TRIBUTES continue to pour in following the death of former national team striker and Majantja coach, Motlatsi Shale.
Shale died last Thursday after a short illness.
The 41 year-old Tšenola-born striker, who had an illustrious career winning league titles both as a player and coach, has been described by many as a man who was very passionate about the game and courted controversy for his outspokenness.
Popularly known as ‘Sebota’, Shale was also a member of the Likuena squad that reached the final of the regional COSAFA Cup in 2000 which they lost to Zimbabwe.
His career took off at Majantja while he was still in high school. He also played for Liphakoe, Matlama and Bloemfontein Celtic in the South African premiership before further spells with Likhopo and LCS.
Speaking with the Lesotho Times on Tuesday, Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) Secretary General, Mokhosi Mohapi, said while the loss was “imaginable and unbearable”, they would have to make peace with it.
“The loss is imaginable, unbearable and sadly irreplaceable to say the least,” Mohapi said.
“It is never a good thing to lose a person so well esteemed by his peers and the football fraternity at large.
“Shale touched football enthusiasts in many ways. He represented the country several times and he was always dedicated and ensured that he performed to the best of his ability. He was always a beacon of hope when he took to the field.
“He had a smooth transition from playing to coaching. He was among the best practical sessions in most of the coaching courses that he attended. It did not come as a surprise that he won many trophies with Bantu FC as a coach. He also did very well with the other clubs that he coached.”
Mohapi also spoke of Shale’s love for the national team supporters.
“This love was shown in 2007/8 when Likuena traveled to Botswana for the COSAFA games and the South African immigration officials took time to clear their entry into that country.
“Never one to shy away from approaching anyone he stood up for the supporters and the whole issue was dealt with. Even in Botswana he ensured that everyone was settled and even on the return trip he was just as helpful.
“Shale courted controversy at times due to his outspoken nature. He once had a go at the association for appointing a certain coach. He voiced his concern and some thought he hated the coach which was not the case and he was always there to support the team.
“The Lesotho Football Association and the football fraternity have lost a shining star. May his family and friends find solace knowing that whatever that happens with our lives is in the hands of the Lord above.”
Former national team coach, Leslie Notši, who coached Shale during his playing days at Matlama, said he was saddened by the death of his protégé who made a smooth transition to coaching from playing.
“I worked with him as the coach at Matlama when we won the league and went on to play in the African Champions League. One thing I remember about is that he was very passionate about the game.
“As a player, he was a fighter and I always admired the way he gave his all for the game.
“He contributed a lot in my growth as a coach that is why even after moving into coaching he advised the management of Bantu to bring me on board as the technical advisor ahead of participating of the continental competition.”
Notši also credited Shale with developing young players, saying his death was “a big loss to the country”.
“He did well at Likhopo and Bantu as a coach and I believe he played a big role in the growth of our football.
“He played for the national team and went to play in South Africa and I believe he has left footprints in the game and we have to thank and honour him for as a country.”
Shale’s close friend and former teammate, Mpitsa Marai, said their relationship dated back to their school days at Masitise High School. The duo also rose through the ranks together, playing for the junior and ultimately senior national teams.
Marai was also Shale’s assistant when they led Bantu to their first ever league title during the 2013/14 season.
“He might have got his chance with the senior team before me but I later joined the squad and we continued with our friendship.
“That is how I became his best man when he got married and we teamed up again at Bantu. Even when we attended coaching courses I was always his roommate.”
Marai also described his late friend as an outspoken figure who was always full of jokes.
“He was a straight forward guy who called everything like it was and this aspect of his character was still there when I visited him in hospital.
“Our football association has lost a man that deserved to coach the national teams. He was a warrior who lived and loved the beautiful game,” Marai said.