MASERU — The year 2009 was one full of drama for domestic football and the Lesotho Times takes a look at some of the most notable events that took place over the past 12 months.
Zavisa MilosavljevicLikuena coach fired
After leading Lesotho in 17 international matches — losing nine, drawing six and winning only twice — Likuena’s Serbian coach, Zavisa Milosavljevic was fired just 18 months into his tenure.
The 47-year-old’s time in charge also included Lesotho’s worst ever qualifying campaign, when Likuena lost all their six matches — scoring only two goals and conceding 12 — in last year’s 2010 Fifa World Cup/Afcon qualifiers.
Slight improvements in the side’s on-field fortunes in 2009, were not enough to save Milosavljevic, who was subsequently sacked on September 5, after the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA)’s national executive committee said it had reviewed the coach’s performance over “a period of a year and a half”.
The Serbian ―who had earned US$10 000 (M76 000) per month, in a contract due to expire in 2011― was immediately replaced on a caretaker basis by his assistant, Leslie Notši. No word has since come from Lefa as to the identity of Likuena’s next full-time coach.
Said Lefa said in a statement released on September 5: “It has become obvious to the NEC and football fraternity that there are no prospects of improving the performance of the senior national team and the ranking of Lesotho, under the auspices of Mr Milosavljevic.”
Vodacom strikes deal with Lefa
Since 2002, local football had been so inextricably associated with Econet-Telecom Lesotho — through its product Buddie — the term Buddie was synonymous with Lesotho’s top league.
That era saw a gradual upturn from the mess at the turn of the century but that was to change in 2009.
In August, there was talk — and later official confirmation — of a multi-million Maloti deal between Lefa and Econet’s bitter rivals, Vodacom-Lesotho to stage the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular. So incensed were Econet, they reportedly threatened a pullout of their sponsorship of local football, altogether just before the Premier League awards in August.
But despite much Buddie-smooching by Lefa at those awards, Vodacom Lesotho had launched the M1 million Vodacom Soccer Spectacular by the end of August.
Vodacom then went one step further by announcing sponsorship of the Premier League and all Lesotho leagues for M1 million a year, for the next three years in October.
“Today, we are celebrating the beginning of a new family. (To) Vodacom, we are thankful for your support and to the teams, we need to hold hands and work together,” Premier League chairman and Lefa vice-president Tlholo Letete, said at the Vodacom Premier League launch in October.
No Lesotho teams in CAF competition
In short, it was the great betrayal. On November 19, Lefa announced no side would participate in either the CAF Champions League or Confederation Cup, next year.
Lefa’s reason was there would be “no venue to host the home matches of the 2010 CAF interclub matches”. Lefa’s NEC further resolved it would not “defer any participation of any team to any future date” — very clear language indeed.
The only problem was, at the time, Lefa were facing a court challenge from Lioli — the rightful owners of the slot — because the association had promised LCS participation in the Champions League on no solid grounds. Lefa’s decision effectively settled that argument.
Lioli complained the decision was meant to sabotage their court case, in which they argued the 2010 CAF interclub competitions had not been subject to the availability of Setsoto but their performance in the 2008/09 season.
But at the end, Lefa’s bungling of the matter meant Lesotho would be the only country on the continent not having any teams in the two competitions.
“Whoever wins the league title this season and LCS, will participate in Africa. We are going to send teams to African competitions. Last year, LEFA said LCS would represent Lesotho in Africa in 2010 because they had not participated in 2009 and we are not going to renege on that decision,” said Lefa acting chief executive officer, Mokhosi Mohapi, in April.
Lioli win league championship
Lioli’s Premiership victory was the crowning glory of a superb season and Tse Nala’s first league title in 24 years. For two months, the side had fought tooth-and-claw with their army counterparts from Ratjomose LDF.
And it had been a tough battle. Winning thirteen out of sixteen matches since January, the LDF had forged a seven-point lead atop the Premier League, by April.
But when LDF dropped two points on the last weekend of April — drawing 0-0 against Matlama — they gave Lioli a mathematical chance of winning the league title. Lioli had scented blood and were to embark on a seven-match winning streak, including a 3-0 thumping of LDF.
Going into the final match, Lioli were top with 69 points ahead of their visit to Joy; a victory for Tse Nala would see them crowned kings. However, any slips and second-placed LDF — on 68 points — would pip them, with a win against Majantja at Ratjomose. And things didn’t start so well in Hlotse. Joy were ahead within 10 minutes and a rattled Lioli seemed like they would relinquish “their” title. But Bushy Moletsane pulled them level, before Malebanye Ramoabi scored the most important goal of his career late in the game. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I’m very happy; I’m happy for the team and for the people of TY. This is a big achievement,” Lioli coach Mosholi Mokhothu said after the hard-fought win over Joy in May.
Matlama win Vodacom Soccer Spectacular
Matlama became the richest club in Lesotho football history when they beat LCS in the final of the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular on a Sunday afternoon in Roma last month.
The win came courtesy of Hlomelang Theko’s goal — their first major crown since becoming Top Four kings in 2007.
The finals weekend will forever be remembered for the apparent resurgence of Matlama’s fan base. It was also a fitting close to a tournament which brought so much excitement to the local football community.
“Let’s be thankful to the Gods; let’s be thankful to our ancestors. Matlama has a long, proud history and most of the time, when the club is experiencing problems, that is when it does even better,” Matlama president, Ikhetheleng Matabane proclaimed after the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular victory.
Lesotho wins for the first time in a year
When Lesotho beat Mauritius, midfielder Bokang Mothoana scored a minute from time as Lesotho beat Mauritius 1-0 in Harare at the Cosafa Senior Challenge in October. Although the result was not enough to see Lesotho progress beyond the group stage of the competition, it was the first time Likuena had won an international match since beating the Comoros at the same competition, last July.
“To us the Cosafa is a very important tournament. That’s when each country plays to be the champion of the region. It’s important to us now, when we are building a team for the 2012 African Nations Cup and 2014 World Cup qualifiers,” Likuena caretaker coach, Leslie Notši said after the Senior Challenge pre-tournament function in Harare.