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

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Vodacom Premier League returns

After two months of tedious waiting the Vodacom Premier League finally kicks off this weekend. The race for Lesotho’s football crown can begin.

There’s change to the top division. The Vodacom Premier League is now a 14-team division after Nyenye Rovers and Mpharane Celtic survived relegation playoffs and Melele and Mphatlalatsane gained automatic promotion from the First Division. It should be interesting…

The favourites
Lioli are going for a repeat
Lioli have spent big in the off-season adding seven new faces to the squad. Jeremia Kamela, Basia Makepe, Kopano Tseka, Lekhanya Lekhanya, Nkoto Masoabi, Tokelo Majoro and Themba Mzamane have all arrived as the champions look to ensure the title stays in Teyateyaneng. Lioli perhaps rode their fortune last season as Bantu let the league slip away, but this season Tse Nala look like the outright favourites for the title.

They have added serious quality to their squad. Kamela, the heir apparent to Bokang Mothoana on the left for Lesotho, looks the best piece of business. But it’s a close-run thing, Lekhanya is a supremely talented attacker and Tse Nala have also signed the 2011 Makoanyane XI centre-back pair of Makepe and Tseka to add to a defence that conceded the least goals last season. Lioli look seriously scary.

Prediction: 1st

Last season feels like it was Bantu’s best chance to win the first-ever title in club history. Bantu were in the driving seat for much of the campaign but a late season collapse saw them gift the title to Lioli. This year they have lost their premier attacking talent, Litsepe Marabe, who has joined United FC in South Africa. Another profitable forward in Lekhanya has joined title rivals Lioli. A Matšo Matebele have made some additions, such as Tsebang Lebata, and remain a quality-laden side but they are a clear second to Lioli as things stand.

LCS, as always, are counted as amongst the favourites thanks to their recent history; Masheshena have won four of the last seven league titles. LCS are a well-organised club and are the only team in Lesotho that can claim to be on a semi-professional level. Unlike most teams, LCS have good facilities and are able to train more often than other sides.

However, their squad is ageing and LCS haven’t revitalised the group so far this transfer window. They will also have a new coach with Katiso Mojakhomo returning to lead the team. Mojakhomo is well versed in the Masheshena ways having led the side to titles in 2006/07 and 2007/08. But he has a job on his hands to return LCS to the top again.


LDF are similar to LCS but they haven’t won the league since 2004 and aren’t the same scary proposition they used to be. LDF have the consistency to stay in the hunt; they finished third last season and haven’t finished outside the top four for over a decade. However, Sohle-Sohle don’t have the firepower to make the leap onto the winners’ podium.

Linare are a few signings away from being a title contender. They have had a promising pre-season, beating Lioli and Matlama en route to winning the Kings Cup. Tse Tala have also managed to retain the services of captain Mabuti Potloane who was coveted by Lioli. He has grown into a game-breaker of note and a regular in the Likuena squad. Tse Tala have also acquired the firepower of Lebajoa Mosehlanyane from Mpharane Celtic. However, Linare still lack the championship experience to compete with what is beginning to feel like an established top four of Lioli, Bantu, LCS and LDF.
Like for like
Both LDF (in yellow) and LMPS are outsiders
LMPS are similar to LDF and they will once again be relying on old stagers such Bokang Mohasi and Shetsane Ramoseeka. Simunye are a hard nut to crack but lack the creativity and guile to unlock opponents. Another top-six finish seems the best LMPS can hope for.

No man’s land

Matlama’s story, as is often the case at this time of the year, is a crazy one. Champions three years ago and Lesotho’s most successful club, Tse Putsoa have fallen again thanks to their usual squabbles and iffy management. It has distracted from the team’s preparations, and thus, prospects. Matlama do welcome back prodigal sons Pali Tšalong and Tefo Maipato, but even they won’t be enough to save Matlama from what’s set to be an average season.

Likhopo, champions in 2005 and 2006, have stagnated over the last few years. They are losing Thapelo Tale who is set to join Santos in South Africa. He was expected to be Likhopo’s shining light after his fine performances at the Cosafa Cup, but without him Likhopo are looking distinctly average.

Likhopo, as always, have several young gems that can embarrass any team on their day. But Likhopo’s days as a contending team, at least for now, seem over.

Qoaling Highlanders
Qoaling Highlanders performed admirably in their first ever top-flight campaign last season. And after weathering that first season storm Highlanders look equipped to remain in the Premier League for a while. Certainly they have hit the jackpot with the expansion of the league – there are several worse sides than them. Highlanders also have their own positives – an intimidating home venue teams don’t like visiting and a football mad neighbourhood with talented players wishing to play for the hood team. Highlanders should have another decent season.

Newly-promoted Mphatlalatsane have had a solid pre-season which included competitive workouts against LCS and Likhopo. They are well-organised off the field and well prepared on it. Mphatlalatsane won’t raise many roofs but they are solid enough to stay in the division.
No man's land...
Danger times

Joy have lost their biggest assets – Jeremia Kamela and Basia Makepe – and look set to struggle this season. The last three seasons have each turned into nail-biting relegation battles for the Sebothoane side. This coming campaign is set to be their toughest since promotion to the top-flight in 2007.

Nyenye Rovers
Nyenye Rovers kept their Vodacom Premier League status only after a promotion-relegation playoff win over Rovers. Things don’t look much brighter this season for the Leribe side. Their only saving grace may be their home form.

Mpharane Celtic
Like Nyenye Rovers, Celtic survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last season beating Sefothafotha in a playoff. They will struggle again. Celtic have lost their main attacking threat in Lebajoa Mosehlanyane and don’t have the easiest start playing against Lioli on the opening weekend. It’s not looking good.

The new-boys have a very difficult task on their hands. Yes, teams won’t look forward to the scenic but arduous trip to Qacha’s Nek. However, Melele simply don’t have the quality to aim for anything other than survival. The first few weeks are crucial to Melele’s hopes.

Opening Weekend
Saturday, 24 August
Linare v LMPS
LCS v Joy

Sunday, 25 August
Lioli v Mpharane Celtic
Matlama v Mphatlalatsane
Bantu v Qoaling Highlanders
Nyenye Rovers v Melele
LDF v Likhopo

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