A season to remember
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.