MAFA Moremoholo is living his dream having captained the Lesotho senior national team for the second successive year at the regional COSAFA Cup. The hardworking defender, who is also the captain of his league side, Lioli, has captained almost every team that he has played for. In this wide-ranging interview, Moremoholo (MM) speaks to the Lesotho Times’ (LS) Mikia Kalati about his journey from joining Lioli as a young boy to relishing his dream of captaining the team.
LT: Has playing football always been your dream and where did it start for you.
MM: I have always been passionate about the game. I started playing during my primary school days where our team had games throughout the year. I played for TY English Medium where I was coached by Sky Battalion coach Pule Khojane. He was at that time also coaching Lioli’s development teams but worked as a teacher at our school. He identified learners that he recruited into his club’s youth teams. I started at Lioli from the under-12 in 2005 until I made my way to the senior team. When I was joined the team, I was doing standard 4.
From the Lioli development I went to Lioli Thunder in 2006, which was the feeder side of the first team. I was then promoted to the first team when I was in Standard 7 though it took me three years to break into the starting line-up.
LT: What was the experience like after breaking into the first team?
MM: After I promoted to the first team, the coaches said they were not going to give me playing time because they felt I was too young for the premiership. I was then loaned out to Berea LMPS for the 2009/10 season. Berea LMPS were campaigning in the A Division that year and went back to my parent team at the end of the season. At this stage I had just started my high school at St Agnes High School.
Another loan spell to Joy FC also playing in the A division followed (when) as the coaches felt I was too young for the premiership. My chance finally came when Ntate Lehlohonolo Thotanyana came to coach the team in the 2012/13season. He threw me into the deep end and never looked back since then.
LT: Your father was previously a footballer; how does he feel about your career?
MM: Yes, my father also played for former premier league side Mphatlalatsane. My career, especially being the national team captain, makes him very happy. The whole family is also proud. It was a dream come true for me to play for Lioli and also captain the team. The same goes for the national team I always dreamt playing for the national team growing up and it is an honour that I now captain the side. I came through the ranks from the under-12 until I got to the senior national team 2015. I was made vice-captain for the national under-17 side 2010 where we were captained by Tšeliso Ramathe. I also captained the under-20 during the 2013 COSAFA Cup that was hosted in the country.
LT: Who are the coaches that have played a big role in shaping your career?
MM: Coach Pule obviously played a huge role for scouting me and helping me become the player that I am today. He took me from my primary school team and introduced me to the Lioli youth teams and I never looked back since then. If it was not for him I would not be where I am because the people I grew up with were not interested in football. He gave me so much attention and even my father ended tasking him to look after me to ensure that I succeeded with my football and academics.
I cannot forget the late Ntate Bishop Molatoli and Motlalepula Majoro, who coached me at the nation under-17. One administrator questioned them about selecting me 2010 but they stood by their choice. They made me believe in my abilities despite the criticism that they faced from the team manager at the time.
Of course, coach Maliehe has shown a lot interest in my career. I worked with him from the national under-20 team and I am thankful for the opportunity that he has given me to play for all the national teams that he has coached. He made me realise the potential that I had as a player and it helped me believe in my abilities.
We do not talk a lot with him but whenever we do, there is a lot that I gain from the interaction. He has helped me become a better person and inspires me to always work harder and aim high because of the belief he has shown in me as a player.
LT: Several Likuena players attracted foreign scouts during the recent COSAFA Cup, do you also dream of playing outside the country?
MM: Yes, I also have that dream. I am very passionate about helping the standards of football in our country grow. If such a chance to go play in a better league arises, I will grab it. Players who are playing for the national team and big clubs such as Lioli and Matlama should work hard to go play outside the country so that can come back and inspire others. We have to learn from other countries how they improve their national teams and their leagues so that we can improve ours too. I have that hunger to go and play outside and contribute in the growth of the game in the country.