Lioli ended the 2012/13 football season in style, when they clinched the Premiership to end their eight-year league title drought—much to the relief of their long-suffering fans.
However, the Teyateyaneng-based outfit could not defend their title the following season, and I believe one of the reasons for this failure was the changes the management made to their coaching department.
Lioli, it will be recalled, rehired Mosholu Mokhothu as the new coach, while the title-winning Lehlohonolo Thotanyane was made technical director.
Tse Nala, as Lioli are affectionately known, started the 2013/14 season on a high, after signing a number of quality players, among them Lekhanya Lekhanya from Bantu, as well as Basia Makepe and Jerimiah Kamele from Joy. Former LCS player, Thabile Secker, came in as assistant to Mokhothu.
But things took a new twist as the season progressed when management decided to bring in national under-20 team (Makoanyane XI) coach, Moses Maliehe, in an unclear position.
Following Maliehe’s arrival, the team’s performance started to decline, with rumours doing the rounds that he was not getting along with Mokhothu and Secker. One could also easily tell that there was frustration and confusion among the players due to the enlarged technical department, and the result was Lioli lost the league title to Bantu, who had been consistent throughout the season.
Lesotho’s most successful side, Matlama, also walked down the same path last season when their new management disrupted the team’s progress by hiring Molefi Makoele as head coach in the middle of the season.
Lehlohonolo Mokhele and Sello Mmuso were then relegated to assistants and just like Lioli, Matlama inexplicably started losing matches. And had it not been for their legendary coach, Taole Ntebele, who came in towards the end of the season, the Sea Point-based outfit couldn’t have even managed a top-four finish.
Again, just like Lioli, Linare were a force to reckon last season, with their third-place finish behind winners Bantu and runners-up Lioli, a clear testimony to this might.
My prediction before the start of this season on 23 August, was Linare would be up there challenging for honours with the likes of Bantu and Lioli, but as we speak, they are second from bottom on the Premier League table.
It is important to note that last season, Linare’s performance started to improve in the second round after the arrival of new coach Freese Ntene, who had taken over from Thulo Leboela.
Since Ntene took over, his side only lost one match, with winger, Lebajoa Mosehlenyane and skipper Mabuti Potloane, being pillars of strength for the young side.
It really took me by surprise when I realised that the Linare management had brought back Leboela as the head-coach this season, and demoted Ntene and his then assistants, Sejoale-joale Molefe and Papiki Khahloe.
Now five league matches into the season, Linare have won just once—the opener against Qoaling Highlanders—and lost against Premiership rookies Likila United, Matlama, LDF and Mphatlalatsane.
Last weekend’s loss against Mphatlalatsane saw the management axing Leboela for the second time in as many seasons, with Ntene being elevated to the top post once again, and club legend, Molefe also bouncing back as his assistant.
The question that popped in my head was: why did the management bring back Leboela in the first place, when Ntene had done such a sterling job last season? Until Ntene’s arrival last season, Linare were a mediocre side whose very capacity to survive in the topflight league was a constant topic.
The very same mistake committed by the Linare management was what cost 2012/13 league champions, Lioli, the title the following season because the many coaches crowding the bench were now confusing the players.
All this has taught me one thing—that our football administrators never learn and don’t seem to care about the future of the teams they run.
I mean, how can you bring back someone who had failed the team before, while you still have somebody doing a great job of bringing results that you had never imagined possible? Ntene had also created a very good working relationship with the players, hence the team’s impressive run last season, but still the management decided to demote the guy.
It would be interesting to see how Ntene fares today in his first match in charge. One thing that I have noticed this season is that both Potloane and Mosehlenyane have now become very ordinary, and pale shadows of their former selves.
Hopefully, our administrators will learn from this—that you can never keep a good man down, no-matter how much you might dislike him.
Ntene did not deserve to be demoted in the first place, and I have a feeling that he will prove this going forward.