By Mikia Kalati
The new league season roars into life on Saturday and we hope that the opening matches will live up to expectation after a tumultuous off season that saw a lot of movement by both players and coaches.
Just like last season, it seems this league campaign will once again start before the new sponsorship deal between the league body and Vodacom Lesotho is announced.
Negotiations are still ongoing.
We are surely expecting a better and bigger season on and off the field of play from the clubs and the football authorities.
The previous campaign was marred by a lot of controversy and we hope for the better especially after the premier league appointed an administrator who will oversee the day-to-day running of the league.
The league kicks off with a double header on Saturday that will see Linare play LMPS in the first match with former league champions, LCS and Joy to follow later in the afternoon.
It will be interesting to see whether the Hlotse-based giants, who are without a major trophy for the past three decades, can produce the same performance that won them the pre-season King’s Cup tournament.
Linare is under the mentorship of the legendary Thulo Leboela who has promised to bring the glory days back to his beloved home team.
They have a group of exciting youngsters and experienced campaigners such as skipper Mabuti Potloane, striker Moorosi Tšiu and goalkeeper Dyke Tšiu who have all shown potential to help Linare be a force to reckon.
League champions Lioli begin their title defence against Mpharane Celtic in Teyateyaneng on Sunday.
Tse Nala have been the busiest team during the off-season having signed over eight players while Mosholu “Shoes” Mokhothu returns to the club to replace Lehlohonolo Thotanyana who led the club to a league title last season.
The biggest challenge for Mokhothu will be keeping his big squad happy as every player will be expecting some game time and the microscope will be on the likes of Jeremiah Kamele and Basia Makepe who were regulars at their old clubs.
Last season’s runners up, Bantu, are still in the hunt for their first league title and will be motivated to end the long trophy drought in the new season after coming close last season. A Matšo Matebele have brought in coach Motlatsi Shale to try and help them end their long wait for the biggest prize in domestic football.
The Mafeteng-based side have also captured the signature of talented former youth international, Tsebang Lebata, who has been in the wilderness that saw him play for his home team Liphakoe in the A Division.
Lebata surprised everyone two seasons ago when he quit top-flight football and turned out in the colours of his home team in the lower division.
He was the top goal scorer for Leslie Notši’s Under-20 team when they qualified for the 2011 Caf African Youth Championships.
He will be expected to fill the boots of last season’s top goal scorer, Litšepe Marabe, who left for greener pastures in South Africa.
The country’s most successful club Matlama start the campaign against league rookies Mphatlalatsane who return to top-flight football after a few years in the lower division.
The St Monica’s side is under the mentorship of former Likuena skipper Tšepo Hlojeng while they also have former Lesotho international, Molefe Makhele, within their technical team.
Tse Putsoa recently parted ways with coach Mokoena Mohale and former players Lehlohonolo Mokhele and Sello Seholoholo are currently in charge of the team before the new head coach is appointed.
They had a disappointing campaign last season and a lot will be expected from them in the new season.
Well, I have to say it is a bit disappointing that the A Division league is still without a sponsor just less than a month before their campaign starts.
If they do not get a new sponsor, it will be for the second season that Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) will sponsor the lower league from their coffers.
A little over a fortnight ago, the Matekane Group of Companies and Nthane Brothers each pledged M150 000 to Likuena during a gala dinner held for the team by Minister of Sports Thesele Maseribane.
However, one would wonder how our leagues continue to struggle to get sponsors when companies continue to show their eagerness to invest in sports as proved by the pledges during the Likuena gala dinner.
Does this have to do with a lack of accountability within our sports bodies? Have companies lost their trust on those in leadership of our football?
This week I have to conclude this column on a sad note.
I wish to take an opportunity to pass my condolences to the Mpopo family after the sudden passing of Lesotho Television cameraman Tšepe Mpopo who died on Sunday after a short illness.
He was one of the few humble gentlemen in the media industry.
He still had so much to offer to his country.
I came to know Mpopo, who was in his late 30s, during my days as a communications officer at Lefa as we discussed among many topics the challenges facing sports in our country.
May his soul rest in peace.