Under fire Taole hits back at critics
MATLAMA coach Ntebele “Tata” Taole has hit back at mounting criticism of his team selections following the Sea Point side’s failure to clinch silverware for the second time in the space of five months.
Tse Putsoa lost 11-10 to Lioli on penalties during the Independence Cup final last October and last Sunday went down 3-2 to Bantu in the final of the LNIG Top 8.
Matlama’s loss to their Mafeteng-based bitter rivals incensed the club’s supporters who have since been baying for the veteran gaffer’s blood.
The bemused fans laid the blame for the LNIG Top 8 final defeat on Taole’s shoulders, who they said got his tactics wrong by deploying attacking midfielder, Mabuti Potloane, in a false number nine position while their main striker, Mpho Matsinyane, could only make the bench.
The club’s forwards, Matsinyane and Mohau Khali, have struggled for form during the course of the season with January transfer window acquisition, Potloane, slotted in their stead to ensure more potency in the striking department.
In an interview with the Sunday Express, a defiant Taole said he considered form and a player’s ability to impact the game in selecting his starting line-up.
The embattled coach said he had to accommodate both Potloane, who plays as a playmaker and in-form playmaker, Phafa Tšosane, who is also Tse Putsoa’s top goal scorer this season having put nine behind the opposition nets.
“There is nothing new about all the criticism I am now getting,” Taole said.
“If the club management also feels that I am no longer good enough to coach this team, then I can just leave. However, what I can tell you is that the very same play- ers that people are complaining about not being included in the starting line-up were also labeled failures when they were going through a rough patch of form.
“In recent matches, I decided to use Mabuti as a false number nine because of his skills in attacking positions and I felt he was a better option than Matsinyane, but still, the supporters are not happy and I don’t know what it is they really want.”
The veteran mentor, who led Matlama to two league titles in the 1990/91 and 2009/10 seasons, said he is still in the process of rebuilding a team that can challenge for honours next season.
“I have won cups with Matlama before and I know that every time the team is doing well, I get fired only to be recalled when the team is underperforming,” Taole said.
“I just need time to get the team ready to be in contention for silverware next season.
“Supporters will always complain, but I know that there are people calling themselves Matlama legends or masters who are creating all these conspiracies because they want the current management to be fired.”
In his view, the team is still doing well with the only glitch being the loss of the LNIG title to Bantu.
“It’s sad that I am being made the scapegoat for the Bantu defeat yet lunch was not provided to the players before playing their semi-final match,” he said.
Should Matlama management decide to fire him, Taole said, he would not return again to the club where he started off as a goalkeeper before being groomed to become a coach.
“This is my fourth term as Matlama coach and I am sacked when the club wins a league title or trophy only for them to come knocking again for my services when the team is not performing well.
“However, if they fire me again, I will never come back to this club because the way they operate is disrespectful to me,” Taole said matter-of-factly.
“There are some people working hard to get me fired because some of them see me as a threat to their accessing the club’s finances. Last weekend the team played without having lunch after the treasurer of the club refused to give us money, yet they expect the team to perform well. These people are not being fair to me.”
On why he prefers to use either Teboho ‘Mota or Relebohile Mabone as midfield anchors instead of Kefuoe “Rasta” Mahula, Taole said: “Rasta is a very good player but I have a problem with his height.
“That is why I always prefer to use him more as an attacking midfielder than as an anchor.”
THE 2-0 drubbing Likuena endured at the hands of the Under 23 Zebras of Botswana on Wednesday is disconcerting to say the least. This is more worrisome considering that our boys were sent to the cleaners in Gaborone by a team of youngsters who are still being considered for their country’s national team.
The game was also meant to prepare the Zebras for the COSAFA games billed for South Africa in May and the All Africa Games to be held this September in Congo Brazzaville, as well as the Olympic qualifiers.
The question that immediately came to mind when I saw our team line-up was how mentor, Seephephe ‘Mochini’ Matete, can achieve his objective of building a long-term team when his starting 11 mainly consisted of senior players. The only new face to start the game was Poloko Mohale, who partnered Nkau Lerotholi in the centre back position.
Can we still continue to say Likuena is in the building phase if the average age of players in the national team is 28?
Lerotholi, Mabuti Potloane, Thapelo Tale, Kholuoe Phasumane and Bokang Mothoana are now in their late twenties and have been regulars in the national team in the preceding years.
This is not to take anything away from the aforementioned players, who still have a few good years ahead of them. However, I was of the opinion that the coach would use the four Under 20 players that recently graduated into the senior team.
Instead, there was only one youngster in the starting line-up on Wednesday night.
Granted, the boys don’t yet have the experience of playing at a senior and international level, as some people have argued. But how will they gain the experience if they cannot even play in friendlies?
In his defence, Matete can only effect short-term plans since he is an interim coach. If our national side has any hope of developing beyond being mere whipping boys in the region and beyond, the Lesotho Football Association needs to appoint a substantive coach with a clear mandate and deliverables.
These lacklustre performances need to become a thing of the past.
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Basketball Association (LBA) gave us all something to cheer about with their glittering awards ceremony held last Friday at a local hotel.
It was refreshing to see those who excelled getting their due recognition especially considering that it had been a while since the LBA had hosted an event of that nature.
I have always said that, of all the sports associations in the country, the LBA stands out in the manner they manage their affairs.
Their commitment and striving to see the growth of their beloved sport is evident for all to see, unlike some who sit back and always complain about lack of funding.
Even with the limited resources they received from the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission, the LBA has gone on to make meaningful developments to basketball in the country.
Although the event started two hours later than was scheduled, it was well worth the wait.
To my knowledge, only the football stars had been honoured by the Premier League Management Committee and the league sponsors, Vodacom.
It was thus a sight for sore eyes for a supposedly small association like LBA to punch above its weight and deliver such an event. It gave me hope again that other associations will follow suit by honouring their heroes in the not too distant future.
The LBA continue to set the bar high for other associations, and hopefully next year’s awards ceremony will be more organised and successful than the recent one especially in terms of time management.
MatLaMa coach ntebele taole.