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Maliehe prove football is a fickle game


Likuena coach Moses Maliehe shout instructions to his players in Friday match played at Setsoto Stadium
Likuena coach Moses Maliehe shout instructions to his players in Friday match played at Setsoto Stadium

Moorosi Tsiane

Former Matlama and Lioli defender, Lehlohonolo Moses Maliehe (50), is slowly but surely becoming one of Lesotho’s most respected football coaches.

After taking Matlama to second place in the 2015/16 premier league season, Maliehe won the hearts of the nation by leading Likuena to the quarterfinals of the Cosafa tournament in Namibia last month.

Likuena lost the match 4-2 on penalties to South Africa after winning all their three group-matches against Angola, Malawi and Mauritius to reach the quarterfinals.

Maliehe speaks with Sunday Express (SE) sports reporter Moorosi Tsiane about his football life in this wide-ranging interview.

SE: What an impressive performance by your charges in the Cosafa tournament…you must be very proud of the boys.

Maliehe: {Gives a short laugh} Of course I am proud of them. I know we didn’t win the competition but the boys played their hearts out with dedication and determination.

No one gave us a chance before we left for the tournament after we lost to Botswana and Swaziland but we were a much better side in Namibia.

SE: Would you say the team has arrived where you wanted it to be?

Maliehe: No; not at all. There is still a long way to go for this group. They just need to be given time and support.

SE: In last year’s Cosafa tournament, Likuena were eliminated in the group stage but it was a different case this time around. Why the dramatic change?

Maliehe: Remember, I am still new in this team but the good thing is I work with most of these players at club level and some, I have worked with at junior national team level. So they know me quite well and also understand them; they know what I expect from them which I think is what made the difference.

SE: Talking of your club commitment…how do you manage to coach both Matlama and the national team, Likuena?

Maliehe: It is not easy, believe me, but I try to come up with programmes that don’t clash.

But then again coaching two teams at the same time is not just good for football because there is conflict of interest there, especially when it comes to the selection of players for the national team.

SE: Do your employers know how you feel about this?

Maliehe: Of course they know, but then again, I wouldn’t leave my permanent position at  Matlama for the Likuena job which I am holding on an interim basis.

SE: Enough about that for now coach. Let’s go back to your playing days. Where did it all begin?

Maliehe: {Sighs} I don’t even know, perhaps I should say since the day I was born. I was born in Klerksdorp in South Africa because my parents were living there. My father used to work at the  Western Transvaal Mine but we are originally from Teyateyaneng (TY).

My father is actually the one who made me fall in love with football. He was famous for bringing home foreign players for Lioli at that time. So I grew up playing for Klerksdorp City. We were playing for the Transvaal Junior Curry Cup with the likes of Bennett Masinga and Phil Masinga and a few other players who later became big names in South African football.

I also played for ICL Birds United, who were competing in the then Bophuthatswana League. That is where I was playing with Lucas Radebe, who later went on to play for Kaizer Chiefs and then Leeds United in the UK.

SE: Surely your team was one of the best?

Maliehe: We had what used to be called the Bophuthatswana national team and I remember we played in Egypt and Israel back in 1985 and 1986 and most of our players eventually joined big teams.

SE: You played with South Africa’s heavyweights which is fair and square. But what happened with you when the likes of Masinga were signed by Mamelodi Sundowns?

Maliehe: The very same year (1987) Bennett joined Sundowns, I had to come back here to Lesotho to finish my studies at Mamathe High School.

SE: And you continued playing football?

Maliehe: Yes. I joined Lioli where I stayed for about three seasons, then joined Matlama until I went back to South Africa where I joined (second division side) Vaal Reef Stars who were under the leadership of current Bafana coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba.

SE: From there what happened?

Maliehe: I stayed there for about four seasons then came back home and played for Lioli until I retired and went into coaching.

SE: Was coaching always in your plans?

Maliehe: During my last playing days, I was more of a player-coach and that is why I went straight to coaching when my playing days were over.

I was introduced to coaching by Lehlohonolo Thotanyana and Seephephe Matete. I took my first coaching job with Lioli in 1998 after they gained promotion into the elite league.

SE: And how long did you stay with Lioli?

Maliehe: About two years, if I recall clearly, because after that, I left to coach Maputsoe-based side Roaring Lions who were in the first division.

It was then that I decided to have my own team and joined one gentleman from Maputsoe, the late Thabo Khoptjoa, and we co-owned a team. Unfortunately, the team didn’t last long as finances became a problem and we gave it to Maputsoe police.

SE: Did you then go back to coaching?

Maliehe: No. From there, I was busy with my work at Population Services International (PSI) as it had just been introduced in the country in 2001.

I worked with them until I was appointed national under-20 team manager by the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) in 2008. A year later, the then Makoanyane XI coach, Leslie Notši called me to be his assistant and I held the position until 2011.

SE: You were back with a bang, so to say?

Maliehe: Yes, kind of, and after Leslie was promoted to the senior national team, I worked with Bomber Matete as his assistant from 2012 to 2013 13 when I took over the team as head-coach.

I coached the under-20s until September last year where I was appointed Likuena interim coach.

I was also appointed Lioli technical adviser for the 2013/14 season while a season later, I coached Sundawana and joined Matlama last season.

SE: You know a lot about football, both current and yesterday, so what can you say when you compare the two?

Maliehe: That’s a tough one but what I can tell you is there is too much of a difference between the current players and those of my time.

You know we are just lucky that this country is blessed with so much talent that we still somehow manage to hold on to other nations and come out with positive results.

During my time, determination, dedication and passion for the sport dominated everything and that is why we were better than this current crop. Take one or two of the Premier League players now and ask them if they do any extra training on their own and the answer will be no, of course, except Lioli and Matlama players because they had been going to Lehakoe. That is why you find even towards the end of the season, they will still be fighting because they are fitter.

That’s the difference between us and these players. We knew that talent alone wasn’t enough; it needed to be complemented by physical and mental fitness and that way, we made things easy for our coaches.

The most important thing is discipline and today’s players lacks that critical element. It is disappointing because some of the teams are paying these boys but on the other hand they are not doing what they supposed to be doing.

SE: How do you think we can overcome all that…what needs to be done?

Maliehe: It will take time to change this mindset but it will worth the wait. Firstly, our government must start playing their part in developing sport overall, not just football.

There is a high rate of youth unemployment, so why is our government not using sport to reduce it? Other countries have made sport professional which means people are now surviving through it because by doing so, money is injected into sport.

It doesn’t even have to be government putting money into sport but coming up with policies that will make the business sector invest in different codes. That way, we can grow. The truth is government alone cannot fund sport. That is why it is important to force companies to invest in sport. Look at Zambia, for example. Every foreign company there has a team it sponsors and their football has grown.

SE: But don’t you think the fact that companies don’t get anything in return for sponsoring teams is one of the reasons they shy away from sport?

Maliehe: It is, of course. That is why I am saying our government is the one that can come to our rescue.

There is no sports infrastructure in this country and that, alone, is a big problem. But if we can have good facilities, I believe it will be even easier for LeFA to strike a deal with SuperSport or any other television channel to come and televise our games and that way, companies will get mileage and encourage them to continue their association with sports.

Many of the companies we have here are also in South Africa and they are dishing out millions to sport that side. They are volunteering to sponsor sport in South Africa while here in Lesotho, we have to beg and beg. And why don’t we ask ourselves why this is the case?

It is about time our government started playing its part if we want to reduce poverty in this country or else we will never go anywhere in sports.

SE: Back to Likuena…what happens next?

Maliehe: Like I have said there is still a long way to go for us but I am happy with that team and at the moment they only need to play lots and lots of friendly matches against the continent’s football powerhouses. That is the only way they can get the much-needed exposure. We have played with southern African teams and I think it is just enough now. We need to go to west and east Africa now to get some real challenges. But then again we all know finances are always our biggest problem because football is very expensive now. You won’t believe it that it is approximately half a million maloti to take a team to Namibia. But I have so much hope in these boys and believe we will achieve greater things.

SE: Thank you for your time coach and congratulations for the fair play team award you won in Namibia at the Cosafa tournament.

Maliehe: You are welcome ntate and it is all back to work preparing for next season with Matlama.


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