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Matlama legend gets philosophical


‘One thing current players fail to understand is football is a chemistry of physique and intelligence’, says Monaheng ‘Injecto’ Papashane.

Matlama last weekend honoured some of their greatest sons during a touching ceremony held at Pitso Ground in Maseru. The nine-time league champions have remained one of the country’s greatest sides and continue to be standard-bearers of the domestic game. The legends honoured last Saturday were from the 1960-72 era and among them was former right winger, Monaheng ‘Injecto’ Papashane. Soon after the ceremony, Papashane took Sunday Express (SE) sports reporter, Moorosi Tsiane, on a journey back in time while also explaining why local football has failed to generate the same excitement of yesteryear among the fans.

SE: Many former footballers I have spoken with complained of not being given enough recognition by the current administrators. So what does today’s event, this medal of recognition, mean to you as a former player?

Papashane: It really feels good that for a change, something has been done to show some  appreciation to former players because if it wasn’t for us, our football would not be where it is today.

SE: It also came to my attention that many of the legends are no longer participating in the sport, let alone attending matches. Are you one of those disgruntled former players and if so, why?

Papashane: You see, there are too many factors contributing to this state of affairs. One of the reasons is these guys who are coaching our teams; once you try to give them some advice innocently, they start feeling insecure and thinking we are after their jobs. That’s why it is very difficult for us to be in the game unless one comes forward and asks our opinion on the game.

SE: Enough about politics and back to you, ‘Injecto’ the player. Why the name ‘Injecto’? What does it mean?

Papashane: {laughs}Those were very crazy times when football was just football. There was this tablet which was so effective; it was called injecto so I guess the people who gave me the name believed I was like that pill to my opponents.

SE: Does this mean you were counted among the best those days?

Papashane: I was good, I have to admit, but one thing I liked about our team was we had no stars and everyone understood this. I guess that is why we were such a force.

SE: Could you take us back in time to where it all started?

Papashane: It dates way back in 1960. I was only about six years of age at the time, and doing my primary education at St James Anglican. I was playing for Bafana Ba Matlama (Matlama development) at the time.

SE: What happened next?

Papashane: I played for the development team until 1967. I remember I was then doing my Form A at Lesotho High School when I was promoted to Matlama’s B team.

SE: Why the rapid promotion?

Papashane: I was still playing for the junior side and back then, on the eve of every match, we would attend a choir as a team. I remember refusing to go that night. It was in 1966, and on Boxing Day. The following day, our senior team was traveling to Mafeteng where they were to play Bantu. I left with them because I was not included in the development team.

When we returned form the match, I was ordered not go back into the junior team by the coaches and on New Year’s Day, Matlama were playing Linare in Leribe and that is where I made my debut. 

SE: So you played for Matlama your entire football career?

Papashane: Matlama is my home; I am from here (Sea Point) but you know life has its own way and in 1971 after completing my High School I was employed at Teyateyaneng Post Office. That year, I played for Lioli for about three or four months. I could not stay long because Matlama made sure I returned to Maseru so when I got a job at the Ministry of Finance, I came back home and re-joined them.

During my time, I played for the national team; my first call-up was in 1969 with the likes of Styles Phumo.

SE: When did you stop playing football?

Papashane: In 1978. I decided that I had done enough for the game and  started to concentrate on other things since I had done carpentry at Lerotholi Polytechnic. I have been self-employed ever since.

SE: Matlama are one of the giants of local football and the most successful club as far as league titles are concerned. Could you compare football during your time and what is happening these days?

Papashane: Let me start by saying, you see this kid (pointing to a kid in front of him), when I started playing for Bafana here, I was his age. Back then, we were playing barefoot and football was much tougher those day.

SE: In what sense?

Papashane: We used to play very tough opponents so one had to be strong, quick and good with his ball-control. All in all, I can say one needed to master the basics. Football was both tough and fun but sissies couldn’t survive then. That is where the difference is with the current players; they are very weak and don’t want to train.

Back then, stadiums would be filled to capacity each time we were playing but these days, the teams hardly attract a decent crowd because our football standards have gone down.

I tell you, you would see people travelling from Mohale’s Hoek to Maseru just to watch Majantja playing. But now even if it is free to watch matches, the grounds are hardly full which is bad for our football. Again, now that it has become more of a business, it is even harder to source sponsors if a team does not have many supporters.

SE: The biggest match in the country for the past four years has been Lioli versus Bantu. During your time, who were the big guns that would bring the country to a standstill?

Papashane: Linare used to have very good players back then, and so did Maseru Brothers and LDF, and of-course Matlama. So it was not a two-horse race for the league title back then because every time any of these teams were facing each other, you would feel the excitement among both the players and fans.

SE: I am told you were the first Mosotho to do the scissors kick…how true is this claim?

Papashane: That’s true, my brother. You know being good with ball-control back then was a must for all the footballers  so we would take tie an old pantyhose around a tennis ball and then juggle it. This helped with ball control and at the same time, I was also very good with my chest control. I would trap the ball with my chest and shoot before the ball hit the ground. So of-course, the scissors-kick was my thing as well. Unfortunately the players we have now lack that kind of skill.

SE: Were there any players who used to give you a tough time back then?

Papashane: There was a gentleman who went by the name TT. I can’t remember his real name but he was known by that name back then. That guy was just a gem; he was simply from another planet. There was also a teammate of mine, the late Tsietsi ‘Ntja’ Ramoseli, who was also very good.

SE: You talk about the skills that yester-year players used to possess. What do you think has changed now?

Papashane: You know one thing the current crop of players fail to understand is that football is a chemistry of physique and intelligence. If they could understand that, I am telling you we could produce the best players on this continent because talent is here; we only lack the right development. That is the difference between them and us. Key to a good ball-player is exceptional ball control.

SE: You have said local football has gone down…what do you think is the problem?

Papashane: I think the problem started when government teams began to take players from other clubs, and that killed competition. The other thing is unlike in the past where we started playing at a very tender age, now these boys begin playing around the ages of 13/14 so to adapt at that age is not easy.

Another thing that helped our game was we used to play a lot against South African teams. You know I played alongside the likes of Chippa Moloi, Lucas Master Pieces Moripe, Frank ‘ABC’ Motsepe and Kaizer Motaung; these are South African football icons that I rubbed shoulders with during my time.

SE: I always ask about the use of muti by teams during those days….which teams were notorious for using it back then?

Papashane: {laughs} ehhh… I am not sure if I know the answer to that question but there was word out there that Lioli were using muti.

SE: Thank you for your time Ntate; hope to see you at the grounds soon.

Papashane: {laughs} I doubt my brother; I have too many commitments now but who knows? Maybe one day I will come to the stadium.

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