MASERU — If there is a team that will be in a jam come the start of the season in a fortnight, that team will surely be Mphatlalatsane.
The St Monicas side is still in shock following the death last Saturday of the club’s communications and marketing manager Molisana Jomane.
Jomane, 41, who died in Bloemfontein, South Africa, after a short illness, was seen as the driving force behind Mphatlalatsane.
He had been a constant feature within the club since its promotion into the elite league in 2000.
His untimely death has plunged the club into unprecedented turmoil.
As if this were not enough, the club’s captain, the rock upon which the team was built, Tšepo Hlojeng, has announced plans to hang up his boots.
The team’s assistant coach, Khethang Ntsoereng, is not inspiring confidence either.
He told the Lesotho Times this week that he was only staying in his job to steady the ship through the current turbulent waters.
This season, which roars into life on August 21, could prove to be Mphatlalatsane’s toughest since their promotion into the premier league in 2000.
Last season Mphatlalatsane finished 10th largely on the back of a miserly defence epitomised by the shut-out of Matlama in a goalless draw at Pitso Ground in May when Tse Putsoa needed a win to claim the championship.
Matlama however went on to win the championship.
Mphatlalatsane conceded only 25 goals throughout the season, a record bettered only by Matlama and second-placed Lioli.
The club also had generally positive results at their home fortress where they beat third-placed LMPS 2-0, and drew one-all with Matlama and Lioli.
But on the flip side of the coin Mphatlalatsane scored only 28 goals, the least by any side that avoided relegation.
Mphatlalatsane’s troubles were brought about by their failure to win matches.
The side drew 15 games, more than any side in the league.
Although they lost only eight times they were victorious on just seven occasions.
Mphatlalatsane finished sixth during the 2006/07 season and seventh in the 2008/09 season.
With resources drying, their squad has remained largely un-refreshed.
Last season Mphatlalatsane boasted one of the oldest squads in the league with Hlojeng, Motlatsi Maseela and Mmanuel Raselemane just some of the old boys in the team.
But still, even with their need for fresh blood, Mphatlalatsane have not had a productive off-season, and defender Molefi Hlojeng’s arrival from Rovers and striker Mpho Mofolo’s likely return from a loan spell at Mpharane Celtics are the only good news in St Monicas.
Meanwhile, the departure of the outstanding Makoanyane XI international Kopano Tseka is hanging in the air.
The utility midfielder has enrolled at Lerotholi Polytechnic and is sure to be wooed to play premiership football for the Fokothi outfit.
Ntsoereng says with four teams facing relegation this could be the toughest premiership season.
“This season we have to work harder. This is going to be the heaviest season ever. If we were saying that only two teams were going to be relegated then it would be a little easier,” Ntsoereng says.
Ntsoereng says the club needs a prolific striker who can get the goals.
Another area Mphatlalatsane will need to improve is on their travels. The St Monicas side won just twice away from home, a record bettered by relegated Majantja and Nyenye Rovers.
All the same, Mphatlalatsane will have a struggle on their hands to at least repeat their tenth-place finish.
Mphatlalatsane, along with Maduma, Mabeoana, Swallows and Lerotholi, look favourites to be part of that not-so-popular basement boys club.
Honours: A-Division Southern Stream champions 1999
Home ground: St Monicas High School (Leribe)
Captain: Thabo Thejane (midfielder)
Key player: Tatiea Thejane (goalkeeper)