By Mikia Kalati
MASERU — With two weeks to go before the start of the season, the Lesotho Times looks at the major signings and preparations ahead of the season.
Lioli will start the new season as the team to beat after a successful spell that saw the team win the league title over rivals Bantu.
Veteran mentor, Lehlohonolo Thotanyana, has since called it a day on his coaching career after leading Lioli to league success last season.
He has been replaced by Mosholu “Shoes” Mokhothu who had a successful spell with the team during the 2008/09 season when Tse Nala ended a 24-year drought to win the league title.
Mokhothu comes in with a bunch of new signings which include former Under-20 trio of Basia Makepe, Jeremiah Kamela and Kopano Tseka.
Kamela and Makepe were part of the Likuena team that reached the semi-finals of the Cosafa Cup last month.
He still has experienced campaigners in the likes of Bushy Moletsane, Thabo Masualle and last season’s top goal-scorer Tšepo Seturumane.
Tse Nala starts the new campaign at home against Mpharane Celtic.
Last season’s runners-up, Bantu, have been very slow in the market compared to last season when they were the busiest team in the league with high profile signings.
A Matša Matebele also have a new technical team led by former Likhopo coach, Motlatsi Shale, who joins alongside legendary Lehlohonolo Seema who is the new technical director.
The Mafeteng-based side have already lost the services of their last season’s top goal scorer Litšepe Marabe who has gone for greener pastures in South Africa with first division side United FC.
Thapelo Mokhehle is also on trials with Maluti FET College.
Shale, however, still has a quality team in the likes of Dlomo Monaphathi, Tšoloane Mosakeng, Mokone Marabe, while new signings Tsebang Lebata and Hlompho Kalake will have a lot in their hands to fill the gap left by Marabe.
Bantu host Qoaling Highlanders in the first match of the season.
Hlotse giants, Linare, look likely to be a team to watch this season after their exciting, but young talented squad beat both Bantu and Matlama to win the pre-season Soccer Spectacular.
The club is under the mentorship of legendary Thulo Leboela who was part of the Linare side that last enjoyed a successful spell.
Linare have not won a major trophy in over three decades and the team will be under pressure to reproduce the performance we saw in the pre-season tournament.
They have recently won the signature of Lebajoa Mosehlanyane from Mpharane Celtic after a tug-of-war with Lioli to sign the talented former youth international.
Likuena’s Mabuti Potloane and Moorosi Tsiu are the key players in the Linare team while goalkeeper, Dyke Tsiu, seems to be maturing with every season.
Likhopo are also another team with a talented squad with the potential to challenge for honours in the new season as most of their players have represented the country at the youth level.
Their long serving coach, Bishop Molatoli, is back in the hot seat after Shale left to join Bantu.
Their exciting youngster, Tumelo Makhopo, was awarded the Young Player of the Season award at the Vodacom premier league awards last week and will have a lot to prove that he is the real deal.
Alongside Makhopo are the likes of Kananelo Makhoane, Salebone Lekhooa, Mojalefa Tšoeu and Makara Ntaitsane.
Matlama are the most successful team in the country and like in the other seasons a lot will be expected from Tse Putsoa in the new season.
The club recently parted ways with their coach Mokoena Mohale and a new coach is yet to be announced.
Skipper, Nkau Lerotholi, remains the backbone of the club and is expected to lead from the back as Tse Putsoa hope to be a force to reckon with in the league.
Talented attacking midfielder, Phafa Tšosane, will also be one of the main attractions in the Matlama line-up in the new season.
Pali Tšalong is also back in the books of Matlama and looked to be rediscovering his form in the preseason matches. He will be another player to watch when the season roars into life.
The government-owned teams LDF, LCS and LMPS have been very quiet on the transfer market but as always they will be expected to provide stiff competition to the big guns for honours.
The league welcomes Mphatlalatsane who are back in the top-flight league after a few seasons in the cold.
The St Monica’s side is coached by former Likuena captain Tšepo Hlojeng and his biggest challenge will be making sure that his team avoids relegation.
Mphatlalatsane alongside Qoaling Highlanders, Nyenye Rovers, Mpharane Celtic and newly promoted Melele do not have big muscle to compete in the transfer market and depend on lower leagues to beef up their teams.