MASERU — The modest Leribe village of Ha-Nyenye has become the latest part of Lesotho to be represented in the country’s elite football league.
When the 2009/2010 edition of the Premier League kicks off in September, Nyenye Rovers will run onto the field to battle the mighty LCS, Lioli or Matlama.
Nyenye Rovers have been promoted from Lesotho’s second-tier division after their 1-0 win over Mokhotlong LMPS, coupled with Butha-Buthe Fast XI’s 1-1 draw against Berea LMPS, saw them win the A-Division Northern Stream on Sunday.
“To be honest it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Hopolang Ntseli, co-owner of Nyenye Rovers, told the Lesotho Times on Monday.
“I don’t have words to explain. Right now we are just going to rest after this long journey (from Mokhotlong).”
It might take a while for the achievement to sink in.
Nyenye Rovers, only formed in 2002, are the latest fairytale story in Lesotho football.
After registering in the C-Division in 2002 the team had gained promotion by end of the season.
The side then spent four years in the B-Division before winning promotion to the A-Division at the start of this campaign.
Now, seven years after their birth, they have reached the “promised land”.
“At the beginning of the season we told ourselves that if we did badly we would finish second,” Ntseli said.
Nevertheless Nyenye Rovers, coached by Thabang Phohlolo, didn’t start off well.
In fact, when the first division went for recess in December the side were fourth, way off the pace set by Qalo.
“We started off badly and in the first round we lost four games,” Ntseli said.
The new year however, according to Ntseli, brought a change in style and a change in fortunes.
“We changed our approach as a team,” he said.
“We were promoted as a team that played nice, attractive football.
“But you would find that we would be the better team and still lose.
“So we decided to minimise the passing and simply play winning football.
“As a result we didn’t play the most impressive football but it worked.”
The support of the community, gradually improving over the course of the season, was also a major catalyst.
“You know people support a team when it’s winning, which is what happened with us,” Ntseli said.
“At the beginning the enthusiasm wasn’t there but as the season (and the team) progressed they were really behind us.”
In the final reckoning it is Nyenye Rovers’ second-round form that has got them where they are.
They won an incredible eight from nine games.
But it could all have been so different.
With four games to go Rovers lost 2-0 at home to Roaring Lions.
“To be honest we thought it was over,” Ntseli admitted.
That result handed the initiative to Butha-Buthe Fast XI who led the standings till the final day of the season.
However, Fast XI’s unexpected home draw with Berea LMPS gifted Nyenye Rovers the title.
“I must say we were just praying that we would get here because it was out of our hands. It’s a blessing that we are here,” Ntseli said.
Attention now turns to the Premier League and the improvements are no doubt needed both on and off the field.
“We are going to have to improve our team,” Ntseli said.