Premier league a roller coaster ride

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Mikia Kalati

THE Vodacom Premier League has entered the home stretch and predictably Lioli are in the mix for a third, consecutive title.

They are locked in a two horse race with Bantu with just three matches to go while other big guns like Matlama and LDF will have to content themselves with a top 8 finish which guarantees a spot in next season’s LNIG Top 8 cup tournament.

At the other end, Rovers and Likhopo remain locked in a fierce struggle to preserve their premier league status.

I must say it has been a heady, roller coaster affair filled with high quality entertainment and there have been some pleasant, albeit unexpected results thus far.

For instance, there was a time when it appeared Kick4Life would do a Leicester City.

Coming on the back of miraculous 2014/15 season where they only just survived, it was expected that Leicester would be relegated but they defied all expectations by winning the 2015/16 English Premier League title.

And here in our own league, Kick4Life began the season like a house on fire and at some point had us anticipating another Leicester but it was not to be.

In the end, Leslie Notsi’s side ran out of steam and handed over the initiative to Bantu and Lioli.

Some might say this was bound to happen for a newly assembled side who are in their third season of premier league football.

But Kick4Life proved to all and sundry that they have come of age and are now a force to be reckoned with.

The management and technical team certainly deserve credit for reviving the careers of some players that had been written off by some pundits.

Many people hastened to write Bokang Mothoana’s football obituary after he was off-loaded by his boyhood club Likhopo at the end of last season.

But Kick4Life took their chance on the erstwhile golden boy and helped him find his way back to the top.

‘Lefty’ has been one of their best players in their abortive title bid and what better way to cap it all by winning back a place in the national Likuena side?

And the fairytale has a cherry on top of the pudding- he has since been given the captain’s armband!

All in all, Kick4Life have done well with players that were deemed surplus to requirements at their previous clubs and they should be applauded for that and the competitiveness they brought to the league.

As for Lioli, it was just as I predicted at the start of the season that the quality and depth in their squad made them favourites to defend their title.

This was notwithstanding the tinkering of their technical team which resulted in Mosholu ‘Shoes’ Mokhothu being relegated to assistant and Halemakale Mahlaha taking over as head coach.

This was not a cataclysmic event as both coaches have been at the club for years and know the team culture very well.

All that Mahlaha needed to do was to win the dressing room and it would appear he has done just that, retaining both the Independence Cup and LNIG Top 8 trophy.

Like Kick4Life, Bantu certainly punched above their weight in this campaign.

A Matšo Matebele began the season with a completely new technical team after they roped in former Bloemfontein Celtic youth coach, James Madidilane and Bob Mafoso as his assistant.

Madidilane may have played at the highest level in South Africa but coaching a side as big as Bantu who have a huge and demanding support base was always going to be a big ask for the man who was capped once by the national Bafana Bafana side.

Mafoso is pretty much a student of the game as he is a young coach who has never coached a team as big as Bantu.

Bantu also made several changes to the playing personnel following a disappointing 2015/16 season where they finished seventh.

This meant that the new technical team had to start from scratch in coming up with a starting eleven.

The duo therefore deserves a pat on the back for quickly turning around the team’s fortunes as they are in the hunt for the title.

I’m sure they will be even better next season but they have been excellent already.

They also did very well in terms of handling the egos of players that have a history of clashing with coaches.

LCS have impressed although not consistently enough to challenge for the title.

Masheshena lost 3-4 to Lioli in the recent thrilling LNIG Top final and I believe coach Mpitsa Marai’s side can do better next season.

LDF is another side that is work in progress and might be back to challenging for honours in the new campaign.

They have a great goalkeeper in Likano Mphuthi and they could build the team around him and striker Mojela Letsie who is in the race for the golden boot.

On the other hand, some teams like Linare, Matlama and Likhopo disappointed.

Matlama, the country’s most successful side, are having a disastrous campaign most of which has been spent on position seven.

You would expect them to be competing for honours every campaign but alas, they have now gone more than five seasons without a major trophy and it’s worrying that they have become a shadow of the giant they were not so long ago.

The same goes for Linare, the other side apart from Matlama that has never tasted relegation.

Tse Tala have now gone three decades without winning a major trophy and they need to change this soon enough.

Things have improved since the appointment of former Likuena striker, Teele Ntšonyana as coach.

They have moved away from the relegation zone but this is just not good for a team of their stature.

It certainly has been thrills and spills but as they say, it is not over ’til the fat lady sings.

May the best team win!

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