Matlama Football Club appear to be at their best once again since Ndebele ‘Tata Mocholene’ Taole returned to the club at the start of this campaign to take over as the head-coach.
The country’s most successful club had been unstable both on and off the pitch over the last three seasons, but now looks like we will see the Matlama of old again this campaign with Tata back at the helm.
The veteran coach is not only respected by his players, but his legendary status at Matlama means he also commands respect from management as well as the supporters, hence the team’s current stability.
Tse Putsoa gave a decent performance during the recent Independence Cup tournament, and narrowly lost to Lioli on penalties in the final.
The nine-time league champions had beaten the all-conquering Bantu in the semi-final, much to the surprise of football fans, who had come in their numbers for the two-day competition that took place at Setsoto from 4-5October.
And on Sunday, the Sea Point side proved their Independence Cup performance was no fluke, as they handed Lioli their first loss of the campaign, thanks to goals from captain Phafa Tšosane and Lisema Lebokollane.
Tšosane showed his class once again and proved he is indeed, a dead-ball specialist as he beat Lioli goalkeeper, Mohau Kuenane, straight from a free-kick.
The Matlama captain also scored a stunning free-kick past Kuenane during the Independence competition, and his repeat of the feat was clear evidence that he had now perfected the art.
Yet Kuenane is not just an ordinary goalkeeper; he is the man who has been the national team’s Number One over the past three years and a key member of the side that reached the group stage of the current 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
In fact, many of the Matlama players who were ordinary last season have undergone dramatic transformation since ‘Tata’ took over, proving his abilities to get the best out his players the way he has done in the past.
Goalkeeper Makhetha Thakeli, signed from Qoaling Highlanders, has proved to be a valuable asset since his arrival.
The towering shot-stopper was named goalkeeper-of-the-tournament during the Independence Cup tournament, while Tšosane walked away with the player-of-the-tournament award.
Teboho ‘Teacher’ Mota is always shining in midfield for Tse Putsoa while the centre-back partnering of Tšeliso Ramathe and Lisema Lebokollane seems to be getting better following the departure of Nkau Lerotholi, who went for greener pastures in South Africa before the onset of the season.
There is no doubt that Matlama play their best football when they have ‘Tata Mocholene’ on the bench.
He is one man capable of fixing the team when they have a crisis hence he has been recalled into the job so many times.
I must say, when I made my predictions for this campaign, I did not expect Tse Putsoa to shine so early especially following the departure of Lerotholi, who had been a rock for them in defence over recent campaigns.
Of course, football is not a one-man game, but we all know that he had been such an important member of Tse Putsoa’s success since winning the Vodacom Spectacular tournament and league title in 2009/10.
With football also evolving, you would think Tata has been overtaken by the modern-game tactics, but he is damn good at what he does, and surely deserves credit for turning around the fortunes of the club each time he is asked to come in and help out.
The revival of Matlama is good for domestic football at large because it means this season, there are more than four clubs contesting for the league title unlike in the past two seasons where it was Bantu and Lioli all the way.
Credit to Tata for reminding us that Matlama are still among the big guns of this country. He has managed to balance the equation as far as his squad is concerned because this is a group of young and old players, who have blended so well they are a joy to watch.
The fact that LCS and LDF are also there at the top adds cherry to the contest for football’s biggest prize come end of the season.