Can Maduma survive?

MASERU — By the time Maduma kick off their first-ever Vodacom Premier League adventure at the end of August, their name will probably already be well-known around Lesotho.

It is not even two months since Maduma, the Vodacom A-Division Northern Stream champions, were involved in a seemingly never-ending saga with Mpharane Celtics over promotion to the elite league.

After Maduma and Mpharane Celtics were tied on points on the final day of the first division season in mid-March, nearly two months of boardroom battles followed.

Finally a rerun of the final round of matches was ordered and Maduma, who beat Butha-Buthe Fast XI 8-2 on May 13, were promoted by virtue of a superior goal difference after Mpharane Celtics’ opponents Lifefo chickened out.

Now this modest side from Khukhune in Butha-Buthe is unsurprisingly counting the days until they compete in Lesotho’s top division for the first time in their 74-year history.

But amid the celebrations, a quick glance at the statistics may lead to some sobering up in Khukhune.

In short, the stats don’t look too good for Maduma ahead of their first escapade with the big boys.

In the five previous Premiership seasons, seven of the 10 teams which were promoted went straight back down.

Four of them, Mafeteng LMPS and Butha-Buthe Warriors in 2006/07, Qalo in 2007/08 and Sekamaneng Young Stars in 2008/09, conceded 60 goals or more in their debut Premier League seasons.

Maduma’s prospects are dampened further because in three of the previous four seasons a side from Butha-Buthe has been relegated from the top-flight league – Butha-Buthe Warriors in 2006/07, Qalo in 2007/08 and Botha Bothe Roses last season.

In the only season, 2008/09, that a side from the “place of lying down” hasn’t sunk, Botha Bothe Roses finished 14th, only three points above the drop, as Butha-Buthe sides have taken the meaning of their district’s name a bit too seriously.

But still, even with these uncomfortable facts, Maduma board member and first-team player Ntsatsana Phera remains upbeat.

Maduma are ready to buck all these trends, he says.

“Our expectations are very high,” Phera enthuses.

“We want to build football in Butha-Buthe in order to produce players that won’t only play for Maduma, but also for other teams from here.”

Phera, who certainly doesn’t lack confidence, adds his theories as to why Butha-Buthe sides have become the laughing stock once they reach the Promised Land.

“The thing that has killed Butha-Buthe teams has been a lack of togetherness amongst the district’s teams,” he says.

“When one has been promoted the others have not supported it.

“We want to build that love in Butha-Buthe and build a spirit of co-operation.”

“Another downfall has been (the lack of) cohesion,” he adds.

“The coach would be in Maseru, some players would be in Maseru and others would be in Butha-Buthe and the end of the day there is no co-operation and harmony.

“Butha-Buthe has a lot of talented players that we can beat our chests over.

“Let me say if for Roses there had been co-operation then they would have survived.”

As it is, Maduma’s targets are very high.

Never mind the fact the team is made up of unknown players, or that their coach Pitso Mphunyane will only be in his second season as a coach after joining Maduma from his job as a teacher at Khukhune High School in 2008, Phera insists Maduma are not here just to make up the numbers.

“No,” Phera affirms. “We don’t just want to survive relegation. We want to jump to the top.

“There will be four teams that will get relegated (at the end of the season).

“Our aim has to be high — at least if you fail, you will land higher.”

“That is the task of the coach,” Phera adds. “If we have failed at least we should have won 10 matches after the (13) first round (matches).

“We want to use the system of professional teams, and if can we get the coach the players he wants there is no reason why we shouldn’t.”

As part of their preparations Phera says Maduma are upgrading their Khukhune stadium, a small secluded ground that certainly won’t be friendly to visitors.

One visitor Phera is especially excited to welcome is star-studded Lioli.

“That is the game we want to play. We played Lioli in the A-Division (in 2002); they beat us at home and we drew away,” Phera says, adding the game between Maduma and Lioli would be a football spectacle.

So how will Maduma approach the Vodacom Premier League?

How does the Khukhune team play?

“Attacking football, carpet (football),” Phera says. “We are not afraid to put the ball on the ground and play.”

In short, according to Phera, this is the vigour with which Maduma will approach the top-flight as they seek to give Butha-Buthe, a district that has eternally been starved of success, something to shout about.

Over the years Maseru has had Matlama, Berea has Teyateyaneng giants Lioli, Leribe has Linare and Mafeteng has Bantu, while Mohale’s Hoek has had Majantja.

Butha-Buthe in contrast has never had such luck.

Maduma are here to change that, Phera says, and hopefully write another glorious chapter in their history.

“To finally be in the Premier League is something we are proud of,” Phera says.

“We could have been here a long time ago, but because this is a team without riches sometimes there was no transport, and you were already stressed before the game.

“But God has carried us. We worked hard in the A-Division.

“Now we have closed that page of the A-Division, we have opened the page of the Premier League.”

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