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Buti-Buti bares soul

by Sunday Express
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Mojalefa ‘Buti-Buti’ Mokhali Sefali is a name that invokes fond memories among die-hard football fans. The former Lioli, LDF and Western Deep Mine (South Africa) and national team midfielder is rated among Lesotho’s greatest footballers with his exploits in the 1970s, still remembered by those who were lucky enough to see him in action for the Teyateyaneng-based outfit.

Now 56 years of age and employed by Lesotho Freight Bus Services Corporation, Sefali is surprisingly hardly seen at football matches, and the former national team anchor tells Sunday Express (SE) sports reporter, Moorosi Tsiane why.

SE: I hear you were quite a sight on the ball during your time, yet you are hardly seen at football matches these days…

Sefali: {laughs} Well, you know people talk, and sometimes, they even exaggerate things. But if that is what they say about me, then I am happy they looked at me that way.

As for not coming to matches, all I can say is I have too much on my plate now. You see, we were so unfortunate that football alone could not give us a decent life those days, and we had to hassle for jobs to look after ourselves and our families. I guess nothing much has changed but like I said, I had to look for a job to earn a decent living.

SE: At least you are doing something now to put food on the table for your family. But could you tell us how the name ‘Buti-Buti’ came about?

Sefali: That is the other name I was given from my mother’s side of the family because my grandmother could not use the name Mojalefa because of this tradition thing. But then I don’t know what happened because all I know is it was the most popular of my names and that’s how I became known in football circles.

SE: When did you start playing football?

Sefali: When I was at Assumption Primary School in 1970. I was around 10 years old at the time, and that was the time I joined Lioli’s development team, (Bafana ba Lioli). I played for this feeder-team until 1976 when I was promoted to the senior side.

I still remember my debut match for Lioli. We were playing Maseru United and we lost the match although I have forgotten the margin.

SE: It must have been a baptism of fire for you then, and not the dream start you had hoped for?

Sefali: Not at all, my brother. I mean, no one wants to lose, especially in their first match but the positive thing is I had a very good game that day and that was something to build on going forward.

SE: So what happened after that first match?

Sefali: I stayed with Lioli for four years and then joined the army side LDF. I still remember one of the matches we played against Lioli with LDF, where I scored. It was a league match in 1981. I was so happy to have scored against my former side.

SE: Did you only play for Lioli and LDF who I understand were two of the biggest teams in Lesotho at the time?

Sefali: Ehhh…officially yes, but I would also be picked by the likes of Rovers, Matlama and Maseru Brothers when they were playing international matches.

Apart from that, I also played for Western Deep Mine for about three years from 1993 to 1995.

SE: I am told during your days, the stadiums would be full each time the big guns clashed, but this is hardly the case now. What do you think has changed since then?

Sefali: Football used to be fun those years, and mind you, we were only playing for entertainment. Maybe that is why people would always go to stadiums because they knew they would get exactly what they were there for, which was exciting football. So it is a different case now as football has become a business. In as much as it is a good thing that now one knows they can sustain a very luxurious life through the game, I think it has lost its purpose of entertaining and this why stadiums are never full now. This has become even worse because as Africans, we have shifted too much into western countries’ style of play.

SE: How is this?

Sefali: Let me tell you; I was a Number Six in my time and you know what they used to say back then that Number Six plays everywhere on the pitch. That was me; I could score, mark and display some flair at the same time, so  I was an all-rounder, who could give fans everything in a single match.

SE: And who was your craziest teammate, if one could put it that way but without meaning any harm or malice?

Sefali: The craziest teammate I ever played with was Jiji Lebone at Lioli. The guy could make anyone laugh anytime when he wanted and that was good for our team then.

But again the most serious guy was the late Seutloali ‘Telephone’ Seutloali. This one you wouldn’t want to mess with; he was always business and also a good motivator. He was more of a player-coach also at Lioli.

SE: Any player who used to give you a hard time each time you faced him in a match? And again, who were your favourite players?

Sefali: Hmmm… Mahao ‘Bomber’ Matete of Matlama…the gentleman was so good, believe me; he could do anything with the ball and was a tough opponent. As for my favorite players, these were Tšeliso ‘Frisco’ Khomari, Dingane Mefane (late), Makara ‘Cura’ Ntšohi, Khatibe Tšiu and Lekoaetose Mosala.

SE: You have mentioned that football has changed from your days. But why do you think we have failed to move with the times? Why is our national team, Likuena, now the whipping boys of the continent and what do you think needs to be done to change this?

Sefali: During our time, we were a force especially in southern Africa. I tell you the likes of Ace Khuse and Doctor Khumalo would travel from Gauteng to Lesotho to watch us play. Countries like Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique knew us well and to be honest with you there is nothing that can be done apart from encouraging our boys to put more effort into their game.

I have told you that during our time, money was not a priority when playing the game. We did it out of passion so there was commitment from all of us which is something that is lacking from the current crop of players.

The sad thing is this country is blessed with talent, but the players, like I said, lack passion and commitment so until that changes, we will always stay the whipping boys of the rest of Africa.

SE: Let’s go back to your playing days. You spoke about leaving Lioli for LDF. So does it mean from 1980 to 1993 you were with LDF?

Sefali: No, no, no… I really hit a hard time at LDF {pauses for a moment}. Eish, there was this other guy (teammate) who would always be on my case and our then coach (name withheld) seemed to always be on his side. I was really going through hell, my brother. I tell you this guy would just play me rough if we happened to be on different teams during our sessions and would tell me straight to my face that he also had his own boots and the coach would always ignore that.

SE: That doesn’t sound good at all…so how did it end?

Sefali: You know it came to a point where this guy would attack me on the streets and I said enough is enough. The same thing happened when we were in town and we ended up in a fight so I shot him and he died {pauses for a moment}. These are some of those things that one never wants to think about. That guy nearly destroyed my life. I lost a job in the army and I was sentenced to seven years in prison from 1988 to 1992.

A year after I was released from prison, I decided to go to the South African mines. That is where I played for Western Deep for three years and came back to rejoin Lioli, where I ended my career in the mid-90s.

SE: So with such a rich football history, why are you not part of the management of the local game?

Sefali: Like I said, I have got too many commitments now. I think the last time I was at any of the local premier league matches was in 2012. Lioli were playing Majantja in Mohal’e Hoek and I was with a group of youngsters I am working with in my village, TY Ha Molemane, during my spare time.

SE: Have you ever be in a team that used muti?

Sefali: Yes; teams would use muti during my time. I don’t know if it is still happening but at both LDF and Lioli, we used to use it. However, what always surprised me was we would still lose matches even after using the muti {laughs}.

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