By: Sekonyela Qaitsane

When one attempts to recall a local footballer that has crossed the border to ply their trade in the ‘greener pastures’ of South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) and made a significant impact, there’s always one name that comes out top – Lehlohonolo Seema.

That being the case, it is important to highlight that Seema retired from professional football in 2010. Fourteen years ago!

In fact, one would have to crack their head to come up with at least ten of Lesotho players who have had the privilege of getting signed by South African top tier clubs. Anyways, history has it there is also Lekoane ‘Computer’ Lekoane who was signed from Majantja FC by Kaizer Chiefs in 1995.

Computer played for five years in SA topflight where he also played for Dynamos and Arcadia Shepherds before retiring in 2000. Seema on the other hand was signed from Bantu FC by Bloemfontein Celtic in 1998 along with Lebajoa Mphongoa who was playing for LDF then. He enjoyed an illustrious career that saw him go on to play for Soweto giants, Orlando Pirates where he also captained the side along the way.

Despite these legends having done tremendously well for themselves thereby representing Lesotho football with distinction, there has not been much of player movements across the border since then.

It was until recently when former Matlama hitman Motebang Sera’s heroics caught the attention of Bloemfontein Celtic coach Lehlohonolo Seema and was snatched by the club in 2019. Sera was banging goals for fun in the local top flight having bagged top goal scorer awards in 2015/16 and 2018/19 seasons with 14 and 18 goals respectively.

He was also crowned player of the season in 2019. Sera went on to continue his goal scoring form in the green and white of Bloemfontein Celtic scoring not less than seven goals in his debut season. He was a regular in the team’s starting eleven until Seema’s departure from the club and his assistant John Maduka took over. All of a sudden, Sera started seeing limited game time and his situation has been unchanging since then at the club that has now renamed to Royal AM after status sale and relocation to KZN.

Other players who have moved to PSL after Sera are Tumelo Khutlang, Katleho Makateng, and very recently, Teboho Letsema. Khutlang has come back after struggling for game time at Moroka Swallows and Black Leopards in Motsepe Foundation league, leaving the number at only two. Makateng and Sera’s situations are typical to that of Khutlang even though they are staying put at their clubs. They are struggling for game time and it remains to be seen whether there will be improvement or things will worsen for them.

Based on the fact that the aforementioned players were signed after splendid displays locally, it begs the question of whether this trend has to do with the standard of local football or anything along those lines.

However, comparing Seema’s era with the current one, there is a couple of indicators suggesting significant growth for local football. ‘Likuena’ has managed to play in COSAFA cup finals for the first time ever in history last year.

Lesotho recently held the African football giants, Nigeria to a 1-all draw away in Nigeria. That was yet another historic feat for the ‘crocodiles’. It is also important to note that the national team plays mostly with players playing locally.

With all these points considered, it buffles many local football fanatics, and football analyst Tebalo Lebajoa breaks it down in this exclusive interview with Informative Newspaper. He is of the opinion that the new era of Lesotho footballers moving to SA has just been unlucky with the changing of coaches. He admits the gap in terms of leagues with SA’s being superior, however in terms of talent he says Lesotho bases plays can compete in the DStv premiership.

“When you look at Seema’s situation if we can compare these eras, you find that the coach who had brought them to Celtic along with Mphongoa, April ‘styles’ Phumo knew them very well having coached Arsenal in Lesotho for years. He believed in them and fortunately he stayed long enough at the club for these players to cement their places in the team hence their popularity in the league and other teams came knocking, for Seema in particular.

This was not the case with Motebang Sera at the Club, for example. Yes, he was signed by the coach that believed in him and of course he showed promising signs of what he is capable of in the first season. But unfortunately for him, Coach Seema lasted only for one season with Sera and left for another club. The new coach opted for other players over him, and that became a setback for the player in subject” he continues.

Lebajoa believes that it is also because of Lesotho’s reputation in Football that Coaches don’t have confidence in Lesotho players. He reckons that Lesotho’s football standard has dropped in recent times due to local coaches emulating European styles of play, therefore compromising local player’s abilities in the process.

“European football is leading the world nowadays and many football coaches across the world are emulating European style. Lesotho coaches included. In my opinion, this is a big factor in the demise of local football because I believe that players should rather be used to the best of their abilities.

A living example is the fact that in Europe they have tall players of big stature, and locally, it’s the opposite. Our players are short and I think it’s best to use them to the best of their abilities and qualities. That is just an example but there’s a lot were are doing wrong currently football wise, compared to the 90s era,” he concludes.