The local football fraternity is mourning the death of former Bantu and national team (Likuena) midfielder, Refiloe Popo 16v Matšoara, who passed away on Friday last week.
Matšoara (44) was part of the Bantu squad which won the 1993 Independence Cup and also played in the then Africa Cup Winners’ Cup tournament under the tutorship of current Lesotho Football Association technical director, Lehlohonolo Thotanyana.
The midfielder also donned the blue-and-white colours of Matlama in the early 1990s.
Bantu secretary general, Advocate Jafta Thamae, this week told the Lesotho Times their famous son passed away after a short illness.
“It is with sorrow and sadness that we inform the football fraternity of the passing away of our legend, who served this team with all his heart,” Thamae said.
“Popo always supported the team even after his playing days were over. He took the role of a legend at the club, supporting and motiving the current crop of players to be proud of the team and to do their best each time they put on the team’s colours.”
Thamae said Matšoara was wearing his famous number 15 jersey when he passed away at Mafeteng hospital on Friday night, which he said was confirmation of the former midfielder’s love for A Matšo Matebele.
Former Likuena and Arsenal goalkeeper, Thabane Sutu, said he was very saddened by the death of Matšoara.
“I first saw him in 1988 when we (Arsenal) played Bantu in Mafeteng. He gave the late Thabang Panyane a torrid time in that match, which ended one-all. I knew then that we had a gem in our midst,” said Sutu.
“He was a member of the golden generation which included players such as Lefika Lekhotla and Paseka Mofelehetsi. He was a fantastic player, deceptively quick, and technically gifted too. It’s really sad that he had gone too soon.”
Matšoara’s former teammate at Bantu, Lehlohonolo Seema, also said the football fraternity had been dealt a body blow by the former midfielder’s death.
“He inspired some of us to put a lot of effort into the game and I will always remember his warm welcome when I joined Bantu. He was the main star in the team, but never showed me any ego. Instead, he helped me grow and become a better player,” Seema said.
“He represented Mafeteng district with dignity and I hope the club will win the Independence trophy this year to honour his memory.
“We will always remember him for the role he played in the growth of Bantu as a brand and for that, we are grateful for having someone of his stature. May his soul rest in peace.”
The Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) also paid tribute to the late midfielder through its secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi.
“On behalf of the president and the association’s executive, as well as the football fraternity at large, I wish to convey my heartfelt condolences to the Matšoara family. He set the local football scene alight when it was at its peak,” Mohapi said.
“He was indeed a marvel to watch and very humble off the pitch. He was friendly to everyone, and will surely be missed.”