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The return of Notši

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MASERU – THE Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) technical director Leslie Notši will take over as coach of the national team, Likuena, on a caretaker basis, the association announced on Wednesday.
Notši assumed his duties on Tuesday and will be in charge of Likuena as they prepare for a crucial 2020 CAF African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier against South Africa later this month.
The first leg of the tie will be played on July 28 in Maseru with the return game a week later.
Notši replaces Likuena head coach Moses Maliehe who has been given a leave of absence as he continues to struggle with an undisclosed illness.

Maliehe has reportedly been sick since Lesotho’s final 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Cape Verde on March 22.
He missed last month’s COSAFA Cup in Durban, South Africa where his assistants Mpitsa Marai and James Madidilane led Lesotho to fourth place in his place.
Marai and Madidilane will continue in their roles to assist Notši.
Speaking on Wednesday, LEFA secretary general Mokhosi Mohapi said the association’s executive committee made the decision on Tuesday.
He said Notši will continue with his duties as LEFA’s technical director but has been given full rule over the Likuena setup and can make changes as he sees fit.

A provisional 26-man squad for the tie against South Africa was called up two weeks ago but Mohapi said Notši can make changes to that selection if he feels the need for different options.
“After we came back from Cape Verde our coach (Maliehe) fell ill,” Mohapi explained.
“When he came back we gave (Likuena’s technical team) an extended assignment with COSAFA and CHAN, with (Maliehe) as the head coach, Mpitsa Marai as his assistant and James Madidilane as his second assistant and Postnet Omony as the goalkeeper coach,” Mohapi added.

“But, in the build-up to the COSAFA Cup things became difficult health-wise for (Maliehe) to the extent that we went to the COSAFA Cup with just the two assistants (Marai and Madidilane), and we had deploy the technical director (Notši) to a position where he was going to help the technical team in Durban.”
Mohapi said installing Notši as interim coach was necessary given the importance of the CHAN tie against South Africa.
“We came back from the COSAFA Cup and we started the preparations for CHAN and we realised the head coach was getting sick regularly and (on Tuesday) we met as the executive committee to see how we can work on it, especially looking at the magnitude of the game we are going to play,” he said.
Lesotho’s CHAN qualifying journey, Mohapi said, will decide the fate of Likuena’s technical staff.

If Likuena advance past South Africa, they will face a final qualifier in September and October to qualify for the 16-team CHAN tournament which will be hosted in January and February 2020 in Cameroon.
“I want to remind you that the three coaches – Maliehe, Marai and Madidilane – were given a mandate to reach the COSAFA final and that their engagement with LEFA will end where Likuena’s CHAN journey ends,” Mohapi said.
“When we looked at all this, we decided to give coach Maliehe a leave of absence to take care of himself; I personally conveyed this resolution to him.”
Mohapi said Notši is no stranger to coaching at the national team level and has the necessary experience to guide Likuena.
Notši is one of Lesotho’s most respected coaches.

He guided Lesotho’s Under-20 to the 2011 CAF African Youth Championship which is one of only two times the country has qualified for a continental tournament.
From there, Notši coached Likuena from April 2011 until December 2013 during which he helped set the stage for Lesotho’s highest-ever FIFA ranking of 105 which it achieved in August 2014.
His most recent post was with Econet Premier League outfit Kick4Life whom he inspired to an improbable top four league finish in 2016.
Mohapi said that while the futures of Likuena’s technical team hinge on Lesotho’s CHAN qualifying progress, Notši’s position as LEFA technical director is safe.

“(Notši) assumes the full right that any coach would get, he is in charge of the training sessions, he even delegates training sessions. The technical team reports to him,” Mohapi said.
“He will be in charge of the team selection on match-day. It will not be easy but it is unfortunate (and) someone has to do it,” he added.
“We know the nature of coaching in Lesotho. Isn’t it correct that the association advised itself that the harmony that already exists in the team be continued by bringing the person that was already in the team? (Notši) was with them in Durban he pretty much knows what goes on in the team,” Mohapi said.
Mohapi also confirmed that Lesotho Correctional Service goalkeeper, Sam Ketsekile, has been appointed as Likuena’s interim goalkeeper coach. Ketsekile replaces Omony who has joined South African side Chippa United in a similar role.

Tlalane Phahla

 

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FIFA holds coach instructors’ course

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MASERU – The Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) with FIFA is hosting a five-day Coach Instructors’ course at the association’s Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena headquarters. The course, which is led by FIFA Technical Expert Zunaid Mall from South Africa started on Monday and will end tomorrow.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mall said the aim is to capacitate local football educators and up-skill them.

The course is being attended by some of the most experienced and well-known coaches in the country including the national Under-20 head coach Bafokeng Mohapi, the women’s national Under-20 coach Elizabeth Yelimala and other national team coaches.

At club level Lesotho Defence Force’s (LDF) Motheo Mohapi, Lesotho Mounted Police Service’s (LMPS) Seephephe Matete and former Bantu coach Bob Mafoso are among the experienced coaches attending the course.

“The FIFA coaching programme is about the empowering, capacitating and up-skilling of local coaches, as the (LEFA technical director Leslie Notši) has already mentioned that CAF Licensing will be opening and that the licensing and the programming will basically be giving out all your information to the coaches that will be working with you,” Mall said.

“You are the local experts, we will be sharing with you this information all the time to be able to ensure that we grow coaching capacity in the Kingdom of Lesotho,” he added.

Mall continued: “You as local people, FIFA and CAF have taken it upon themselves that they will not be sending out coaches and doing many more coaching courses. You as the local FIFA will ensure that we will be able to take everybody sitting in this room to the next level as coaches’ educators and from there as we go forward you will see exactly where you as educators will be able to go in terms of your pathway and timeline.”

Speaking at the opening of the course, LEFA’s secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi, said he hopes the coaches will grab the opportunity to enhance themselves from the first training that was facilitated by CAF and make the report much better.

He said the coaches in attendance should be able to host football discussions on their own and only bring experts to enhance their knowledge and help where they are lacking.

“We need not bring Zunaid, we need to do it without him,” Mohapi said.

“Discuss, and when we think we can’t discuss any more, (we can) invite him to bring in other stuff that we might not be aware of and then enhance our discussion and our growth as a football nation. I know you went through the CAF one, I hope that you are going to build from what you did last time,” Mohapi said.

“We should set objectives today and ensure that all of us are above that standard we want to get to.”

Tlalane Phahla

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Team Lesotho leaves for Commonwealth Games

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MASERU – On Sunday, Team Lesotho left for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. The games start today and will run until August 8. Lesotho will be represented by a total of 21 athletes in five sporting codes and the sports the country will compete in are athletics, para-athletics (discus), boxing, cycling and weightlifting.

The team has settled in Birmingham and says it is ready to compete at the global games held every four years. Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, one of the country’s most decorated marathon runners, says the challenges the team has faced in the lead up to the Games will not stop them from fighting for victory.

“We are prepared to do what we have come here for. Although there are things I cannot say, I will leave that to the management. We have to do what we need to do as athletes because delays can demotivate us when we meet with countries that are highly prepared,” Nkhabutlane said.

“It is important to prepare on time from home and even when we are here (at the games), but those challenges will not stop us from fighting for what we came here for. It’s my first time (at the Commonwealth Games) and I would be happy to do well,” he added.

For boxer Moroke Mokhotho this will be his last international competition after he announced back in March that he will be retiring to focus on sport development after the Birmingham Games.

The 31-year-old from Lifajaneng has represented Lesotho in several international championships including the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mokhotho will be competing in the 57kg featherweight category.

“I am so ready to start my journey, I am ready to do what I came here for, and to do all it takes to reach finals,” Mokhotho said.

“Hopefully I will walk away with the gold medal since it has been my dream to. Physically, mentally I am all good and set.”

In the para-athletics (discus) Lesotho will be represented by Limpho Khotlele whose coach, Thabiso Ratšoane, has described as upbeat. He said they are going into the competition expecting to win, like every other athlete.

“We are prepared, we have done (the preparations). We are now in the competition. We left home in fighting spirits; we are expecting to fight with everything we have,” Ratšoane said.

“The expectation when you go into a competition is to win. We are no different, we expect the same. We use strength to throw.”

Athletes representing the country at this year’s Commonwealth Games are Lerato Sechele (triple jump), ‘Mathakane Letsie (5 000m and 10 000m), Mokulubete Makatisi (marathon), ‘Manqabang Tsibela (1 500m and 800m), ‘Neheng Khatala (10 000m), Mojela Koneshe (100m and 200m), Tšepo Mathibelle (marathon), Lebenya Nkoka (marathon), Tebello Ramakongoana (10 000m/marathon), Motlokoa Nkhabutlane (marathon), Limpho Khotlele (discus), Retšelisitsoe Kolobe (boxing 51kg), Moroke Mokhotho (boxing 57kg), Qhobosheane Mohlerepe (63.3kg), Phomolo Lengola (boxing 54kg), Arena Pakela (boxing 71kg), Phetetso Monese and Tumelo Makae (cycling, mountainbike), Kabelo Makatile and Teboho Khantši (cycling, road), Thapelo Sebota (weightlifting, 61kg).

Lesotho has competed in 11 Commonwealth Games beginning in 1974 and missing only the 1982 Games. Lesotho’s first medal was a gold medal in the men’s marathon, won by Thabiso Moqhali in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It remains Lesotho’s only gold medal at the Games. The country’s other medal successes are a boxing bronze for Ezekiel Letuka at the 2002 Manchester Games in England and a boxing silver medal for Moses Kopo four years later in Melbourne, Australia.

Tlalane Phahla

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Bullock waves goodbye!

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MASERU – Two weeks ago, the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) announced that its deputy secretary general, Chris Bullock, would be leaving his position to return home in the United Kingdom.

His last day in the office is tomorrow and he will leave the country next Thursday. Bullock has been in Lesotho for close to a decade and is well-known for the job he did at Kick4Life Football Club where he led a stable football programme from 2013 when he arrived in Lesotho until his move to LEFA in September 2020.

Bullock sat down with thepost this week in a wide-ranging interview as he reflected on his time in the Mountain Kingdom. It became clear during the discussion that his passion for sport and this country is undeniable. Lesotho is the place Bullock has called home for nine years and he even got married here.

Over the years through Kick4Life and his personal endeavours, Bullock has sought to help athletes better their lives, and says he hopes that one day athletes will be able to make a living through sport in Lesotho. While he is most famous for his work in football, including the women’s game, Bullock has been one of the foremost supporter to 18-year-old middle-distance star athlete ‘Manqabang Tsibela.

He added that it gives him joy to see the players Kick4Life has helped to get scholarships abroad doing well for themselves and having their future in their own hands because Kick4Life’s aim was to always change lives through sport.

When you first arrived here, did you think you would be here for this long?

No. I was meant to come for one year. I adapted very quickly; I was happy here, I was at Kick4Life then and the job started quite well. I knew during my first year that I would probably extend to a second year but there was never any point in my first few years that I thought I would be here for nine years, especially at the start. I agreed to come for one (year).

You have led a stable football programme at Kick4Life for a long time and the performances on the field reflected that. What do you think worked well for you?

The key has always been building a strong team of people, I have never achieved anything on my own. What we have achieved, we have done that as a team. We always had good support at Kick4Life because it was quite a stable organisation, at least, that allowed us to put things into place.

We managed to put (together) a team of good people. I was always lucky with the staff I had, the coaches, the players, and I think we always worked well as a team and that helped.

Before I arrived in Lesotho someone (at Kick4Life) sent me a report because the season before they stayed in the A Division on the last day of the season, they were very close to going to the B (Division).

The players sort of came together and came up with a report (of) why they think the team struggled, and they came up with things like ‘we drink too much’, ‘we don’t respect the coaches’ and I thought: what have I let myself into here?

What helped was that during that first preseason with the players we sat down with them.

I talked about my vision, the importance of working together as a team and wanted everyone to buy into what we wanted to achieve and everybody bought into that vision and were committed to what we wanted to achieve.

It’s all about everybody working well together. I have always been very lucky to have strong people around me, especially throughout my time at Kick4Life, everybody played their part.

It’s not just football you were involved in, you also got involved with the ‘Manqabang support group. How did that happen and is it something you are passionate about?

I realised how much of a role sport could play in the country to better lives, especially for the youth, and I became very passionate about that. What a lot of people don’t know is that my first time in Lesotho was in 2009. I came for two weeks with Kick4Life before I worked for them.

With ‘Manqabang I always remember I was in Botswana at the time and it was a photo of her winning I think it was 3000 metres and it was a photo of her coming first barefoot, behind there was a white South African girl.

In South Africa a lot of white athletes get opportunities at school, you know they are probably quite privileged and seeing this picture of ‘Manqabang made me want to get involved. That’s when I got in touch with the guys.

I really want to see sport developing in Lesotho but I also want to see youths get the opportunities to fulfil their talent. (The) Lesotho Cricket (Association) came to me (in 2020) after Kick4Life and I helped them put their strategic plan together.

I just want to see sports in the country grow. Obviously, football is my main passion, hopefully one day people will be able to make a career out of sport in Lesotho.

All the coaches you have worked with have nothing but good things to say about you, what do you think worked well with you and your coaches?

I think we have always been lucky with coaches, Dona (Motlalepula Majoro) was already there when I arrived; he took us to the Premier League. I don’t think we need to talk about Les (Leslie Notši) and Bob (Mafoso) because everybody knows what their records are and how good they are as coaches, but my job was to support coaches.

I always had a very good relationship with my coaches. We would meet regularly; we would always sit down and talk about what the plans were for the future. (We talked about) how I could support them and what their challenges were and they were also very understanding of what our limitations were and would understand what the budget was and what we could do with the budget and I think that’s important. If you have that regular interaction with your coaches, they also buy into what you want to do.

You have been with LEFA for a while now, how has it been?

I have loved it to be honest, I wish I could have stayed longer and had more time to make an impact but things change in life and you have to make hard decisions. I think I have managed to see where LEFA wants to go, I like to think I have been able to play a part in contributing towards that. A lot of it will still need to be implemented over the next few years, it takes time when it comes to development of football, it doesn’t happen overnight.

If the plans that we have put in place do get implemented, things will improve, football will grow. I am just grateful I was given an opportunity to be part of that journey, I just really hope that football will continue to grow, professionalise and hopefully move in the right direction.

Tlalane Phahla

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