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‘I am going to coach Likuena again’

 

He was a slippery midfielder who made scoring goals look easy and that uncanny talent made Seephephe Matete a darling of the fans at Matlama, Bloemfontein Celtic and Real Hearts (Welkom) football clubs. Popularly known as ‘Mochini’ in his heyday, Matete has remained in the game and is currently with the Lesotho Football Association. The former national team midfielder and coach, took Sunday Express (SE) reporter Moorosi Tsiane on a journey into his past—a history the current generation could learn from if they are to scale the heights reached by this formidable football icon.

SE: Following your dismissal as national team coach (in October last year), surely there is no more pressure on your shoulders…

Matete: {laughs} Morena (Chief), I am really a free man now. I have left all that with Mos (Moses Maliehe) but I am still carrying out my duties as CAF (Confederation of African Football) coaches’ instructor and I also have new commitments here at LeFA.

SE: I hear you were a star during your playing days…could you take us back in time just to give us a feel of how things were back then.

Matete: My football career dates way back to1970/71 when I was playing for Matlama’s development side (Bafana ba Matlama). I was at St James Anglican Primary School then and our principal, Ntate Likate, was a Matlama official.

Ntate Likate realised I was good and once he noticed that any of the students had a good foot, he would take you to Matlama, so that is how it all started.

SE: So you really had no choice but to play for Tse Putsoa?

Matete: I had no chance to refuse my brother, but I think I was lucky to be at such a big club at that age. We would have many tournaments during those days and I remember that in 1972, we played a final at Setsoto Stadium against Linare. That was one of my memorable occasions. The match ended 2-all and we had to share the trophy. That same year, I was promoted to the B team, but after one season, I joined the senior side. That was in 1973.

SE: Before we go any further, tell us how you got the nickname Mochini?

Matete: {laughs} I was given that name right here (pointing outside his office) at Bambatha Tsita Sports Arena. You know before this building was constructed, there was an open space here and it was being used by Maseru West residents and most of them were white.

They used to play football here so one day, we decided to challenge them with our Matlama B team. And as I was dribbling past them, the late Manqena Mokitimi gave me the name, saying ‘enoa he ke Mochini’, literally meaning I was a machine who could do anything.

SE: You must have been a great player then….

Matete: Let me tell you; my first-team debut for Matlama was against LDF in a league match we won 4-1 and I scored one of the goals. It was a dream debut for me and those are good moments one does not want to forget. I was on top of my game that day even though I was only 15 years of age. In 1974, I played my first cup final for Matlama against LDF and we beat them 1-0.

SE: Matlama didn’t want to see LDF those days; there was a bitter rivalry between the two giants…

Matete: What I can say is that football was just good back then because teams were allowed to use guest players and that’s what made our football more competitive. I remember in our Matlama team, we used to call the likes of Stanley ‘Screamer’ Tshabalala who was playing for Kaizer Chiefs at the time.

SE: You only spoke about St James primary school. Did you play at secondary school?

 Matete: When I was at St Agnes High, I was also playing for the school team. We won the Lesotho Institutions of Sports Associations (LISA) Games soccer trophy from 1974 to 1977.

SE: So you also had a good team at your school?

Matete: Yes; there were very good players at St Agnes, hence we were dominating tournaments.

SE: What happened from there?

Matete: It was business as usual from there. I continued with my football with Matlama; at some point I would be picked by Lioli, Rovers and LDF when they were going for international matches.

SE: And when was your first national team call-up?

Matete: It was in 1975 and I was only 17 years of age. We were playing Swaziland on their  independence day. The stadium was packed, so you can just imagine how a teenager would feel playing under such an atmosphere. It was so frightening but as soon as the game started, my mind was only on the field and I had a good game. We lost the match 3-2 and I scored all our goals for yet another dream debut.

SE: That must be another highlight of your career…

Matete: You can just imagine! I was so happy but sad at the same time because we lost the match. However, it was a great feeling to have scored a brace in my first full international match.

SE: Any bad moments in your career you will never forget?

Matete: I was Matlama coach in 1989, and we were playing our last league match against Swallows. We only needed a point to be crowned champions but guess what? Three minutes into the match, we were a goal down. I have never been that frustrated. We struggled to get that point and at the end, we lost 2-0 while Arsenal, who were also challenging for the title, won their match and were crowned league champions.

SE: You played for Celtic and Real Hearts in South Africa…what was it like compared to home?

Matete: I had a short spell with Celtic in 1977 as I was still playing for Matlama. Celtic would also pick me for some of their matches but it wasn’t that easy because I would only go there if Matlama did not have a match. It was quite challenging because at some point, I would get in trouble with Matlama management but the good thing is I was making good money with Celtic.

SE: How much were you getting?

Matete: {laughs} I was working in the government by that time and was only earning M50 a month, which I was making in one match at Celtic. I was so tempted to leave my job here and go play for them fulltime. I mean, making the same amount of money in a day, which I was getting after one month! Our football was doing well back then because we had Styles Phumo and Monaheng Monyane in the national team technical department, which helped us become better players.

SE: What has changed in our football since then?

Matete: Like I said, football was just good back then. You could tell by the commitment from the players. We played with passion and every player was putting extra effort in training and also on match-day. We did not need to be pushed. Every morning, one would go for road-work on his own and then go for team-practice in the afternoon.

But it’s a different case with our players right now; they lack that commitment and passion. Maybe social networks are to blame for this.

SE: What exactly do you mean?

Matete: Football needs someone who loves it and for something that you love, you always make sure you protect it. This social network thing is destroying our players’ mental fitness and to be a good footballer, you have to be fit mentally and physically and one of the reasons our teams are struggling against their counterparts in the region is because they are too weak mentally.

You know during my time, I could even take a two-week leave if my team was faced with a very tight match or a final so that I could get enough time to prepare. But what is even more disappointing is that unlike us, these boys have greater opportunities to play professionally abroad but they are not utilizing them. They have got the talent but they are not pushing themselves hard enough to achieve the good things in life through football.

SE: When did you stop playing?

Matete: In 1986; I was a player/coach for Matlama and the same year, I went for a coaching course in England.  A year later, I was appointed Matlama head-coach and stayed in that position until 1991.

SE: It looks like you have always been at Matlama?

Matete: I was born Letlama and it runs in my blood. During those five seasons as their coach, we won the league title twice in 1987 and 1990. Then in 1990, I was appointed national under-20 team assistant coach. A year later, I coached Likuena and I was out in 94. So you see with Likuena, you are in and out {laughs}. I was back again in 2001 and out in 2002.

In 2004, I was appointed to understudy then Likuena coach Tony Hey and in 2006, I was appointed LeFA technical director until I was appointed interim Likuena coach in 2013 and left the post last year.

SE: Given your last experience as Likuena coach, are we going to see you back with the team once again?

Matete: I am a coach by nature and remember I also train coaches, so this is something I will be doing for the rest of my life. And to answer you, yes, I will be back and I am going to coach Likuena again.

SE: You are among our football legends, but do you feel former football greats are getting the respect and recognition they deserve?

Matete: Not at all, and it’s all because of our administrators. Let me tell you; in other countries, the likes of Senegal, you can’t be an association president if you didn’t play for the national team. It’s because people who have played the game are the ones who understand the importance of others and here it is a different case.

We have people with high expertise here who can help our football to grow but some of them don’t even want to hear anything about football because of the poor treatment they are getting.

Look at what the new FIFA president Giani Infantino did a few days after he was elected to lead the federation. He opened a football museum and football legends such as Luis Figo (ex-Portugal skipper) and Fabio Cannavaro (former Italy captain)  were there. It shows he understands the importance of former players.

SE: During your playing days, did you ever believe in muti?

Matete; {laughs} This is is a very secretive matter that you want to know… {pauses for a moment}… I have never believed in muti and I still don’t believe in it. In our Matlama team, we would always pray before every match but I remember at some point, I was picked by Lioli and when I arrived there, I learnt that they believed in it. I had no choice, we were camping at Lakeside and on the eve of the match, we bathed in a big tub filled with water and I don’t know what else was in that water. Sometimes we would win and sometimes lose.

Again at Real Hearts, we were to play Rangers in the Mainstay Cup final. We were given some muti to put into our boots. We were told the muti was going to prevent an own-goal. But guess, we lost the match 1-0 and it was an own goal!

 

 

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