Great chance for Lioli to make history
Lioli have been drawn against Burundi side Vital’ô Football Club in the two-legged preliminary round of the 2016 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League.
The draw looks fairly kind on Mosholu ‘ Shoes’ Mokhothu and his charges and presents the TY outfit with a great chance to finally end Lesotho’s long wait for success on the international football stage, even if it was just to go past the preliminary stage.
Of course, playing Vital’ô is not going to be a walk in the park for Tse Nala, but like what Mokhothu told our sister publication, the Sunday Express, at the weekend, the fact that Burundi are not a football powerhouse gives Lioli hope going into this clash, which takes place in February.
Tse Nala have proved to be a competitive side and boast of very experienced players who have been part of the various national teams over the years. Lioli also played in this very same competition last year but narrowly lost 3-2 to angolan giants Primeiro de agosto in the preliminary round.
Mokhothu’s charges first lost 2-0 away in Luanda and won 2-1 at Setsoto, and the majority of players in that brave fight are still with the team, hence the coach’s optimism. This was the third time the four-time league champions were taking part in continental competitions.
We all know how our clubs, just like the national teams, have struggled in international competitions and hopefully, Lioli are going to end this jinx which has become all too familiar to Basotho.
However, for this poor run to end, our teams need to have thorough preparations which include studying their opponents and making the necessary adjustments.
The last time our clubs went past the preliminary round of continental competitions was in the early 1990s when Matlama and arsenal reached the second round and quarterfinals of the africa Cup of Club Champions.
We now have a good chance of emulating this relative success, thanks to last Friday’s draw which paired Lioli with Vital’ô and not heavyweights such as Zamalek and Al Ahly of Egypt.
But like I said, if Lioli underestimate the task at hand, then Vital’ô are going to punish them and condemn us to yet another heartbreak because despite their low continental profile, they are a power in their own country with 19 league titles under their belt since their formation in 1960.
Again, the fact that they played Champions League football for eight years between 1999 and 2011, making it to the second round twice, makes them a formidable foe that Lioli can only take lightly at their peril.
Yet Tse Nala have also grown in stature over recent years and the fact that they have four league titles to their name, and have become the dominance force of local football over the past three to four seasons, means they have what it takes to be counted among the best teams on the continent.
Going through their team, from the goalkeeping department up to the strikers, I see no reason why Lioli should not do the country proud.
Mohau Kuenane has been Likuena’s first-choice goalkeeper for the past five years and has come up against top opponents on so many occasions that he should play a leading role in Lioli’s quest for glory.
Tse Nala further have Liteboho Mokhehle as well as Kananelo Makhooane who are quality goalkeepers in their own right.may be only area that could be cause for concern is the defence, which has not been that convincing in recent matches.
Tse Nala were very solid when the season started, but are now conceding goals almost every match which is something Mokhothu must rectify ahead of the team’s continental safari.
The midfield is Lioli’s strongest department, but I think the coach should be consistent in his selection and also decide where to field utility player, Jerry Kamele. The left-footed player has been at wingback or central midfield for both club and country in recent matches and i feel it confuses his game as he has not been able to maintain the standards that made him one of the hottest properties in the premier league last season.
Still in midfield, this is where Mokhothu can call on Bushy Moletsane, who is one of the most experienced players in the country. There are also two other experienced campaigners in Motlalepula Mofolo and Lekhanya Lekhanya, hence i said the midfield is where Lioli appear the strongest.
But while Mofolo and Lekhanya are both fantastic players, my only worry is they are always on the treatment table, which means their game-time is quite limited.
On the striking front, Tse Nala have been struggling for goals and I can’t remember the last time Nkoto Masoabi scored, yet he is supposed to be their chief goal-getter. This is yet another department Lioli need to improve before they enter the fearsome jungle of continental football next year.
Hopefully by that time, they would have Tšepo Lekhooana back after a long-term injury.
Lioli Football Club...the pride of TY.