A sea­son to re­mem­ber

Lesotho Times - - Sport - Mikia Kalati

THE 2015/16 Vo­da­com Premier League sea­son will go down in Le­sotho’s foot­ball his­tory as one of the most com­pet­i­tive and ex­cit­ing in re­cent years.

The des­tiny of the ti­tle could be de­cided on the last day of the cam­paign with Li­oli edg­ing Mat­lama by a sin­gle point to claim the cham­pi­onship.

It was a sea­son to savour and one which cer­tainly lived up to the league’s elite sta­tus, and as the dust set­tles and Li­oli cel­e­brate their tri­umph, we take a look at the teams’ in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances.

Li­oli: Tse Nala were out­stand­ing from the word go and de­serve do­mes­tic foot­ball’s big­gest prize. Unas­sum­ing Mosholu ‘ Shoes’ Mokhothu han­dled his star-stud­ded side very well and he de­serves credit for his man-man­age­ment skills.

Li­oli boast of the coun­try’s best three goal­keep­ers and this was al­ways go­ing to be a big chal­lenge as to who plays come match day. But the Li­oli coach han­dled the is­sue very well to ro­tate the trio un­til Kananelo Makhoaane won the race to be the first-choice in the sec­ond round and was in out­stand­ing form as Tse Nala posted win af­ter win in de­fence of their ti­tle.

At the back, Kopano Tseka and Ba­sia Makepe were very solid in cen­tral de­fence, with wing­backs Mafa More­mo­holi and Bokang Sello also un­com­pro­mis­ing as Li­oli only con­ceded 11 goals through­out the sea­son and los­ing just one match.

Other play­ers who were out­stand­ing for Li­oli were mid­field­ers Jerry Kamele and Tumelo Khut­lang who should be in the run­ning for the league’s in­di­vid­ual awards.

Mat­lama: Tse Put­soa had a very spe­cial sea­son un­der Moses Maliehe and miss­ing out on the ti­tle by a sin­gle point must have been a bit­ter pill to swal­low.

The coun­try’s most suc­cess­ful club had a slow start to the cam­paign and their chal­lenge for hon­ours suf­fered a set­back when vet­eran de­fender Nkau Lerotholi left for LMPS early this year.

How­ever, Mat­lama quickly bounced back to take the ti­tle race to the wire in Maliehe’s first sea­son in charge of the team.

Un­like Li­oli, Mat­lama did not have the lux­ury of a big squad, but still man­aged to come up with re­sults that en­sured the sea­son was this ex­cit­ing.

Yet Tse Put­soa’s goal­keep­ing depart­ment was their Achilles heel as Makhetha Thakeli was er­ratic at times and I think they could have done bet­ter with an ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paigner in that depart­ment.

De­fen­sively, Mat­lama did very well when one con­sid­ers they lost Lerotholi when the sec­ond round of the sea­son was just get­ting un­der­way.

But this will go down as the sea­son Mote­bang Sera and Jane Tha­ban­tšo came of age as they were sim­ply out­stand­ing and should also be in the race for the league’s in­di­vid­ual awards.

Sera is al­ready guar­an­teed the Golden Boot or top goal-scorer award af­ter scor­ing 14 goals while Tha­ban­tšo was two goals be­hind him.

The ab­sence of star-mid­field­ers Mabuti Pot­loane and Phafa Tšosane for the bet­ter part of the sea­son due to in­jury could have played a big role in Mat­lama fall­ing ag­o­niz­ingly short as the duo were sim­ply bril­liant once they re­turned to ac­tion.

I think the coach­ing award is a toss-up be­tween Mokhothu and Maliehe be­cause they both played a huge part in their teams’ re­spec­tive runs for the top prize.

LCS: Mashesh­ena were also very im­pres­sive in Mpitsa Marai’s first sea­son as head coach for a club where he was a player not so long ago.

Marai was brave to con­tinue us­ing young play­ers and mix­ing them with a bit of ex­pe­ri­ence, but un­for­tu­nately, loss of form as well off-field prob­lems took their toll as things fell apart for the team in the sea­son’s run-in.

Just like last sea­son, Thabo Seakhoa was al­ways a threat to op­po­nents although he was not as lethal as he was in 2014/15. Still the striker gave a lot for the team and played a big part in their fin­ish­ing third on the 14team ta­ble.

Vet­eran mid­fielder Li­eta Lehloka proved he still has a lot to of­fer and his eight goals also saw him chal­leng­ing for the Golden Boot award at some point.

Marai also did well con­sid­er­ing this was his maiden sea­son in charge of a premier league team.

Sun­dawana: The signs have been there since pop­u­lar tra­di­tional healer, Thato Nkone, bought the club that they could be a force to reckon with. How­ever, suc­cess was not ex­pected to come so quickly and for the team to end the sea­son in fourth po­si­tion— and this in just their sec­ond sea­son un­der the new man­age­ment.

Sun­dawana’s suc­cess story was built around striker Raboana Koloti who was an un­known be­fore the sea­son started, but scored 12 goals.

Bob Mafoso, who joined the club mid­way through the sea­son, also proved his coach­ing cre­den­tials.

Mafoso led newly pro­moted Lik­ila United to sixth place last sea­son and this time around, took Sun­dawana from the bot­tom of the ta­ble to a dream fin­ish which qual­i­fies the team for the In­de­pen­dence tour­na­ment along­side league win­ners Li­oli, run­ners-up Mat­lama and third-placed LCS.

Likhopo: The Red Army looked like they would bat­tle for the ti­tle in the early stages of the sea­son but in­juries to key play­ers and off the pitch is­sues af­fected the team.

Sha­lane Le­hohla was ap­pointed head­coach at the start of the sea­son and worked his magic on the play­ers in the first round. At one stage, the team went on a seven- match un­beaten run.

Sha­lane’s ap­point­ment also worked won­ders for Lehlomela Ram­a­bele who found his goal-scor­ing form. But once the goals driedup, Likhopo started to struggle hence they ended the sea­son in fifth po­si­tion.

Kick­4life: The sur­prise pack­age of this sea­son! Kick­4life be­came a changed side af­ter the ap­point­ment of Les­lie Notši as their coach.

Notši made his de­but in the team’s 1-0 over Bantu and went on to com­plete a dou­ble over the Mafeteng side where he was tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor last sea­son.

The re­turn of Fidel Ntoya and ar­rival of ex­pe­ri­enced Thabo Ma­su­alle gave Kick­4life the much-needed steel and sealed a his­toric sixth-place fin­ish in just their sec­ond sea­son of topflight foot­ball.

Goal­keeper Selo Thet­sane, who left Mat­lama due to lack of game-time, was one of the lead­ing lights for Kick­4life and showed a lot of ma­tu­rity.

The youth­ful Kick­4life also proved with sound man­age­ment and bet­ter re­sources, our game can go places.

Bantu: The Mafeteng-based out­fit had a very dis­ap­point­ing sea­son in which they failed to make it into the top-four.

This means Bantu would not be able to de­fend their In­de­pen­dence Cup ti­tle con­tested by teams which man­age a top-four fin­ish.

Bantu suf­fered 10 de­feats, which was the same num­ber of matches they won. But for a team that won their first ever league ti­tle just two sea­sons ago, this was a poor side for Bantu in which they fin­ished sev­enth.

The chang­ing and chop­ping of coaches did not help their sit­u­a­tion, but still, there were play­ers who gave their all for the team, among them de­fender Thapelo Mokhehle and mid­field­ers Hlom­pho Kalake and Sepir- iti Male­fane.

LDF: The army side will con­sider them­selves lucky to have sneaked a place among the top-eight by fin­ish­ing the sea­son in eighth spot. This LDF side is nowhere near the great LDF sides of the past which were al­ways com­pet­ing for sil­ver­ware. Ve t - er­ans Molefe Lekoekoe and Mo­jela Let­sie re­main im­por­tant play­ers, but Sohle Sohle need to bring in new, qual­ity play­ers if they are to start com­pet­ing for ti­tles again.

LMPS: The po­lice side will be very dis­ap­pointed to have failed to win a place among the top-eight for the sec­ond suc­ces­sive sea­son.

A lot was ex­pected from Simunye af­ter they signed top play­ers such as for­mer player-of-the-sea­son Tšepo Se­tu­ru­mane, but in­stead, found them­selves fight­ing for sur­vival once again and even­tu­ally man­ag­ing a ninth place fin­ish.

The ar­rival of for­mer Likuena cap­tain Lerotholi from Mat­lama brought a bit of sta­bil­ity in the team and LMPS would surely be bet­ter next sea­son.

The growth of Tefa Makhoane was one of the pos­i­tives for the po­lice side as the for­mer Mat­lama and Bantu player con­tin­ued to find the back of the net reg­u­larly.

Linare: The Hlotse-based team had a poor sea­son once again and are very lucky to still be in the topflight league.

The sil­ver lin­ing for Linare was young Khu­bet­soana Kamela — young brother to Likuena and Li­oli star mid­fielder, Jerry.

Linare, who ended the sea­son 10th on the ta­ble, must do ev­ery­thing they can to re­tain Kamela and all their young play­ers be­cause the rea­son they are in this sorry state is they lost key play­ers over the years and so had a very weak side when the sea­son started.

Liphakoe: The Quthing-based side will be very happy to be play­ing with the big boys again next sea­son.

Liphakoe ended the cam­paign in 11th spot and like the rest of the teams at the wrong end of the ta­ble, will have to im­prove their squad if they are to com­pete for hon­ours next sea­son.

Mo­hau Ram­mo­neng, who has been in and out of the Likuena squad over the last two years, will have to do bet­ter and show why he also played for ju­nior na­tional teams.

Rovers: The Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Le­sotho side should be re­lieved they sur­vived rel­e­ga­tion and ended in 12th po­si­tion af­ter a re­ally test­ing sea­son. And just like Liphakoe, Rovers need to get their house in or­der to play with the likes of Li­oli and Mat­lama.

But most im­por­tantly, Rovers must try and at­tract top play­ers the way they used to do not so long ago.

Le­sotho Times team of the sea­son Goal­keeper: Kananelo Makhoane (Li­oli) De­fend­ers: Ba­sia Makepe (Li­oli), Kopano Tseka (Li­oli), Mafa More­mo­holo (Li­oli), Bokang Sello (Li­oli). Mid­field­ers: Jerry Kamela (Li­oli), Jane Tha­ban­tšo (Mat­lama), Ke­fuoe Mahula (Mat­lama), Koloti Raboana (Sun­dawana), Tumelo Khut­lang (Li­oli). Striker: Mote­bang Sera (Mat­lama). Sub­sti­tutes: Selo Thet­sane (Kick­4life), Thapelo Mokhehle (Bantu), Fidel Ntoya (Kick­4life, Hlom­pho Kalake (Bantu), Makara Ntait­sane (LCS). Player of the sea­son: Jerry Kamela (Li­oli) Most im­proved player of the sea­son: Kopano Tseka (Li­oli) Find of the sea­son: (Sun­dawana) Coach of the sea­son: Mosholu ‘Shoes’ Mokhothu Raboana Koloti

Li­oli De­fender Kopano Tseka. Li­oli MID­FIELDER JERRY KAMELA.

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