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‘Those were the days’

 

Lebeko ‘Tycoon’ Notši remembers the good old days when Lesotho football was respected in the region.

The name Notši is popular in domestic football circles as it has been synonymous with the local game since time immemorial.

Former national team coach Leslie Notši is probably the most popular since he is still active in the sport.

But his uncle Lebeko ‘Tycoon’ Notši is a football legend in his own right, a striker of note in his heyday, and he tells Sunday Express (SE) sports reporter Moorosi Tsiane about the family’s rise in the beautiful game.

SE: How do you relate to former Likuena coach Leslie Notši?

Notši: He is more like a son to me because his father and my father are brothers meaning his father is my uncle.

SE: Tycoon; what a name. How did you end up with such a nickname?

Notši: {laughs}I played football when it was all fun and about entertainment. During that time , players needed to have nicknames and I was given mine by my former schoolmates at Sacred Heart High where I started my football career.

SE: Why would they give you such a name?

Notši: I was slow on the field and they would be like I walk slowly like a tycoon and the other reason was I always liked to look smart so I wore some good clothes as a boy. So basically, that is how I end up with the name and before I knew it, everybody was now calling me by that name.

SE: From Sacred Heart, what happened as far as your football was concerned?

Notši: I joined Linare although I didn’t stay long. Actually what happened was when I was still at school, we formed a squad of students from Leribe schools and we would play friendly matches against Linare to help them prepare for their league matches. That was how some of us were spotted, and that’s where I met the likes of Saxophone, Halifex Mashaoi and OB Nkoto (Linare legends). So these are the people who encouraged me to join Linare after I had finished with high school in 1968.

SE: You are saying your stay was short at Linare…

Notši: The very same year I had to come and live in Maseru as I was looking for a job. That’s how I ended up at Maseru United. They were the first topflight team I played for and I was with them from 1968 to 1971.

SE: I see you really changed teams…

Notši; Eish! You know how football is. Players will always be looking for greener pastures so I joined a newly formed team called Ambassadors that was owned by a man called Gift Hlao.

It was only Ambassadors and United who were paying players back then. Ambassadors had star players as a result of this but unfortunately, I didn’t stay long.

SE: What happened?

Notši: I really can’t say but what I know is a year later, Ambassadors collapsed and some of the players went back to their former teams but as for myself, pride couldn’t allow me so I joined School Boys instead.

I played for that team until 1979 when I had to go study at the National University of Lesotho.

SE: What were you studying at NUL?

Notši: I did a Bachelors of Commerce degree and I also played for the university team, Rovers. It was the last team I played for before I ventured into coaching.

SE: What made you go to NUL so long after finishing your high school?

Notši: I think life had taught me so much because I had worked in different institutions like LNDC and its subsidiary companies so I noticed that I wouldn’t get any promotion if I didn’t go back to school and also the pressure from my former schoolmates who had graduated by then.

SE: So how did the coaching job go?

Notši: I had a very good time as a coach. I led Rovers to back-to-back league titles in 1981 and 82.

Then in 1985, I left them after Tšeliso ‘Frisco’ Khomari had formed a team called Ambassadors but unfortunately I had to leave them as well as I was working as part-time executive at Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation. I had a lot on my plate and couldn’t cope so I left.

SE: But given the chance, would you go back to coaching?

Notši: You see now I have my own company; it is a partnership with ntate Ntsike. The company is called Notši and Ntsike Associates so I am too busy with it and I don’t think I will give the sport the commitment it needs.

But I sometimes get that kick, especially when I see our football suffering the way it is doing at the moment.

I have had this talk with former teammates and some have said we are out of the loop as the dynamics of coaching have changed but I still think I could make it if I had time.

SE: Speaking about our football suffering… What do you think is the problem now?

Notši: Apart from it being let down by the administration, I think coaching is a problem as well. I don’t think our structures are good enough, that is if we have them at all. And those are the things that need to be reviewed. We need to identify our own style of play and start teaching players that kind of football from an early age because we can’t build it in the senior national team. In the national team, coaches only see the players for about a week or so but they arrive there very raw, which is why we are struggling internationally.

SE: How do you think this challenge can be overcome?

Notši: Why can’t we use simple methods we have? Let’s take these programmes to schools and deploy coaches there. If the coaches start with these players at an early stage, by the time they start playing in the big league, they would be well-polished.

Another thing that needs attention is physical training. Our players are very weak; they are not robust enough and to work on that, we know it is a process so those are the things that need to be put in order and get them right.

We are fortunate to have players who are very skillful so it is only a matter of teaching them how best they can utilize those skills.

SE: Which were the toughest teams during your time?

Notši: We have several of them, unlike now when the league is dominated by two or three teams. Back then Majantja, Bantu, Swallows, Maseru United, Matlama, School Boys, Lioli and Linare were all very strong.

Actually United were the first team to qualify for the Champions League tournament in 1969 and I was still playing for them then.

SE: Is there anything you can help with maybe as former players or rather legends of the game?

Notši: We are currently working on forming an association as ex-players and maybe after that, we can see what we can do to help. But we were planning to have an academy because that is one thing that can help rescue us from this mediocre football.

SE: But how easy is that?

Notši: It is all about the effort that we are taking into this project but we know it is not easy because some people are intimidated by us as former players.

Our football is now politicized; that is the other problem and this is from LeFA management to club level. We just appoint people to top positions because of their achievements some of which are not even football-related and that is so wrong.

But one thing that I fail to understand is some of the coaches are former players but they are failing to transfer that to their players.

Pep-talk with the players and coaches can be from us but like I have said, it is not easy because of how our football is being run.

SE: You didn’t play for the national team but you played international competitions and also coached at that level…What did you learn out there?

Notši: It is very tough out there. The level of concentration is high and that is what our players lack. We concede goals easily and for our players to make it at that level, they need character.

I was so disappointed to hear that Likuena lost two consecutive matches against Swaziland last week, but this is a team we would beat on any day in our time. We would also beat countries like Botswana and South Africa, but look at how they have improved now while we are left behind.

SE: Did you ever us muthi in your teams?

Notši: Never. Fortunately in all the teams I played for, and coached, there was no need for that, unless it was happening without my knowledge.

SE: Do you have any good moments you would like to share with us either as a coach or player?

Notši: My goal against Matlama in a final in 1969. That goal helped United qualify for the Champions League and become the first Lesotho team to play in that competition.

Maseru came to a standstill that day as the final was played in Setsoto. I still remember that goal even today; those memories will live in me forever.

It was on a counter after we defended a corner, I was passed the ball by Tšobotsi ‘Tšepe’ Pheko. I had just crossed the center-line, you know, and ran with the ball and past their defender until I was facing the goalkeeper and I just chipped the ball over him to the far corner. He just watched the ball helplessly as it went in.

SE: I can’t just imagine the feeling and the atmosphere at the ground…

Notši: It started from our camp …that was a big day to us. A we walked from Sea Point to the ground we were very quiet that one could hear his footsteps. I remember telling the Matlama left-back because I was playing left-wing then, that we were going to beat them and our friendship was going to be suspended once the match kicked off.

SE: Any bad memories?

Notši: Eish! I remember playing a team from Madagascar with Rovers with Ronnie Malefetse as our goalkeeper. We had beaten that team here at home and things were very tough when we arrived there. The supporters were pelting our goalie with stones and the referring was so bad that even though we were the better side, we lost the match.

 

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