Fans are in for a treat this weekend as Matlama, Lioli, LCS and Liphakoe go toe-to-toe at Setsoto stadium in the maiden edition of the Alliance Winter Challenge.
The tournament gets underway on Saturday with Lioli taking on Liphakoe at midday, while Matlama battle LCS in the second semi-final of the day, which is expected to kick-off at 2pm. The final and third-place play-off take place the following day at the same venue and the football extravaganza is meant for teams sponsored by Alliance Insurance.
Matlama, LCS and Lioli are all bankrolled by the insurance giant hence their presence in this tournament while premier league newcomers Liphakoe are this year’s guest team following an invitation by the three Alliance-sponsored sides.
Alliance has injected M150 000 into the tournament, but there would be no prize money but only medals for the participating teams, as well as individual awards. According to the organisers of the competition, the four teams would equally share the gate-takings from the two-day event, whose entry tickets are M20 each.
The tournament, according to Alliance, is also part of the teams’ preseason preparations. The 2015/16 premiership campaign gets underway on 22 August.
According to Lioli coach, Mosholu ‘Shoes’ Mokhothu, the tournament could not have come at a better time.
“The tournament will be a good platform for us to fine-tune our preparations for the new season,” Mokhothu said.
“We are going to give the tournament the respect it deserves and we will field our best possible team as the intention is to win the competition.”
Mokhothu, who won the league title with Tse Nala last season, said he was very happy with his squad following a few additions during the offseason.
“I feel our squad is much stronger now than it was last season…I already have a plan for the season ahead and will not even have sleepless nights when it comes to making the team selection,” he said.
Inspirational Matlama defender, Nkau Lerotholi, said the tournament offers Tse Putsoa yet another platform to showcase their arsenal.
“Things have been going well as far as our preseason preparations are concerned. We have done pretty well in most matches we played, including beating Free State Stars 1-0 in a tournament held in Mafeteng last month,” Lerotholi said.
“We are very hungry for success and will use the Alliance Challenge to improve and also see where our weaknesses are.”
Lerotholi, who is also the national team captain, said the recent appointment of Moses Maliehe as coach was a good reunion for most Matlama players.
“Most of us worked with him during our days with the national junior teams, so it’s a big advantage as we already know his coaching philosophy,” Lerotholi said.
“Because of this, I’m very confident we are going to have a successful campaign this time around.”
Liphakoe public relations officer, Theko Tumo, also expressed confidence ahead of the weekend tournament and 2015/16 season.
“Our preparations have been of a high standard because we know Lioli are the league champions and have quality players. We have to prepare very well to compete against them, and that’s exactly what we have done,” Theko said.
“Again, we have a number of players on trials and their future with us could be finalised after this tournament.”
LCS coach Mpitsa Marai has also expressed confidence going into the weekend challenge.
“This tournament gives us a chance to take our preparations to another level so I’m positive of a good result against Matlama, and the final on Sunday,” he said.
“I have seen a lot of positives in the team, especially a very good understanding between the players. However, I’m still looking at adding a few faces into the squad because the target is to win at least one trophy this coming season.”
Saturday: Liphakoe v Lioli (12pm); LCS v Matlam (2pm).
Sunday: Third-place playoff (1pm); Final (3pm).