New Lioli midfielder did the ‘unthinkable’ — leaving his SA homeland for Lesotho’s amateur league
Lioli’s latest acquisition, Thuso Shuping, is one of the most talented footballers plying his trade in the Vodacom Premier League.
The midfielder, who was born in the South African town of Thaba-Nchu, has done the opposite of what most southern African footballers do — leaving their countries to join the lucrative South African premier league and first division.
The 26-year-old, who arrived in Lesotho last year to join premiership side Likhopo, says he does not regret his decision to leave his homeland for a league which hardly pays enough to sustain its players.
In fact, Shuping, who has penned a three-year deal with Lioli, believes moving to Lesotho would help him realise his dream of eventually playing in a professional league abroad.
After playing lower league football in South Africa for years, Shuping was invited for trials at South African premier league side Free State Stars last year where he met Likhopo’s Thapelo Tale who was also trying his luck at the club. That meeting was to result in a move to Maseru for the talented midfielder.
“I was trying my luck with Thapelo Tale at Free State Stars last year and when things didn’t work out for both of us, he suggested that I come to Lesotho and join Likhopo.
“I did exactly that in October, and signed a one-year contract with the premier league club. But when the season ended, Likhopo did not come to me about renewing the contract so when the league champions came calling, I did not hesitate to join them.
“I have to admit that I had a good season at Likhopo, which I believe was the reason why a big team such as Lioli decided to take me.
“However, it was tough deciding to come here to Lesotho, but after I spoke with my agent and family and explained why it was important that I kept on playing, they all understood and gave me their blessing. The fact is, I am still looking at moving to a more developed league abroad, which was why I had to keep on playing.”
Shuping says he is not intimidated to join a star-studded side such as Lioli.
“My fate will be decided by what I can offer to the team, but the most important thing is to keep working hard and doing what made the Lioli management sign me in the first place.
“This is a big team full of stars, which is why they won the league title, but that won’t be a problem for me. In-fact, I believe fighting for a place in the team is going to help me develop further because like I said, I still want to play in a professional league abroad,” said the attacking midfielder.
According to Shuping, the only sport he has ever cared about is football.
“I am the second born in a family of three; I have an elder brother who was a footballer and my dad also played the game although both did not turn professional.
“Growing up, I only knew about football because I was raised by players so it was the only sport I cared about.”
The midfielder says if local football could be professionalised, then Lesotho would be among the top soccer nations on the continent due to the abundant talent which remains unpolished.
“I think the standard of football in this country is more or less the same as South Africa. The only difference is in administration; we are way behind when it comes to professionalism, which is something that is hindering the growth of the sport,” said Shuping.
“The other big challenge is lack of facilities. I believe Lesotho can still produce very good players if they could be exposed to good stadiums and other facilities that help them train more professionally because there is a lot of raw talent here.
“I think the premier league management and teams should put more effort in transforming the game so that it becomes professional.”
The towering midfielder, who said he was ready for the challenge that comes with playing for a giant such as Lioli, further insisted he could not wait for the season to begin next Saturday.
“Like I said, I’m ready to fight for my position in the team and hopefully, I will settle fast because the environment here is good.
“Pressure is part of the game and there is no way we can avoid it as players; I just need to be strong and focused on my job. I have met with supporters here and I am aware of their expectations. I have already realised how big this club is and am really excited to be here; to be part of this great side.”
Shuping added: “Football is meant for the big-hearted and I think the passion I have for the sport has helped me be the player I am today. I have been very patient because I know my time will come and when it does, I will grab it and never let go. Contrary to what some people think, coming to Lesotho was not a step backwards because I am playing at a higher level, and as mentioned earlier, maybe secure a move to a bigger league.”
Parents always want to see their children focusing more on education than sport and Shuping’s were no exception.
“Every parent wants to see his or her child succeed academically and it was the same case with me. But my parents also knew I was good at football, so they would not stand in my way.”
Asked if he hoped to play in South Africa again, Shuping said: “I have a clear reason for coming to Lesotho, which is to improve my game. Going back to your question, No, I don’t think I will ever play football in South Africa again. My dream is to go beyond that; I have been there before and I now need new challenges.”
Name: Thuso Shuping
Nickname: Diski Dance
Date of birth: 26 June 1989
Place of birth: Thaba-Nchu, Free State, South Africa
Teams played for: Matatiele Professionals, F.C Royals, Phiva Youngsters, Mbombela United, Highlands Park, Polokwane City Rovers, Maluti FET College (all in South Africa), Likhopo, Lioli.
Favorite meal: Leqebekoane and tlhakoana ea nku
Dream car: Jeep Cherokee
Role model: Brazilian Luiz Gustavo (of Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg)
Marital status: In a relationship