Celtics says ready for the big league

MASERU — August always feels like a crossroads, a time when the year is at a lull and bills seem to pile up like dirty laundry.
But in football August is a month that brings new beginnings and a breath of fresh air.
For newly-promoted Mpharane Celtics this couldn’t be more true.
When the Vodacom Premier League season kicks off on August 27 the tiny Leribe outfit will for the first time dine at the biggest table amongst Lesotho’s big boys.
It is the stuff dreams are made of and a dream that was three years in the making, only to be realised in May when Celtics thumped Butha-Buthe Fast XI 3-0 to secure their place in the Vodacom Premiership.
It’s a contrast to the mood at the same time last year when Celtics’ efforts to make it to the premiership were scuppered at the last minute.
Celtics had finished the 2009/10 first division season level on points with Maduma but then suffered the heart break of losing promotion on goal difference.
The promotion is a reminder of how quickly things can change and a caution. Mpharane Celtics are the youngest football franchise to make it into the top-flight after they were promoted to the Vodacom A-Division in 2009.
They are aware that the euphoria of reaching the top-flight has to be matched by the recognition that adding experience is paramount for Celtics’ survival.
Of the two sides promoted sides, the other being Majantja, Celtics seem more vulnerable.
Majantja have at least had the luxury of tasting the premiership two seasons back.
History also isn’t on Celtics’ side. In the six previous Premiership seasons eight of the 12 teams which were promoted went straight back down.
Thankfully Celtics have shown the willingness to scour the market in order to strengthen their exciting but inexperienced squad.
They are close to signing former Likuena internationals Refiloe Potse and Moli Lesesa from Leribe rivals Linare and Joy respectively.
Their possible additions will go some way to allay the fears among many of the side’s fans that because of their inexperience in top football they might be relegated back to the junior division at the end of the season.
Celtics have a talented young squad to build on. Last season’s top scorer and Makoanyane XI promise, Lebajoa Mosehlanyane, has remained with the team and is joined by the promising Neo Mpotulle and Moramonyane Moroosi.
Their coach Freeze Ntene is quietly confident. “So far so good, our preparations are going well,” he said on Tuesday.
“What we need is experience. Most of the players that we have are young and to fight the pressure we need to sign one or two more players with experience.”
According to Ntene the side will be able to deal with the departure of their captain, Moeketsi Mofokeng, who has returned home to Butha-Buthe and could join Maduma.
Ntene is also looking forward to the challenge of the Vodacom Premier League and says his charges will approach each game on its merits.
“If we look at certain individuals in the teams we will be playing it will kill us. As long as they are in the premier league, whether it is Lioli, Matlama or LCS, our aim is to beat them,” Ntene said.
“I don’t want say which position we want to finish come end of season,” he added. “We are here to compete. According to how we have prepared I believe we can have a good season.”
The team’s approach, Ntene noted, won’t change either. Last season Celtics recorded the most wins in the first division, scored the highest number of goals and had the best goal difference.
This offensive style could be a gift or curse in a premiership season that will be the toughest in a very long time with only 12 teams contesting.
Celtics have to hit the ground running starting with the opening game when they host go-getting Bantu on the first day of the season. Celtics then face Maduma, Matlama, LDF, Likhopo and Majantja.
Only time will tell if Mpharane Celtics have what it takes to prolong their stay in the elite league.

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