Bantu president John Leuta has sensationally admitted the champions made a mistake appointing Thabo Tsutsulupa as their coach until the end of the season.
Bantu sacked the South Africa born coach last week after a horrendous seven-week spell in charge and roped in Thabiso Tšiu to lead the team until the end of the season.
Leuta made the rare admission this week and said Bantu moved to rectify the situation as soon as they realised their blunder.
The new man Tšiu has been tasked with making sure Bantu, who won just once in six matches under Tsutsulupa, don’t slip from second place in the Vodacom Premier League which was unthinkable at the turn of the year.
In a joint sit-down interview with thepost and Lesotho Times on Tuesday at Botleng Guest House, Leuta said the decision to hire Tsutsulupa was made by the majority in Bantu’s board.
He said although there was resistance from some members, the final decision is ultimately the responsibility of the entire executive.
Tsutsulupa, who was hired on January 7, was paid a signing-on-fee in full and received this month’s salary. When Tsutsulupa was appointed, there was an agreement that he could negotiate a longer contract with the club based on his performance.
However, it quickly became clear the former Liphakoe coach was out of his depth as he chopped and changed the line-up every match-day and constantly tinkered with the team’s tactics.
Leuta said Bantu’s management sat down with Tsutsulupa, like they always do with coaches, to make him realise he could not change much in just six months because that is what pre-season is for, but their words fell on deaf ears.
“Well, in life I agree we can make mistakes and I think we could have not made such a mistake, but because management’s decision is ours if majority wins, I take it. We did it because some of us were saying no, some were saying yes, but when majority wins, it is our responsibility; we all have to accept that we made the wrong decision (to hire Tsutsulupa) and right now have we have made the right decision (to fire him),” Leuta said.
Leuta said Bantu’s board offered to give Tsutsulupa an assistant coach that knew the team to help him but he turned down the offer and said he knows how Bantu play.
When management realised their season was spiralling out of control with a series of draws and a widening gap to leaders Matlama they called Tsutsulupa for crisis talks.
What irked Bantu’s management even more was that Tsutsulupa passed down the discussions he had with the management to the players which Leuta said put Bantu’s executive in a bad light.
“Let me tell you, our agreement was that we would discuss and we did in the first two weeks and asked him to change,” Leuta said.
“We had agreed that he would not change the way we play and he promised that he knows how we play. We said don’t change anything, let’s play the same way, but if you need an assistant to help you with how we were playing, we will get you one. He said, ‘no, I don’t need an assistant, I know how you play,” Leuta explained.
“The second time we spoke we said, now if you fail this weekend we will expel you, and he did not listen and that’s what hurt us. We are used to sitting down and speaking but if you refuse and are taking it out on players telling them what we are saying, it puts us in a bad light in the eyes of the players,” the Bantu president said.
Leuta said Bantu have already started a search for a new coach and they have cast their net wide. They have people already looking at coaches in the country and in South Africa.
Speaking about the upcoming transfer market and what Bantu need to add, he did not reveal much except that they will have players that will return from their respective loans and that they will have influential midfielder Lindokuhle Phungulwa back next season as he has fully recovered from a serious knee injury he suffered in 2019.
“We have a lot of players out on loan at ACE Maseru, Naughty Boys, City Rydo some are with Mafeteng Stars but the core of the team is still there. We should have 32 players, that’s when we have a full squad, so we are looking for players. Lindo (Phungulwa) has recovered and we didn’t think it would take him this long but he is okay now and he is returning to the team. He is still our player,” Leuta said.
Since the restart of the league season last November, the champions have not been able to muster a good run of form and their inconsistency and departure of Bob Mafoso in early January has seen them slip away from the title challenge. Leuta put Banatu’s dip in form down to lengthy break, and the uncertainty that was surrounding the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) over whether the season would continue or not, as such they lost their South African players due to finances.
“This season was a bad one for us, we had too many breaks and if you remember we had momentum and we were ahead by 11 points and then we had a break. It affected us because we had four South African based players, we let them go for the sake of our budget because we didn’t know whether we were going to play or not,” Leuta said.
“We had a striker that hadn’t played at all and we had to let him go. It affected us badly but right now we are stable, if this past weekend you would have seen that it was just bad luck, I don’t know what was going on, maybe meriana ea Sesotho (dark magic); I even thought about that because I have never seen something like that but we are stable again and we will see against LDF.” He added.
Last year, Bantu announced it had bought Mafeteng Sisters making it the third Premier League after LDF and Kick4Life to have a women’s team. Leuta said they have started to include the team in their plans with sponsors and that so far, the team has been performing well.
“We only started to include it in our plans with the sponsors but we are happy because they are doing well and I have met with them to tell them that they are part of Bantu FC (and) you have to behave like champions. They have been winning, they only lost to LDF because we still have a challenge that the players are separated from one another,” Leuta said.
“Some are in TY, we are still trying to figure out if Naledi, Metropolitan or whoever buys us a sprinter that we can bring them to Maseru so that they can at least train at one place,” he added.
“These are the ideas we have for the future. We are trying to support the ladies’ team, it’s just we got it during the difficult times but we have tried to motivate them by giving them new kits but we are now going to start planning for it,” Leuta concluded.
Rabale eyes Champions League glory
Lesotho women’s team captain Boitumelo Rabale has her eyes on winning her second CAF Women’s Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns as the tournament gets underway this weekend.
The third edition of the prestigious women’s club football is scheduled for Ivory Coast from November 5-19, where eight clubs will battle it out to be crowned Queens of the continent.
“Queen”, as the Lesotho star is commonly known, was part of the Sundowns squad that was crowned champions of the inaugural edition of the tournament held in Egypt two years ago, becoming the first player from the Mountain Kingdom to taste Champions League success.
She has become one of the key players in Jerry Tshabalala’s squad having walked away with the Hollywoodbets Player of the Season in the previous campaign and currently leads the goal-scoring charts with 21 goals.
“It was exciting to win the CAF Women’s Champions League with Sundowns two years ago and in the process becoming the first player from Lesotho to do so,” Rabale said.
“I felt very lucky and honoured to make history. It gave me confidence to continue working hard and strive for more success with the club”
Sundowns head to the tournament as regional champions after clinching the COSAFA qualifiers to qualify for the continental showpiece, where they will kickstart their campaign against Tanzania’s JKT Queens on Sunday.
Rabale admitted that memories of losing the last final to AS FAR still haunts them, but they head to Ivory Coast a better team than in the last tournament.
“We learnt the hard way when we lost in the final to AS FAR and we come back a better team having rectified our mistakes.
“It’s our dream to conquer the continent again and I have no doubt that we have what it takes to get our second star in Ivory Coast.
“It will be very good to add the second CAF Champions League medal to my trophy cabinet,” she said.
The 27-year-old has been prolific for Sundowns this campaign having scored nine goals in her last five matches to take her tally for this campaign to 21 goals.
Sundowns are in Group A alongside tournament hosts, Athletico Abidjan, Sporting Casablanca of Morocco, as well as Tanzania’s JKT Queen.
Since joining Sundowns in 2021, Rabale has won the Hollywoodbets Super League twice, the COSAFA Zonal qualifiers twice as well as the CAF Women’s Champions League and is the reigning Hollywoodbets Player of the season.
Red Skins fail to raise funds for championship
Lesotho volleyball giants Red Skins have failed to raise funds for the 2023 Zone 6 Senior Indoor Volleyball Club Championship they are set to host in December.
Red Skins will host the competition together with four other local volleyball clubs – Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Station (LMPS) and Rivers – and the tournament is expected to start on December 7 and end 10 days later.
Without any funds or sponsors coming in, Red Skins will have to foot the bill from their pockets for the tournament which will see teams from 10 countries converge on Maseru.
Among the participating nations, Botswana is expected to bring the biggest contingent with 12 teams, with Zambia following closely behind with nine teams while Zimbabwe is set to be represented by six teams.
Two weeks ago, Red Skins participated in the Elite Cup in Gauteng, South Africa, which was hosted by Aqua Darshan Volleyball.
Red Skins hoped to win the tournament and return home with a hefty jackpot but they only collected M5 000 which was won by the men’s team.
A gala dinner that Red Skins hosted last weekend also failed to generate income due to low attendance and speaking to thepost on Tuesday, the club’s vice-captain, Moleboheng Mofolo, said they will have to push on with what they have to host the tournament.
Mofolo said they no longer have time to come up with other means to raise funds.
“Tournaments will require us to find sponsorships and we do not have time now, we have to focus and train well,” Mofolo said.
“Our coach already told us to camp from this week but rain is our biggest challenge because we cannot continue with the training,” she added.
Mofolo said Red Skins are fortunate that participating teams are going to take care of their accommodation and catering. She said if Red Skins had to provide those services, they would not have been able to manage.
She pleaded with individuals, organisations and companies to help the team, whether it is by offering accommodation, food, or whatever little they may have.
Giants avoid each other in Top 4 clash
Women Super League (WSL) giants Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies and Kick4Life Ladies have avoided each other in the WSL Top 4 knockout competition.
The two-day showpiece takes centre stage this weekend at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena and it will see last season’s top four finishers in the league – LDF, Kick4Life, Lijabatho and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Ladies – go head-to-head for bragging rights.
The draw for the competition took place last Friday and the semi-finals will see LDF go up against Lijabatho while Kick4Life will take on LMPS Ladies.
Both semi-finals will be played on Saturday with the tournament culminating the following day.
Sunday’s proceedings will kick-off with a third-place playoff game to determine who walks away with the bronze medals before the final later in the day.
All four games over the two days will be streamed on the FIFA+ website and the WSL Top 4 will usher in a new sponsor this year.
In the past, the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) fully bankrolled the competition, however, Computer Business Solutions (CBS) has come on board with a sponsorship for the first time.
The competition’s prize monies have not been revealed because they are still being finalised, but, speaking at last Friday’s draw, LEFA’s associations secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi, said the relationship with CBS is one that sport should engage in.
Mohapi added his hopes that the relationship will be a long-term one.
“While others are busy at their thing, we should really grow ours so that when their distraction finally ends, they find us as united as we can be as the football community,” Mohapi said.
“(We should be) united by the efforts and inputs that emanate from the business community, especially when it is a truly Lesotho business entity because other (foreign entities) are here to take money,” he said.
Addressing CBS as the tournament’s sponsor, Mohapi said: “We are thankful as LEFA for your initiative; (we) hope you will be in this marriage quite long. We know we are just testing the waters but we have a lot that can entice you to stay longer, not only my command but the instruments that we have.”
Mohapi said LEFA’s dream is that in two years’ time all league matches will be streaming on the FIFA+ platform which was launched last April by football’s world governing body to increase exposure of men and women’s football around the globe.
Currently, only three grounds in the country have the structures for broadcasting; Bambatha as well as the grounds at LDF and Lesotho Correctional Service grounds, and all are in Maseru.
LEFA plans to add more grounds to the list with the DIFA facilities in Maputsoe and Mohale’s Hoek set to be the first to follow suit.
“All our women’s competitions, cup competitions and (Vodacom) Premier League matches that will be played in those stadia that have our infrastructure – we will be able to stream those games internationally,” Mohapi said.
“We have extended our footprint,” he added.
“We are now doing LDF – we have already put up the structure – then we are moving to Maputsoe and, hopefully, Mohale’s Hoek. It is our desire that in two years’ time we will hopefully cover all the matches and put them on the FIFA+ streaming platform.”
WSL Top 4 fixtures:
Lijabatho Ladies vs. LDF Ladies
LMPS Ladies vs. Kick4Life Ladies
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