MASERU — From a church team to Lesotho’s elite premier league — this is the route that Joy Football Club have travelled since 2002.
In just eight years the club has cemented its place in Lesotho’s elite football league.
When the league kicks off this month Joy will seek to continue their dramatic rise to fame.
Considering that the Sebothoane side were playing in Lesotho’s fourth tier league in 2003, the club’s rise to fame is nothing short of phenomenal.
There have been other fairy-tale boys in the league such as School Boys, Lifefo, Sekamaneng Young Boys or Nyenye Rovers.
Most of these failed to sustain their stay in the league and were duly relegated.
Joy owe their continued stay in the league to a prudent management style by the club’s executive committee.
The reality however is that Joy must grow up fast if they are to remain in the league.
Worryingly the side has stagnated over the past 12 months after finishing eighth in the then 16-team league in the 2008/09 season.
Last season saw the club finish ninth on the log.
Although the season was far from being a total failure the team were also far from inspiring, winning just nine out of 30 matches.
They also scored just 29 times in the league.
Joy manager Tsepang Molapo however insists the team is still on a learning curve.
“Even though we have been here for some seasons we are still a young team in the Premier League and we are still learning,” Molapo says.
Still, within this learning process, Joy will need to find some balance on several fronts this season.
First the club is no longer youthful as claimed.
The Sebothoane side is made up of the same sturdy veterans, such as Relebohile Maphuroane, 31, and Nkosi Tshabalala, 35, who have manfully carried Joy over the years.
But age is finally beginning to catch up with these veterans.
Indeed Molapo’s description of Joy as an old team is not a joke.
There is almost a chasm between their thoroughbreds and the youngsters in the team with some of the young players still in school and therefore unavailable for selection at crucial moments in the season.
The challenge is to find a balance in the age of the squad.
“Our boys are school children, for example Basia (Makepa) is the captain of his school team,” Molapo says, explaining one of the problems Joy face every season.
On the field Joy’s challenge will be to find consistent form at home to balance out their decent performances on their travels.
Last season the Sebothoane outfit had one of the worst home records in the league collecting just 20 points from a possible 45.
The only sides with worse records were Majantja, Nyenye Rovers, Rovers and Botha-Bothe Roses.
All will be playing First Division football this season.
Molapo cites a variety of factors, including pressure from fans at home, for their struggles.
Whatever the case Joy have to find a way of winning matches at home — any side’s backbone during the league campaign.
In their care-free infant days Joy were one of the more exciting teams but last season the side, coached by Motlatsi Thibinyane, adopted a more pragmatic approach, usually playing with one striker upfront.
With the goal for many clubs being to survive this brutal season and remain unscathed for the 2011/12 premiership, a cautious approach is accepted.
However as with all small sides Joy will have selection headaches as a result of the crazy time that is the offseason.
Joy have lost their best player from last season, Shetsane Ramoseeka, who has left for Lioli.
There are also doubts over their greatest product, Moli Lesesa, while first-choice goalkeeper Liteboho Mokhehle looks likely to move to champions Matlama.
Thankfully in Basia Makepa and Jeremea Kamela they have two of the finest young talents in Lesotho.
Joy have managed to hold on to the Makoanyane XI pair and much could depend on them this season.
Perhaps it is their young verve that will help reinvigorate Joy in what is sure to be their toughest season ever.
Indeed a ninth-place finish again could be a good achievement.
Molapo says Joy are targeting the top four.
“We aim high so we can fall in the middle,” Molapo says. “My players can compete in the Premier league. I think they will deliver.”