as a goalkeeper on the day and I performed exceptionally well. Since then I never looked back and concentrated my efforts on being a professional goalkeeper,” he recalled.

Team mates and supporters described him as a fantastic goalkeeper and were not surprised when he was promoted to the senior school team while doing Form B.

Having enjoyed his spell as the school goalkeeper, Khetsi then decided to join Bantu’s development team. He featured in all the younger age groups by beginning training with the under-17 until he was ultimately promoted to the senior team.

“I knew immediately that this was the team I was going to spend my entire football career at,” he said.

He moved through the team’s age groups until he played for the Under-20 team.

“It was then that I was promoted to the senior team although I did not immediately feature as the regular goalkeeper,” said Khetsi, who is among a few privileged players to have donned the gold and black jersey in the 1990s.

He was among the crop of players who came into the limelight with the likes of Lehlohonolo Seema and the late Poopo Matšoara.

“In essence, once I was promoted to the Bantu senior team it was not easy for me to break into the first team. For three seasons, I was on the bench most of the time learning the ropes,” he said.

“I rigorously took my time to learn until I made into the first 11. It wasn’t that easy as Bantu had always been studded with quality players.”

Khetsi’s training and experience as a goalkeeper has taught him many things as far as goalkeeping is concerned. He said a good goalkeeper must have dedication to duty.

“My experience in life has taught me that talent is inborn, goalkeeping is a talent that one possesses from birth,” he said.

Khetsi says his height had little to do with his reputation as a good goalkeeper, instead pointing to flexibility and timing.

“Goalkeeping needs passion, discipline and concentration.”

Against the assumption that keepers only have a busy day when they are persistently bombarded with shots, Khetsi stated that good goalkeeping entails giving instructions to fellow players during the entire game.

“As a goalkeeper, you must not only concentrate when the ball is around your 18 area. You must concentrate while it is still in the opponent’s half. This comes in handy to be able to organise your defence,” he said. “A seasoned goalkeeper must stay alert from kick-off to the end of the game.”

Like any other footballer, Khetsi had highs and lows during his playing career.

“I have had wonderful experiences as a soccer player but the most memorable game I played was against Bloemfontein Celtic which we hosted at Bantu’s stadium in Mafeteng and Lehlononolo Seema was chosen to play for them,” he said.

“It was a great game as all players came to the party and I was on top of my game on the day. But I had sleepless nights on the days when my team did not perform well,” said Khetsi, describing himself as “the kind of person who doesn’t easily come to terms with failure”.

He recalled a game they played against LDF in which Bantu dominated in all aspects of the game “but lady luck was not on our side that day as we lost”.

“It felt so awful.”

Many soccer followers glee at the different stunts performed by goalkeepers but Khetsi is best remembered by many soccer fans as a goalkeeper who would not use gloves but only use his bare hands even during professional premier league games.

Some fans believed that his big palms and fingers did not fit standard gloves. Khetsi denies this.

“I preferred goalkeeping with my raw hands. I wanted to have a feel of the ball so I didn’t bother to use the gloves,” he said.

“I used to own pairs of gloves but my hands never felt comfortable in them. Yes, sometimes it would have been a question of size, but they would always fit,” he said.

Among his achievements in soccer, Khetsi won several domestic cups with Bantu and also national call ups in the junior level. As a soccer legend, Khetsi has been observing the changes and development of the beautiful game in the country. He attributed the stagnant growth of the sport to lack of funding.

“If you compare players from Lesotho with those from other countries, you would realise we equal them or even surpass them as far as skill is concerned,” he said.

“The reason that our players seem not to be living up to expectation is because they lack motivation in the form of financial support.”

Khetsi complained that many teams are paying their players peanuts.

“Even when the players are on national duty they earn peanuts. That is unlikely to motivate them to produce good results. They are simply demoralised as compared to their counterparts from other countries.”

He said the premier league in Lesotho is now dominated by teams from the lowlands as opposed to those from the highlands. Khetsi said this has been caused by the failure of teams from the highlands to transform and evolve, particularly when it comes to the selection of players.

“It would have been fantastic if teams from all the 10 districts of the country took part in the premier league. This would bolster competition in the league,” he said.

He claimed that teams from the highlands are still preoccupied with the premise that only players from their locality can feature in their teams.

“The result is that such teams keep on underperforming. “

“Look at Melele FC, for instance, they couldn’t maintain their status in the premier league simply because they couldn’t field players who were not from Tsoelike or Letloepe,” he said.

As a card carrying member of Bantu FC, Khetsi is not happy with the state of the club after Bantu failed to defend their Vodacom premiership title which has since been won by Matlama.

“I want to congratulate Matlama FC for being Lesotho VPL champions of the 2021/2022 season,” he said.

“They have shown character and determination. As for Bantu, I can tell all is not well at the club but it is vital for all the stakeholders to go back to the drawing board and make amendments where necessary,” he said.

Calvin Motekase

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Netball in turmoil

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MASERU – The Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) and Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) have intervened in the internal squabbles within the Lesotho Netball Association (LNA).

The LNA executive committee is divided into two camps. There is one camp within the LNA that is accused of being influenced externally by an individual in Zimbabwe. That camp has ganged up against the current LNA president, ‘Mamotšabi Lekhabunyane.

The timeline of the infighting and attempts to overthrow Lekhabunyane began on June 11 with a “show cause letter” to the association’s treasurer Keketso Mokitimi.

The letter was signed by LNA secretary general Lineo Palime and it accused Mokitimi of presenting a fake financial report that was rejected by all LNA members. The letter further alleged that Mokitimi promised to present an acceptable report but has since been giving the executive the run-around, despite being reminded to present the report on numerous occasions.

On top of presenting a dubious report, the letter by Palime accused Mokitimi of failing to submit a yearly budget to the committee as stipulated by the LNA’s constitution.

“You are also aware that you violated the constitution and connived with the former president to withdraw money and use it without permission from the executive committee,” Palime’s letter said.

“The executive committee requested you on several occasions to submit a bank statement in order for us to know the true situation of our financial affairs, but you ignored it,” the letter continued.

Mokitimi was given seven days to respond and give reasons why he should not be suspended and hauled before a disciplinary committee. Palime was on a roll with her axe wielding and accusations.

On the same day she wrote a three-page letter demanding the removal of the LNA president Lekhabunyane from office. The letter accused Lekhabunyane of “interfering negatively in almost every department with the serious intention of ensuring that nothing moves forward positively.”

Palime said the kind of behaviour the president had displayed needed to be corrected urgently before it renders the LNA useless. In the letter, she accused Lekhabunyane of advising and directing the association’s treasurer, Mokitimi, wrongly to the point that he presented a fake financial report.

Palime said these actions have caused members to distrust the LNA’s executive committee and view them as dishonest and/or incompetent.

“You suffocate all developmental good projects submitted by the office of the director of development, for the purpose of persuading the members to see the office as not functional,” Palime said in her letter directed at the LNA president.

The accusations labelled in the letter seem personal as Lekhabunyane’s integrity was called into question. The letter went as far as accusing her of being a bad role model that drinks alcohol in front of young netball players.

Lekhabunyane’s antagonists also accused her of failing to assemble national teams for both men and women because of her personal interests. The letter basically called Lekhabunyane incompetent, manipulative, dishonest, coercive, despot and, above all, a gossiper.

“You singlehandedly make decisions that negatively affect not only us as the committee, but the entire netball family. We believe your removal from office and reinstating of the former SG (secretary general) will bring back sanity in the netball fraternity as before,” the letter signed by Palime said.

To date the accusations have not been validated by tangible proof and this paper has not been able to independently verify them. Two days later, this vicious letter was followed by another one that called for a special general meeting.

The agenda of the meeting was to remove the president from the office as well as to see the disciplining of the treasurer, the appointment of a disciplinary committee and the reinstatement of the LNA’s former secretary general.

Lekhabunyane wrote a letter of her own advising the LNA members to ignore the letter calling for the urgent general meeting. She said the invitation was unlawful and intended to bring the association into disrepute. She also mentioned she had sought intervention from the LSRC and the LNOC.

The special meeting did not go ahead as planned as both mother bodies intervened and it is said that July 2 has been chosen as the day to fully discuss the issues within netball. Contacted for the comment, the association’s public relations officer, Telang Machela, confirmed that the executive is divided.

He expressed dismay at the office of the secretary general which he said appears to be functional only when drafting letters. Machela, who is clearly in Lekhabunyane’s camp, accused the rebelling group of having outside influences and said they plan to meet the minister of sport to discuss the matter after the intervention on July 2.

“I think they need to be counselled, some of the things they are doing are being pushed from outside by an individual in Zimbabwe who seems to have interest,” Machela alleged.

“The president was working hard and this office (of the secretary general) was dead; it’s only working now when they are writing letters,” he said.

LSRC would not comment on the infighting except to say the issues are ongoing and being worked on. Whether the intervention on July 2 will bring the LNA’s warring factions to the same page remains to be seen.

Tlalane Phahla

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Top football awards set for tomorrow

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MASERU – Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) marksman Katleho Makateng, Matlama playmaker Jane Thabantšo and Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) hitman Makara Ntaitsane will vie for the prestigious Vodacom Premier League player of the season award tomorrow night.

The trio were revealed as the headline nominees this week as the Vodacom Premier League finally announced the end of the season awards to be held at Avani Maseru.

The annual awards ceremony is usually held immediately at the end of the season but the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) said they struggled to secure a venue which caused the delay.

With a location now secured, the league will finally reward the individuals that impressed last season and it comes as no surprise that newly-crowned champions Matlama lead the nominations with seven nominees across the board.

In total there are 10 categories up for grabs, including the referee and assistant referee of the season. Some categories already have obvious winners such as the top scorer award which will go to Makateng who topped the league’s scoring charts with an impressive 20 goals.

Other categories, however, are wide open with Matlama coach Mothobi Molebatsi battling it out with Motheo Mohapi of LDF and LCS’s Shalane Lehohla for the coach of the season crown.

In the midfielder of the season category, meanwhile, LDF’s Tšepo Toloane is sandwiched between two Matlama stars – Thabantšo and Lisema Lebokollane. All eyes, however, will be on the night’s biggest award which will see a first-time winner from one of Makateng, Thabantšo or Ntaitsane.

Makateng, who joined the LDF in January 2021 from first division outfit Litšilo, impressed for both club and country in his maiden Vodacom Premier League campaign and he could walk away as the big winner tomorrow night.

Nominees:
Referee of the Season
Lebalang Mokete
Retšelisitsoe Molise
Leloko Motlaase

Assistant Referee of the Season
Lesupi Puputla
Puleng Mahomo
Siza Dlangamandla

Coach of the Season
Molebatsi Mothobi
Motheo Mohapi
Shalane Lehohla

Midfielders of the Season
Tšepo Toloane
Jane Thabantšo
Lisema Lebokollane

Defender of the Season
Kopano Tseka
Tšeliso Lekhooa
Rethabile Rasethuntša

Goalkeeper of Season
Tankiso Chaba
Sekhoane Sekhoane
Monaheng Ramalefane

Young Player of the Season
Katleho Makateng
Thapelo Mohale
Teboho Montlha

Player’s Player of the Season
Katleho Makateng
Jane Thabantšo
Makara Ntaitsane

Player of the Season
Katleho Makateng
Jane Thabantšo
Makara Ntaitsane

Top Scorer
Katleho Makateng (20 goals)

Tlalane Phahla

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Marabe leaves Bantu

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MASERU – It is the end of an era at Bantu after the Mafeteng giants released long-serving stalwart Mokone Marabe yesterday. Bantu announced Marabe’s departure from the club along with that of goalkeeper Thabo Selisa.

The duo are the first official player departures from ‘A Matšo Matebele’ this off-season with more players expected to leave as Bantu look to rebuild their squad and compete for honours next season.

Bantu finished fourth in the Vodacom Premier League last season as they disappointingly relinquished the title which they won in 2020 to Matlama. Bantu finished 14 points behind the champions and their performance has sparked sweeping changes.

Two weeks ago, Bantu elected a new executive committee with the promise of revamping the playing squad. Marabe and Selisa are the first to go.

Marabe joined Bantu in 2011 from Likhopo and helped the club win four league titles during his glittering time in Mafeteng. During that time the striker also shared the dressing room with his brother Litšepe Marabe who left the club in January for India.

Despite being a crucial part of Bantu’s title victories in 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2020, Marabe’s days at the club appeared to be numbered as the majority of his game-time last season came from the bench.

Marabe and Selisa were not the only ones shown the door yesterday. Bantu also let go of the entire technical team that was hired in February to replace Thabo Tsutsulupa.

That crew includes Teboho Tšiu, Jomo Monaphathi, Liteboho Mokhesi as well as Thapelo Mokhehle, the former Bantu captain who had joined the coaching staff after bringing an end to his playing career.

Bantu are in the market for a new coach and the club’s spokesperson, Pule Mosoatsi, said the club has already begun the search.

“We are looking for a coach but it is still early and there is no name that has come forward,” he said.

Bantu’s new committee that was elected two weeks ago is again led by club president John Leuta who retained his position uncontested. Mosoatsi said strengthening Bantu’s squad is a priority.

“With regards to new players, we will announce them as soon as we are ready,” he said.

Tlalane Phahla

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