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‘Football was not for sissies those days’


Down memory lane

HE was a household name in his heyday, but former national team dribbling wizard, Keteng ‘Lekoaetose’ Mosala, is hardly seen at football matches these days.

Mosala played for School Boys, Mangaung United, Frasers (Bloemfontein) Celtic and Maseru Boys in a fruitful career that started in the 1970s.

Mosala (60), who is working for the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), goes down memory lane and tells Sunday Express (SE) sports reporter, Moorosi Tsiane, why he is hardly seen at the game that brought him national prominence.

SE: I am told you are one of the greatest players Lesotho has ever produced. Do you believe we can still produce players of your calibre?

Mosala: {laughs} Those were the days…I don’t think football will ever produce that kind of excitement again. As for the type of players we had those times, I don’t know if the country can produce that quality again.

SE: So let’s go back to where and when it all started…

Mosala: I can’t even remember the year but it was in the early 70s with my maiden team, School Boys. From School Boys, I went on to join Mangaung United in the South African lower division, and in the late 70s, I was recommended to Bloemfontein Celtic by my former teammate at School Boys, Tšeliso ‘Frisco’ Khomari.

I stayed at Celtic until 1981 when they were demoted from the topflight league. I was then asked to come back home and play for Maseru Brothers, who were in the top league at the time.

SE: What do you think has changed since then?

Mosala: The difference is back then, we were playing the game simply because of passion for the sport. At times, we had no coaches but the players would still come for training, which means we did not need to be pushed to be involved with the game. We would train on our own and if a stranger happened to pass by our training ground, they would not know that we did not have any coaches present. That’s how passionate we were about the sport.

It is a different case now, as most of the players need to be pushed or even threatened in order to train. Most of the players are not passionate about the game at all, unlike during my time when everyone was equally committed to the game. That is the difference between the two generations—ours and the current one. That’s why our players cannot find clubs outside the country, which never used to happen in our days as we would get teams in South Africa.

SE: Could it be that the situation in South Africa was not as tough at the time as it is now, where they can sign players from anywhere in the world because of the huge salaries the clubs are offering these days?

Mosala: No; not at all. It was never easy to find a team in South Africa. You just had to be focused and very committed to make it in South Africa as their leagues were still very competitive.

SE: How was football in Lesotho at the time?

Mosala: Those were good times, my brother. Football used to be fun back then, I am telling you the then National Stadium, which is now called Setsoto, would be packed each time we played, which is not happening that often these days.

SE: Why was this?

Mosala: The answer is very simple; we had very good and skilful players at the time. You would feel the tension in each player so everybody always had to work extra hard on the day. Before the match, the tension was even higher and we would push ourselves in training. As for me, I used to train so hard on my own, do all the tricks when I was alone and try them in training with the other players. I could even score from the corner because of constant practice, and generally, I was so sharp with my shooting.

SE: Is that how the name Lekoaetose came about?

Mosala:  As School Boys, we used to play many matches against Orlando Pirates, so they had this player called Elias Makoaetose Shuffle Mokopane. He was left-footed and could just do almost anything with the ball. I was then given the name Lekoaetose by my teammates, who said I played like him.

SE: Talking about skilful players, you are counted among Lesotho’s best. But were there any defenders or opponents who gave you a hard time?

Mosala: Well, there was this one defender who used to play for Bantu. His name was Nepi. Playing against him was always a painful experience for me because he was one of those hard-tackling defenders. He would just kick you any time and when you tried to retaliate, you would be the one to suffer more and not him.

SE: So it was not easy to be a footballer at the time, then…

Mosala: Back then, football was not for sissies. There were bullies in the teams of those days and one couldn’t survive without a big heart. Going to the match I always knew that I should be prepared for anything.

Your opponent would be on your case for the entire 90 minutes, swearing at you and doing anything to scare you.

I remember when I was still playing for School Boys, I didn’t have soccer boots and played barefoot. So this means I didn’t have any shin-pads to protect me from the kicking of our opponents. I had to be tough to last the 90 minutes.

SE: Any good or bad moments you would like to share with us?

Mosala: I remember this other league match where we were playing Matlama. I was with School Boys at the time. We scored three goals before the break and soon after half time, they made sure Frisco did not get the ball and a few minutes later, he was kicked and couldn’t continue with the match.

Matlama managed to come back from those two goals and beat us 4-3.

SE: It must have been the worst feeling ever…

Mosala: My brother…most of my family members were Matlama supporters and every time we played Matlama, I would try to make sure we did not lose the match. We could lose to any other team but not against Matlama. I was so angry that day when we lost.

As for my best memory, it will have to be our game against Linare. It was also a league match and I scored twice; we beat them 3-2. We went to the break trailing 2-1, and the late Tšeliso Kolane scored our other goal. We came back from the break so strong and in no time, my name was there on the scoresheet and towards the dying minutes I buried them with a stunning volley.

SE: Did you ever play for a team that use muti?

Mosala: I don’t think there was any team that did not use muti back then, but it was used in different forms. Whether you believed in it or not, you would use it because it was used in the name of the team.

SE: You have said compared to your time, the standard of the game has gone down now. What do you think needs to be done to improve the situation?

Mosala: Development is very important in football and I remember back then, every club used to have its feeder-side. That is how we were able to produce new players all the time. Now it is a challenge because children are more focused on too many things and are losing that passion for sport. The few that we have don’t get full attention and therefore, lack simple basics.

Let me tell you,  during our playing days, we were never beaten by the likes of Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Malawi just to name but a few of our neighbours. We were not the whipping boys of this continent the way we are now.

SE: You are a respected member of Lesotho’s football fraternity, but do you feel like a legend?

Mosala: A legend in this country? I wasn’t even aware that we had such people so that tells you the state we are in, as far as football is concerned. I don’t know about the others but as for me, I have never been treated like one.


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