By Teboho Molapo
MASERU — After spending almost an eternity reeling in the doldrums, Mabeoana will finally make it into the premiership when the league season kicks off at the end of August.
Although the Matsieng club can be considered one of Lesotho football’s oldest clubs having been formed in 1932, Mabeoana had never made it into the topflight until they pipped Arsenal to the Vodacom A-Division Southern Stream title in March.
So even though the fixtures for the 2010/11 Vodacom Premier League season are still to be announced the excitement in the town of Matsieng is palpable.
As the club’s team manager Ben Phofane puts it — it’s about time Mabeoana played in the premiership.
“It’s been a long time that we have wanted to be here. We deserve to be here,” Phofane said.
“We have already started training. When the season starts we want the other teams to find us far (ahead). In fact we should be in the top four when the season ends,” Phofane added.
One thing certainly going for Mabeoana is that in Katiso Mojakhomo they have an esteemed coach.
Having led LCS to successive league championships in 2006/07 and 2007/08, as well as the MGC Supa 8 and Vodacom Soccer Spectacular competitions in 2008, Mojakhomo is one of Lesotho’s most decorated coaches.
And since seizing the reins at Mabeoana in January he has masterminded an upturn in fortunes for the team.
Mabeoana have lost just once — a penalty-shootout loss to Maseru Naughty Boys in the A-Division Top 4 — in all competitions since Mojakhomo’s arrival.
A dazzling four-match winning streak in the First Division’s run-in meanwhile overhauled favourites Arsenal.
Now as he plans for life amongst the big boys Mojakhomo insists his boys’ goals should be simple.
“In short, our aim is that the team shouldn’t go straight back down. But if the opportunity presents itself then we won’t be afraid to take advantage,” Mojakhomo said.
It is perhaps this strategic thinking which will be needed most amidst the excitement that has infected officials, players and supporters of the Matsieng club.
Mabeoana’s objective according to Mojakhomo is the safety of 10th position which, with four teams facing relegation in this season’s 14-team Premier League, will be the final safety spot.
In the previous five seasons the side finishing in 10th place has averaged 34 points.
However teams coming up from the second tier — usually with little funds and small, inexperienced squads — have struggled in the premiership.
Since 2005 of the 10 sides that have gained promotion only Bantu, who came sixth last season, have finished above 12th position.
Bantu’s 51 points is also the only time a promoted team has amassed over 30 points.
In addition, in the previous four seasons promoted teams have on average conceded 52 goals and scored just over 25 times in their debut seasons, losing a whopping 145 matches among them during this period.
“Common sense would say that we should not be able to be scored against easily and we should be tight at the back,” he said.
“I prefer to divide our games into five games. In the first matches if we can get 10 points then I will be happy,” Mojakhomo said.
“It is possible if we work hard. Every game is the same,” he added.
“In the time I have been in football I have had the fortune that when I play 10 matches I will win seven games. If I can have this luck again then we will be ok.”
However luck hasn’t been with Mojakhomo’s team so far in the transfer window.
Mabeoana, a relatively young team, need some strengthening. But thus far the transfer window has been a frustrating one.
It has included news that Rantoetse Mofoka and Mokebisa Maphethekatsi, key players in the side’s promotion push, will have to return LCS after their loan spells ended.
Nevertheless Mojakhomo is not panicking.
“The fear (of playing in the premier league) will be there, but there are players that have played in the premier league before in the team,” he said.
“If we can find a striker and an attacking midfielder we will be satisfied. We have three players that are already training with the team.”
However, regardless of the signings they make, one thing which will be certain about Mabeoana is they will be one of the fittest teams in the premier league.
Mabeoana began pre-season training on June 20, and although Mojakhomo said the training was affected by the World Cup frenzy, the team will be in peak condition come kickoff day.
It is in keeping with the fitness and thorough preparation Mojakhomo’s LCS powerhouse sides were renowned for, something which could yet be Mabeoana’s secret weapon.
The support of their eager home fans will be critical too.
“To the supporters I would say this is the time they have waited for for a long time. It is the same for the players and it is with the support of the fans that we will achieve what we wish for,” Mojakhomo said.
“Over the three weeks I have been with the team I have seen a team that is prepared to work hard and with support we can have a good season,” he said.
And as Mabeoana illustrated in their 3-0 defeat of Maduma in the A-Division Championship Cup, the contest between the winners of the First Division’s two streams, the Matsieng side may have what it takes to cause a few surprises in the Vodacom Premier League.