Quote of the week

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

David de Gea to Manchester United: Transfer Update

The deal that has happened…

David de Gea
David de Gea is at last a Manchester United player after his move to the English champions on a five-year contract was finalised today.

The Spanish under-21 goalkeeper becomes Sir Alex Ferguson’s third signing in the close season following the arrivals of Phil Jones and Ashley Young.

“I feel very proud and I can’t wait to start playing here,” De Gea told MUTV. “When a club the size of Manchester United comes in for you it obviously makes you very, very happy. I saw their interest as an extra motivation to work even harder to show off my ability. It’s a great privilege to be part of a club like United and I'm keen to do my best and show what I can do.”

The former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper has been hand-picked as the man to succeed the legendary Edwin van der Sar and will jump straight to the top of the pecking order ahead of Anders Lindegaard, who only arrived at United in December, and Tomasz Kuszczak who could be allowed to leave the club in search of first-team action.

United are still hoping to land one more signing to fill the void left by the retirement of Paul Scholes and Tottenham’s Luka Modric, Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder and Arsenal’s Samir Nasri have all been touted as the men to fill the playmaker role at Old Trafford.

The one that’s likely to happen…

Cesc Fabregas
With each passing day it seems more likely Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas will leave the Emirates and today it’s even more so thanks to Barcelona’s new and improved £35 million bid for Fabregas.

Arsenal have already rejected a £27 million bid from Barca for the inspirational but apparently want-away midfielder.

Fabregas is currently in his hometown Barcelona on holiday and is said to prefer not to have to return for pre-season training at Arsenal next Tuesday. The Gunners are due to depart for a mini-tour of Malaysia and China next week Sunday.

Fabregas was also left out of Arsenal’s promotions of the club’s change strip for the 2011/12 season.

It is for these reasons that there is a sense the Fabregas transfer saga is finally drawing to a close and why the European and Spanish champions expect to complete a deal by next week at the latest.

The transfer that won’t happen...

Alexis Sanchez
The transfer that definitely won’t be happening is the move of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City after City pulled out of the bidding for the Chile international.

Sanchez has repeatedly stated his desire to secure a move to Barcelona and has reportedly insisted its either he joins Lionel Messi and co or he stays with Udinese. So Man City’s manager Roberto Mancini has conceded defeat. “I have spoken to Sánchez. He said he was open to the idea of coming to City but then we have pulled out,” Mancini told Sky Italia. “After our last offer, we are out of the race to acquire the Chilean player.”

Gino Pozzo, the son of the Udinese owner Giampaolo Pozzo, also confirmed that 22-year-old Sanchez would prefer a move to La Liga rather than England.

“The will of the player is to go to Barcelona. The negotiations with the Catalan club are going forward. With calmness, we will find a solution. We will speak to Barca and we will see,” Pozzo told Italian publication Corriere dello Sport.

Sanchez is reportedly valued at £45 million.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Neymar to join Anzhi Makhachkala?

Tuesdays aren’t normally days for surprises but here you go; Brazilian wonderkid Neymar could be on his way to… Anzhi Makhachkala, a Russian Premier League side that’s merely 20 years old.

Santos forward Neymar has been the talk of the football town for some while now with some even saying he could be the man to rival the irrepressible Lionel Messi for the King of Football crown. Neymar’s star has grown even larger thanks to his wonderful displays both for Santos and Brazil and some Playstation-like YouTube clips.

And after inspiring Santos to the Copa Libertadores Neymar is the player everyone wants in their team, everyone including Anzhi Makhachkala.

It has emerged that Anzhi is one of five clubs that have met the €45 million release clause in Neymar’s contract. The others are Real Madrid, European champions Barcelona, Chelsea and big-spenders Manchester City.

According Santos president Luis Alvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro although Santos don’t want to sell their prized asset talks with the five suitors would begin immediately.

“We don’t want to sell Neymar, but obviously there is a contractual clause the clubs can pay,” Riberio told ESPN Brasil. “Five European clubs have offered to meet this clause. I can’t say which ones because that’s an agreement between Santos and the clubs, but they’re the most important European ones. They asked to speak to the player and we’ve obviously given them permission.”

So who is Anzhi?

Well, they play in the Russian Premier League and are coached by Gadzhi Gadzhiev. In January this year the club was bought by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov which is why Anzhi can afford to fork out €45 million with no problem.

The team is also captained by the legendary Roberto Carlos and is also home to another Brazil talent, Diego Tardelli, so in that sense Anzhi may have a chance to lure Neymar. The club itself was founded in 1991 and has played in the Russian football league since 1992.

Anzhi were relegated from the Russia Premier League in 2002 and stayed in the second tier until they won the First Division in 2009. The club finished 11th in their first season back last year and this year Anzhi are fifth in the Russian Premier League, seven points behind leaders CSKA Moscow, at the halfway stage.

In 2001 Anzhi reached the Russian Cup final but lost to Lokomotiv Moscow on penalties. Reaching the final was enough though to qualify Anzhi for the 2001/02 Uefa Cup but the Russian side fell at the first hurdle 1-0 to Glasgow Rangers. Anzhi also occasionally wear yellow, so perhaps Neymar would also feel somewhat at home with Anzhi.

The favourites for Neymar’s signature though are Real Madrid both because Madrid probably need Neymar’s star-power and charm and because La Liga would best suit the 19 year-old’s style. However it’s difficult to see where he would actually fit in tactically for Madrid.

In fact Barcelona would possibly be a better fit for Neymar because of their free-flowing and almost Samba football. Neymar also fits the Barcelona bill – young and exciting – and he could play as one of Barca’s front three rotating and creating havoc alongside Messi, Pedro and David Villa. But then maybe that rivalry business with Messi wouldn’t really work out.

Chelsea and Manchester City are still the outsiders because of their generally robotic and rigid style of football and of course the English weather. Although Santos president Ribeiro praised Chelsea for showing more respect this year saying “Chelsea’s attitude was different”, it’s still highly unlikely Neymar will move to Stamford Bridge.

But then again you never know, there are always surprises in football, just like Anzhi Makhachkala.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Best Friends: Diego Maradona and Pelé

Messieurs Pelé and Diego Maradona are seemingly at it again, or that’s how its looks anyway. The latest “spat” in their rivalry – as is often said in newspapers – comes after Pele’s heyday club Santos claimed the Copa Libertadores title last Wednesday with a 2-1 win over Uruguay’s Peñarol.

Alright, cool.

However, and unfortunately, the peace and tranquility lasted very briefly thanks to a reported interview by Diego “El Pibe de Oro” Maradona with Spanish television station TVE.

It is reported that Maradona, who now coaches UAE club Al Wasl and generally doesn’t give two flying monkeys what comes out of his mouth, told the Spanish television station that Neymar was “ill-mannered, just like Pelé”… straight to the point as usual.

Maradona reportedly followed that romantic line up with some kinder words for his own heir apparent, Lionel Messi, who he allegedly described as “an exceptional player” adding: “I doubt anyone can separate him (Messi) (from being the best).”

The station, however, went on to deny it had made any contact with Maradona, so the origin of the comments remains unclear. Maradona himself also strongly denied the legitimacy of the quotes saying: “Never in my life have I spoken about Neymar. I can’t talk about Neymar, because I don't know him. I swear on (my grandson) Benjamin’s life.”

But, never one to be outdone, Mr. Pelé inevitably weighed in anyway with his own viewpoint, like he always seems to do…  “Messi better than Pelé? To get there he needs to score more than 1 283 goals,” Pele declared without thinking twice. But he wasn’t done, after a brief pause for air Pelé, of Viagra advert fame, continued: “Neymar has great talent. I hope Neymar doesn’t end up like Messi, who plays so well for his club but does nothing for his country...”


All this is pretty funny especially taking into considering the Copa América starts on Friday, a tournament where the final is most likely to be contested by hosts Argentina and holders Brazil and will most likely be a contest between Messi and Neymar.

That will be fun, but not as fun as the war of words between the two godfathers of football, Diego “El Diez” Maradona and Pelé Edison Arantes do Nascimento.

Source: Guardian

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gold Cup Final - Ask Thabane Sutu

The 2011 Gold Cup final, the biggest event on the North American football, or should we say soccer, calendar takes place later today. Hosts America face defending champions Mexico at the Rose Bowl, the scene of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup win and the 1999 Women’s World Cup final. It’s the third time in a row the two foes have met in the final and Thabane Sutu does what he does best, giving us the lowdown on the finale… oh, and a Liverpool question is inevitably thrown in there somewhere...

The Gold Cup Final: USA or Mexico?
The US and Mexico are eternal rivals and anything can happen in this kind of encounter. However, based on current form, I would pick Mexico to win. They have a much more balanced side than the US. In Rafa Marquez Mexico also have a veteran of three Fifa World Cups and he provides a calming influence to a somewhat young Mexican side. Mexico looked really fit in their semi-final win over Honduras... they outlasted their opponents and scored two overtime goals through De Nigris and Chicharito. Hernandez is one of the best natural finishers I’ve seen in a long time. He just has that knack of being in the right place at the right time. I think Goodson and Bocanegra are going to have a hard time keeping up with him.

Guardado on the left wing and Barrera on the opposite flank are also going to be a handful for the US defence, and don’t forget about Dos Santos breaking from midfield. De Nigris provides a different alternative to Hernandez... he is strongly built, great in the air and a little scrappy. He usually comes off the bench and he’s a perfect foil for Hernandez.

The US have some talent of their own too – Howard in goal, Bradley and Jones in midfield, and Donovan and Dempsey up front. Freddie Adu and Agudelo have also been particularly effective off the bench as well. But if I were to pick a winner for tonights final I would go with Mexico.

Is Stuart Downing the piece to Liverpool’s championship Jigsaw?

With Ashley Young Man United bound, Downing is an option for sure. He can definitely help. If Carroll is going to thrive at Liverpool then signing genuine wingers is paramount. Liverpool need a leftback too. I’ve heard that they may get Cristian Zapata from Udinese. He is good. Plays for Colombia. But Udinese is playing Champions League football next season and I don’t think he’ll let that opportunity pass him by.

I think Liverpool also need another forward to compliment Suarez and Carroll. Ngog cannot withstand the rigors of the Premiership... he is physically too weak and the moment he’s average at best. He’s still young though so maybe sending him out on loan to a Championship team may do him good. Dani Pacheco is an interesting player for me, and a much better option than Ngog. He helped Norwich gain promotion and I hope Liverpool keep him and give more opportunities.

When it comes to winning the league, I don’t think Liverpool can do so, but they will qualify for the top four. They have a difficult start at home to Sunderland and then away to Arsenal. You also have factor in the international matches played on the Wednesday a few days before the league starts. I don’t understand why national teams have friendly games on a Wednesday when the league season begins on Saturday. I would have thought the opening day would have been moved back to Sunday at least. But in any case, Liverpool cannot afford any slip ups like they did last season; they need to hit the ground running.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Ashley Young: The Insider's Reaction - By K’homotho Mokhojane

Our resident Red Devil K’homotho Mokhojane gives us the inside view over at Old Trafford regarding the signing of Ashley Young. As with every high-profile transfer expectation is accompanied by some questions, that is why we needed the word from inside the Manchester United camp…

I think it’s an excellent move for Ashley Young; joining Manchester United is always an excellent move for any player playing for a team outside the top six. For Man United we have signed another top class winger, one that we will give us more options on the wings.
Man United's newest weapon

The end for Nani?

I do not believe Young’s arrival necessarily means it is the end for Nani; remember Nani is Man United’s Player of the Year. What it probably means though is that the promising and talented Gabriel Obertan will never get a fair break and may have to go out on loan this year. As for Bebe, he has to be sold.

What Young offers United tactically…

One always has to keep in mind the retirement of Paul Scholes and how Man United plans to replace him. Even though Young is not a direct replacement he is cover for a variety of different situations and he gives us more options when it comes to what we will be able do with our system. You saw towards the end of last season Antonio Valencia playing at rightback… this means the arrival of Young is also a danger to our rightbacks because at some point we can have all three wingers on the field at the same time, with Valencia playing at rightback.

Young I don’t really think offers anything unique tactically, he is more like Nani in terms of his average goals per season and more like Valencia work-rate wise. What we have bought him for is cover. You saw this past season, from around December to January, Nani was out for a little while and Hernandez and Berbatov were the only goal-scoring players in our team. Also, Valencia was injured for a large chunk and only came back towards the end of the season, so basically for two months our first choice wingers were  both out simultaneously. Young is therefore cover in that regard.

The United way…

Young mustn’t expect to play every game; he might have sit to on the bench more, like Park Ji-Sung does. Its not that he is a bad player, but he will be better suited for certain teams as Sir Alex will see fit.

We will have to do more work on Young, getting him used to our way of playing, gelling him into the team. At Villa him and Agbonlahor were the stars, at Man United everybody is a star and every player does the dirty work, even Nani does the dirty work.

Have you seen how Rooney marks? He doesn’t say ‘I am a number 10 and I will just wait for the ball at the halfway line’, no, he helps Fletcher, Anderson when need be. It is this the United Mentality that Young has to adapt to.
Ashley Young
If we were to buy any wingers or outfield players this season I would have preferred Charles N’Zogbia and Young. We have got Young, and he can be successful playing 18 matches from the start and 18 matches from the bench this season for United rather than to play 38 for Villa and win nothing. This is what every new United player has to understand. Why do you think Owen, Berbatov, Gibson and Brown don’t want to go to other teams despite limited game-time? Young must adapt to this type of spirit and mentality.

Can Young help Berbatov?

Dimitar gets a lot of criticism but he can be useful in certain games where his build, stature and sheer size come in handy. I believe there will be games when we will have to play balls into the 18-yard box and where we will need someone to knock them down for the likes of Rooney and Hernandez. Sometimes we will have to give Berbatov aerial balls for him to flick onto runners. How many strikers are built like Berbatov that are top, top class? Drogba, Elber, Adriano, Trezeguet. Look at how Spurs use Peter Crouch!

Berbatov has to be more mobile but his touch on the ball is one of the best I have ever seen. Young can perhaps help him thrive because he provides quality service from set-pieces and from open-play and is also a clever team player Berba can link with, maybe like Robbie Keane was at Spurs.

I don’t really know how many chances Berbatov will need though. I believe Berbatov proved his worth this season but he just wasn’t getting enough game-time towards the end of the season. Where in the world do you bench your top goal-scorer for the league run-in and drop him for the Champions League Final? Only at Old Trafford… and Young has to adapt quickly.

Ashley Young’s career statistics

2003/04 - 2006/07
Aston Villa
2006/07 - 2010/11


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Manchester United sign Ashley Young

England winger Ashley Young is finally a Manchester United player after completing a reported £15 million move from Aston Villa this afternoon. Young moves to the English champions on a five-year deal after passing a medical at Old Trafford yesterday.

Young becomes United’s second signing in the close season following the arrival of England under-21 international Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers in a £16.5 million deal earlier in the month. Spain’s impressive under-21 goalkeeper David de Gea is also expected to join the Red Devils in the near future in a move which is likely to see United’s spending reach the £50 million mark.

Young has been a consistently outstanding performer for Aston Villa since joining the club from Watford in January 2007 in a deal that was eventually worth £10 million.

Young scored 38 goals in 190 appearances for Villa, helping the club to impressive sixth-place finishes in 2008/09 and 2009/10. Young won the PFA Young Player of the Year award in the 2008/09 season. However, Young made it clear to Villa he would not be signing an extension to his contract which was due to expire at the end of next season leaving the club little choice but to sell one of the English Premier League’s finest performers.

Young’s arrival means more competition in United’s wide position with United player of the season Nani, Antonio Valencia, Ji-Sung Park and Gabriel Obertan all hopeful of a place on the wings. The 25 year-old Young’s versatility may give him an edge though, he is capable of playing as a two-footed winger or operating behind a central striker.

An official statement by United said: Manchester United is delighted to announce it has reached agreement with Aston Villa for the transfer of Ashley Young. The player passed a medical in Manchester this week and has agreed a five-year contract.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From The Archives - Likhopo, Down But Not Out

Likhopo: Down but not out

FC Likhopo has become an institution of football in Lesotho. Despite only being formed in 2000 the club has made its mark on Lesotho’s football winning consecutive league titles in 2005 and 2006. However despite its achievements Likhopo is arguably best known for its conveyer belt of talent. The club’s list of graduates is simply breathtaking. Bokang Mothoana, Ralekoti Mokhahlane, Sello ‘Muso, Tefo Maipato, Tlali Maile, Lieta Lehloka, Katleho Moleko, the list goes on and on… and on. Earlier this year six of Lesotho’s squad at the Caf African Youth Championships were Likhopo products. But as is the case in Lesotho’s football things are often far from rosy. We go back in time, to an appointment that proved just that… 

I’m an hour late arriving at Likhopo’s Moshoeshoe II base for an appointment with Bishop Molatoli, the owner, founder and coach of the team. Taxis.

Thankfully though despite it being a rather soggy, chilly afternoon Molatoli is in bright, balmy mood. Still his upbeat outlook is in spite him being charged (and found guilty) by the league’s disciplinary committee of verbally assaulting a referee the day before. 

Never one to mince his words Molatoli is in hot water, again. “I have been accused of swearing at a referee,” he says, stone-faced.
Likhopo's Lekhanya Lekhanya (left)
The charge relates to a Premier League game between Likhopo and LMPS last November. Guilty, Molatoli has been slapped with a three-month ban that effectively ends his season. It’s a bitter blow but Molatoli is unusually reserved. “I will not be appealing,” he says. “I have accepted the decision.” 

With the niceties out of the way we can begin to discuss all things football, all things Likhopo. 

Only formed in 1999, the following decade has seen Likhopo rise from Sunday Pitso Ground part-timers to established elite league campaigners, with two championships for good measure. But, as Molatoli discloses, Likhopo FC might have never been. “When we began the objective was never to start a club. I was building a team for the nation,” he says. At the time Molatoli embarked on “building” this team he was still a youth coach at his childhood club Matlama and therefore his young fledglings were seen as feeders for Tse Putsoa’s first team.

However that wasn’t Molatoli’s plan and simmering friction between coach (and former player) and club in the end resulted in an acrimonious divorce. “We had disagreements with Matlama’s management and we had to leave. We were expelled from Pitso Ground,” Molatoli says with his firmly fixed on his training charges.

Whether ‘Bishop’s boys’ were deemed a threat to Matlama’s own feeder side Winners might never be known, but cast aside the youngsters were given a name that befitted their circumstance. “I saw the boys and they had nothing on, they were shirtless, so I said to them ‘you are Likhopo’ and the name stuck.”

As with its christening, Likhopo’s ascent in Lesotho football has been the stuff of folklore. Shortly after its formation FC Likhopo purchased a B-Division status and began campaigning in the third tier in 2000… by 2002 they were preparing for life in the Premier League. “We just went straight up,” Molatoli smiles.
Bishop Molatoli

The miracles didn’t end there. After surviving their first season finishing twelfth, Likhopo, even to the surprise of their manager, went on to capture two successive league championships in 2004/05 and 2005/06. “In our second season we reinforced with experienced players like Moses (Ramafole), Motlatsi Shale and Tšepo (Hlojeng),” Molatoli recalls. “Honestly our aim that season was just to finish in the top eight, but we ended up winning the league,” he grins.

With those mature heads and the raw talents of Bokang Mothoana, Ralekoti Mokhahlane and Sello ‘Muso, Molatoli was able to brew a concoction that would dominate Lesotho football. With two league titles, the 2007 Imperial Top 8 and the stranglehold of the state teams (LDF and LCS) broken, Likhopo were on top of the world.

Yet even during that period Likhopo were leaking players. And after their unprecedented highs things began to go south. “We started to lose a large number of players. Most went to school like Fokothi (Lerotholi) and Roma (National University of Lesotho), others went abroad. It meant that every year we had to promote players and that harmed us,” Molatoli explains.

Unable to cope Likhopo started sliding down a slippery slope, and only finished sixth in 2006/07. It’s a slide that continues today. Inexperienced and naive Likhopo have been shadow of their former selves languishing in ninth position. “If you look at the team now we only have two senior players Makhabane (Kotope) and Nyakhane (Nyakhane). They are the only ones you can call senior; from there it is young boys. As a result we have been losing games by small margins,” Molatoli says.

Even so, as he speaks Molatoli’s gratification is obvious to see. “I’m so proud, even now (with the losses) I am satisfied because I could see where we are going,” he beams. Even so, despite that pride Likhopo hasn’t been an easy ride. Far from it.

With no sponsorship to speak of, a football club’s existence in Lesotho is a precarious if not hopeless one. And after a jovial atmosphere a darker, sadder tone appears. “It’s painful to run football in this country,” Molatoli laments. “You need amazing love for the game and if you don’t have a strong woman behind you, you can find your home broken,” he adds.

The facts back that up. “I’m in a problem right now,” he says softly. “In the first round alone, when I put it together, I have spent M32 000 just on transport. Just for transport, no food, nothing else. I have spent that much for Little Flower (Likhopo’s development side) and Likhopo,” he says.

At a time where football worldwide has become a money spinning business, in Lesotho football is sucking the blood of those who give it most. “The money is from own pocket, money that I don’t have. I have been lucky to have a wife who loves sport and loves these kids. I remember telling her that I’m dismantling the team because it’s killing me but she talked me out of it,” he says softly. “I’ll tell you right now I don’t have my own house. For the years don’t you think I would have a mansion?” Molatoli asks ruefully.

Bearing in mind that winning the league only gets a team M30 000, the losses sides lower down in the division incur are mind boggling. With that state of affairs it’s impossible to believe football in Lesotho is sustainable, and Molatoli is frank in his assessment.

“Our football has no future. Look what is happening with Majantja. It was run by one man, Ntate Matete; he gave his money and life to the club. He did that because he loved football just like the rest of us. But there’s no way our teams will survive without money,” he says. “If we had sponsors it would help. I’m not doing this for myself. There’s nothing that I get from this, there’s nothing that I benefit out of football. Nothing.”

So what can be done?

“You saw Nedbank (Nedbank Cup in South Africa) last week how much they gave to their tournament. What about our banks what are they doing? But you don’t se the same from our banks,” he says. “There are many people in this country that can help football, Maseru there are many people, Leribe there are many people have money and I can never see Linare suffering.”

Who does Molatoli blame? “I blame the government. Our government has to show that they care about our football. If you look at other governments how they throw themselves into the affairs of sport in their country,” he laments. “If it’s so hard to attract sponsorship then why doesn’t the government subsidise us, for example M20 000 for each team. It’s not a huge amount but it would help a lot,” Molatoli insists. “Why can’t the municipalities come here and fix these grounds and grow grass? That’s where we have to start to show that we want get somewhere.”

What about the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa)?

“I’m not happy at all. I don’t see what they (Lefa) are doing for teams. They don’t go out looking for sponsorships; they don’t go out to help teams get sponsors. If they don’t do that they might as well not be there. And I’m not saying the money should just be for the Premier League, no, the first division needs help as well because that’s where the future lies,” Molatoli says.

And he should know. Under his tutelage Likhopo have produced heaps of quality players for Lesotho. Mothoana, Mokhahlane, 'Muso, Neo Makama; the list goes on and on.

But Molatoli fears for the future and more specifically the well being of the national team: “Likuena is suffering because of our development. Basotho are jealous people, even they see that some one is doing a good job they won’t say, they first have to see what they can destroy. That kind of attitude will get us nowhere,” he says.

“We need to work together. There shouldn’t be two Bishop’s but ten. The country is much bigger than any personal achievements,” he says.

The youth is paramount to Molatoli.

“If I were given the job to build the youth structures for Lesotho I would do it. There are people that are sitting there and they are just relaxing,” he says. “If they say take this job after five years we want to have national youth teams I would do it. The talent in this country is amazing it’s just that we do not care about it,” Molatoli adds before revealing in the moment that the Likuena job is in his sights. “I would love to coach my country one day. I love more my country more than anything. I could leave Likhopo tomorrow if I was given the opportunity,” he says.
However this is Likhopo tenth anniversary and Molatoli’s the main focus is on the team he has worked so hard to establish. What does the future hold for Likhopo? Where will Likhopo be in five years? “This season our target is top eight. With the way the boys are playing now the top four is available but the minimum is the top eight,” he says.

“I’m so happy,” he adds smiling, almost as if talking about Likhopo cleanses his soul. “Even when we were losing I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and now I tell you, anyone who comes to Likhopo should come humbly. These boys are playing football.”

It is this point that the conversation completely turns into one-way traffic. “When I watch them play my heart goes white,” Molatoli says proudly, before giving the names of the brightest lights in the latest production line. “There’s one boy Nyakhane that boy can play anywhere, we have Nana (Thapelo Tale). Then there’s the young boy from Red Devils (Likhopo’s development), he skipped Little Flower and straight to the senior team, Salebone Lekhooa. The others are good as well but those boys can go anywhere in the world,” Molatoli beams.

But Likhopo are still only ninth in the league, will they ever win the league title again? “If I can keep these boys then we can win the league next season. I’m telling you that we can win the league. I don’t care what anybody says. We could have taken it (the title) even now but we’ve just been losing when we should have won,” he says.

But before the conversation ends Molatoli is at pains to make clear that Likhopo is about more than just football.

“At Likhopo the biggest thing is education, football is just the lunchbox. First and foremost is education. I’m so proud of this team; we have produced so many educated people. Some have degrees,” he says.

That word ‘proud’ has come up time again and Molatoli has plenty to be proud about, Likhopo have forever changed the landscape of Lesotho football.

Nevertheless, as Molatoli speaks, the glow on his face can’t hide the dangers that threaten the very existence of Likhopo, “If I don’t get any funding then Likhopo won’t be anymore. It is so hard and I’m telling you if I don’t get any help you might not even see Likhopo at the beginning of next season.”

No one would want to see that happen.

First written in March 2009

(Note: Likhopo literally translated means ribs in Sesotho. The term Likhopo in language signifies being shirtless.)