Maseru – Two weekends ago Stoko were crowned Lesotho’s second annual Women’s Super League champions after a thrilling 2016 season.
It was a deserved but unexpected triumph for Stoko who led a three-way title battle for much of the season. In the end, the upstarts finished two points clear of the pack, sealing the crown with a 2-0 win over Mafeteng Sistas on the final day.
The result capped a remarkable campaign in which Stoko lost just once, a 1-0 defeat to Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in October.
But while Stoko celebrated, there was heartbreak for Kick4Life who were condemned to second place for a second season in a row.
Last year Kick4Life suffered a similarly agonising fate when they finished behind LDF who were then known as Likhosatsana.
But this year’s outcome was more of a shock.
Kick4Life and LDF, the established powers of the local women’s game, had once again been expected to dominate proceedings until previously unheralded Stoko spoiled the party to claim a maiden championship.
For Kick4Life the disappointment is amplified by their dominance in all areas except the final points table.
They scored a league-high 45 goals and conceded the fewest, only five. In their star-studded squad Kick4Life also possessed the marquee player in the women’s game, Senate Letsie, who struck a league leading 24 goals.
But despite facing another trophy-less Christmas, the club’s football director Chris Bullock said he was encouraged by Kick4Life’s season though he admitted improvement is needed if they are to finally win the title.
“We are happy with how the season went generally,” he said.
“To finish in second place in our second season in the Women’s Super League is something to build on. From my personal point of view — and most of the girls would agree — there is a lot of room for improvement if we are hoping to challenge for a league title.”
Bullock also praised the improvement of the eight-team Women’s Super League.
2016 was the league’s second year in existence and though it still struggles with sponsorship, it showed a healthy increase in competition. Thanks to the emergence of Stoko, for example, this season saw an exciting race that had Stoko, Kick4Life and LDF all having a chance to win the title heading into the final weeks.
“Last season it was another team that won the league, this time around it’s a different team,” Bullock said highlighting the league’s promising parity.
“Last year it was a two-horse race and everyone thought it would be the same this year. But other teams have also shown a lot of improvement and that is good,” he added.
The progress is also heartening for Lesotho National Women’s Football Committee public relations officer Selloane Nkoebele, but the challenge now is to get backing in order to give impetus to the positive signs.
“We are trying everything we can to get sponsors,” Nkoebele said. “Even the clubs themselves are working hard to get sponsors but it is not easy or it’s not happening as fast as we would have liked.”
Given the current socio-economic climate, the sponsorship challenge facing women’s football is unsurprising. One needs to look no further than the men’s game which is still struggling to advance from amateur status despite long being established.
As a result, Nkoebele said the women’s committee is looking at other innovative ways, including creating district leagues, to drive development.
“We will be going to different districts around the country and holding tournaments to introduce women’s football,” she said.
“We have already started in Maseru and now we want people outside Maseru to know about the Women’s Super League. We want to encourage them to form their own teams that will be playing in the district leagues.”
The discussions have also involved the idea of eventually introducing new teams to the Women’s Super League.
“It has been talked about but I don’t think it will happen in the upcoming season,” Bullock said.
“There is an idea to introduce district teams by the (Lesotho National Women’s Football Committee). Once it is up and running it is an opportunity to introduce new teams into the Super League. That’s what we are looking to do in the longer term, but probably not in the 2017 season,” he said.
For now the progress of the Women’s Super League can been seen in the performance of the national women’s team, Mehalalitoe. Last month the team travelled to Swaziland to play two international friendlies.
The first ended in a 1-1 draw with Boitumelo Rabale on the score-sheet before the sides shared a 2-2 stalemate in the second encounter with Kholu Lebakeng scoring a brace for Lesotho.
The results extended Mehalalitoe’s unbeaten run to four games and means they have only lost once in their six games since the team was re-established in 2015.
Bullock commended Mehalalitoe’s performance especially given the small pool of players it has to select from.
“It is difficult when you have only got eight teams (in the league) and you have to pick from them, but they have really done great,” he said.
“They have played six games over the last year. I think they have only lost one (game) and they are improving all the time. I think there is a lot of talent in the Super League and the idea of introducing district leagues will increase the teams and increase the number of girls playing competitive football,” Bullock added.
“It gives you a larger pool of players to select from and I think it would be great to have for the national team. The girls been playing for over 18 months and have been excellent.
Mohlolo rescues point for LDF Ladies
A last-gasp strike by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies striker ‘Maseriti Mohlolo rescued a point for the Women’s Super League (WSL) champions against Malawi’s Ntopwa in the opener of their CAF Women’s Champions League COSAFA Qualifiers yesterday.
Mohlolo’s goal keeps LDF Ladies in contention to progress to the next round with two teams from the four-team group set to qualify for the semi-finals.
Although LDF Ladies were not outplayed in the game, they missed many chances and their set-pieces left a lot to be desired.
Maybe that can be attributed to a last minute coaching change that saw Pule Khojane replace Lengana Nkhethoa as head coach of a side that won the WSL unbeaten last season.
Speaking after the game, Khojane said even though he realised early on that the Malawian team were tough physically, he still wanted LDF Ladies to play their normal passing game.
In the end, Khojane was left to lament the number of chances his side created but couldn’t convert.
Khojane said that will be a point of emphasis before LDF Ladies step onto the field again tomorrow against Botswana’s Double Action.
Tomorrow’s tie is probably a must-win with the group’s other team being defending champions Green Buffaloes of Zambia and LDF Ladies will need to convert their chances.
“We play with four at the back but with two attacking full backs, most of the time if a team plays long balls like (Ntopwa) we struggle a lot but we don’t change our game. We want to play; we want to go forward.
“That’s why sometimes we made a lot of mistakes when the ball was played high behind our backs but we still wanted to play our game and win. We were just unfortunate not to score more goals but we were playing (well),” Khojane said.
LDF conceded a late goal in the first half and were perhaps lucky to go into the half time break just a goal down.
Before Ntopwa took the lead they were awarded a penalty for a reckless foul in the box but they missed the chance to open the scoring.
LDF recovered in the second that but could not find a way into the goals.
It looked as if Lesotho’s representatives at the regional showpiece would begin their campaign with a defeat. However, Mohlolo rescued the Lesotho champions when she latched onto a poor back pass from a defender. She stole the ball and levelled matters with less than three minutes to go.
There was no time for the LDF to get a winner and they had to settle for a point in their opening group game.
They will now be looking to improve and sharpen their scoring boots for tomorrow’s showdown against Double Action of Botswana.
LDF Ladies fixtures:
LDF Ladies 1-1 Ntopwa
Double Action vs. LDF Ladies
Green Buffaloes vs. LDF Ladies
Makepe quits Likuena duty
Likuena captain Basia Makepe has retired from international football after leading the senior national team to silver at the recent COSAFA Cup tournament held in Durban, South Africa.
This was the first time since 2000 that Likuena had reached the final of the regional tournament where they lost 1-0 to Zambia.
The Leribe born defender will go down as one of the most decorated defenders in the country having represented his country 87 times and winning several accolades in the process.
Makepe’s leadership skills were spotted from a young age, where he was appointed captain of the national U-20 team, Makoanyane XI by Leslie Notši.
He led by example as Makoanyane XI qualified for the CAF Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in 2011, which in those days was knowns as the African Youth Championship, where the side eliminated countries like Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya to qualify for the tournament.
Makepe won his first Likuena cap in a 2-1 victory over Eswatini during an international friendly match played at Setsoto Stadium in October 2012 and went on to make the squad for the 2013 COSAFA Cup in Zambia.
However, Makepe was an unused substitute at the tournament as Notši went for the tried and tested defenders such as Moitheri Ntobo, Tlali Maile and Thabo Masualle as Likuena reached the semi-finals.
He would later be appointed the Likuena captain as coach Moses Maliehe went for a younger generation at the 2016 COSAFA Cup in Namibia, where Likuena won all their group stage matches but were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Shakes Mashaba-coached Bafana Bafana.
Makepe has not only enjoyed success with the national team but won several domestic trophies at Lioli, where he was also handed the captaincy after joining from boyhood club and now defunct Joy FC.
After leaving Lioli, he joined the police outfit, LMPS FC, where he is employed as a police officer and believes he still has a few years left in his tank playing for Simunye, as the police outfit is affectionately known.
“I think I have had a career that you can say was decent and can be accepted as satisfying to the football fraternity,” Makepe said.
“For me I can say it was a good career that has had challenges here and there as well as successes here and there, which started way back with the Under-20 team.
“With Makoanyane XI, we became the second team to qualify for the Africa Youth Championship and fortunately I had the honour of being the captain of that team.”
The 32-year-old, who has come up against the best forwards on the continent from the young Mohamed Salah during the 2011 Under-20 Africa Youth Championship to the likes of Victor Osimhen, Riyad Mahrez, has singled out former Burkina Faso striker Jonathan Pitroipa as the most troublesome opponent he has faced.
“I have come up against the best from this continent from the likes of Salah and others, but I think Pitroipa of Burkina Faso was the most troublesome forward I have come up against,” he said.
“I think the successes with the senior team especially as the captain are many having reached the COSAFA semi-finals a number of times with Likuena and twice going unbeaten in the group stage in Zambia 2013 and Namibia 2016 respectively.
“Being the captain of the team was the cherry on top and getting bronze medal in 2018. I end my chapter with Likuena having played a role in helping the team get to the final for the first time in 23 years,” he said.
Makepe admitted that the 2016 edition of the COSAFA tournament was very special for him as it was the first he captained the side and they won all their group stage matches.
“The COSAFA tournament in Namibia in 2016 stands out for me especially that game against South Africa, which unfortunately we lost on penalties, but it was a good tournament overall,” he said.
“All in all, I think it was a very satisfying career with the national team though you always want more as a player. I’m happy to bow out having helped Likuena re-write history. It’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.
“I’m very grateful to all who have supported me throughout my career, my teammates, coaches, administrators and the supporters, who were always by our side and of course the Lesotho Football Association for giving me the opportunities to lead the national team,” he said.
Notši picks squad for Ivory Coast tie
Lesotho interim coach Leslie Notši has named a provisional 27-man squad for the side’s final 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Ivory Coast which is scheduled for September 9.
By virtue of being the hosts of next year’s showpiece, Ivory Coast have already qualified for the tournament while Likuena no longer have a chance of joining them after back-to-back defeats with Zambia in June.
With nothing to play with but pride, Likuena can draw inspiration from their performance when the sides met in their first Group H encounter last June which ended in a goalless draw.
The match was played in Soweto and Lesotho’s memorably dogged display against their much more fancied opponents is something Notši’s charges can look to for inspiration.
Several new faces could feature in that return game in Ivory Coast.
Fresh off last month’s COSAFA Cup final display, Notši has called up some fresh blood to bolster the squad such as Khubetsoana Kamela, Tšeliso Botsane and Teboho Letsema who have each represented Lesotho’s junior teams but are yet to make the leap to the senior side.
Notši’s squad also includes the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) trio of Morena Moloi, Lebesa Lebesa and Victor Ferreira who have been called up to the national team set-up for the first time in their careers.
The most surprising inclusion is perhaps that of Ferreira who spent the majority of last season making cameo appearances from the LDF substitutes’ bench.
Speaking with LEFA’s media team, Notši said the new faces are intended to give him depth going into the 2024 African Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifiers which start in September and are reserved only for locally based players.
It means the handful of Likuena players plying their trade outside the country will be ineligible to play. The first round of the 2024 CHAN qualifiers is set to begin from September 22 to 24.
“We all know that AFCON qualification is out of our reach and the bigger picture is to prepare the team for the CHAN qualifiers, which are coming very soon,” Notši said.
“Most of these boys have come through the ranks playing for our junior national team and it’s the association’s investment that needs to be given a chance to grow,” the Lesotho mentor added.
The 27-man Likuena squad will be trimmed down to a manageable size towards the side’s departure to Ivory Coast, but the core of the players that went to the COSAFA Cup in July are expected to retain their places in the team.
Likuena have a busy schedule ahead with the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers also in the pipeline this year. Notši needs to have as strong a team as possible to compete in all the competitions.
Likuena provisional squad:
Sekhoane Moerane, Teboho Ratibisi, Mosoeu Seahlolo.
Rethabile Senkoto, Motlomelo Mkhwanazi, Mohlomi Makhetha, Rethabile Mokokoane, Rethabile Rasethuntša, Lebesa Lebesa, ‘Mellere Lebetša.
Lisema Lebokollane, Khubetsoana Kamele, Tšeliso Botsane, Lehlohonolo Fothoane, Thabo Lesaoana, Tumelo Makha, Koenehelo Mothala, Tšepang Sefali, Victor Ferreira, Tshwarelo Bereng, Teboho Letsema, Neo Mokhachance, Tšepo Toloane, Morena Moloi.
Thabiso Mari, Jane Thabantšo, Motebang Sera, Katleho Makateng.
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