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Mongoya says up for challenge

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MASERU – It has been over a month since Moeketsi Mongoya took over the reins as Bantu coach on a two-year deal.

With the Vodacom Premier League still not underway, the South Africa-born coach is yet to take charge of his first competitive game, but he has been hard at work preparing his team for the new season.

Mongoya permanently replaces fellow South African Thabo Tsutsulupa who was sacked in February four games into what was a six-month contract.

There has also been a huge South African success story at Bantu in the form of James Madidilane who stylishly led Bantu to league titles in 2017 and 2018 and gained a rare CAF Champions League triumph for Lesotho with a victory over Township Rollers of Botswana in 2018.

The bosses in Mafeteng have asked for a league title from Mongoya and he is aware wrestling the championship from Matlama will not be easy, especially with the likes of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) gunning for the championship as well.

The former Orlando Pirates Reserves head coach, who also served as an assistant coach for Sekhukhune United and Chippa United in South Africa’s top-flight DSTV Premiership, is not fazed by the competition, however.

In fact, Mongoya said he is relishing the challenge ahead. In a sit-down interview with thepost on Sunday, the South African tactician spoke at length about his time in Mafeteng so far and his plans for ‘A Matšo Matebele’.

When you were contacted and offered the job, what made you get interested in it?

I think it was the potential the team has. I looked at the history of the team and the fact that they have played in the (CAF) Champions League before.

I was given a mandate to try to win the league so that the team can go back there (to the CAF Champions League).

The biggest factor was the love of football that Basotho have and their passion – there is no small game – it is a part of what brought me here. I am an ambitious individual that likes to win. I am very competitive, so when I heard the bosses speak, they were very ambitious.

How have you been settling in the country so far?

Off the field it was a bit challenging settling and adapting to the culture and the environment itself but the boys have made it easy. The club management has also helped us settle and make us feel at home.

On the field we are still studying the football here. We had the opportunity to watch the Alliance Winter Challenge (last weekend) and it was very competitive (with) Linare, Matlama, Lioli and (Lesotho Correctional Service).

All four teams were on top form and we have played against three of them except Linare. We have been following these teams but the only one we have not seen is (Lesotho Mounted Police Service), but already you get the impression that (LMPS) is very physical and competitive.

I got the opportunity to sit amongst the supporters to hear their language, the only thing they know is to win. Every team wants to dominate the space and that’s how we want to play. We want to dominate the game with the ball and without it, with the results coming as well.

The last permanent South African coach Bantu had was James Madidilane and he was very successful here. Do you feel pressure to emulate him?

The only pressure I am feeling is what I put on myself. We’ve got to respect what he has achieved and done, he has set the tone. He has also helped me settle by sharing his knowledge about football in Lesotho. I put myself under pressure because I am very competitive, I never settle for second best (or) mediocre.

I want to leave a mark. He has also left a mark. I want to leave a mark with a meaning because I am joining a team that is 93 years old this year. It’s a big thing, it is older than Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa. It is a team that is very big and must get to that level to be a continental team.

The most important thing is to help the boys grow and go back to having eight or nine players in the national team and also contribute to what the national team is doing.

There was a feeling from many people last season that Bantu needed a rebuild. What has been your impression since arriving?

It’s a very difficult task but I don’t want to be in the phase of rebuilding and not competing. The rebuilding part is to help the team sustain because if you look at the players like (Tšoanelo) Koetle, they have been with the team for a long time, but we’ve got to start planning for what happens if they leave for greener pastures.

What we want is to see them achieving something great. We want to see Bantu losing two or three players to greater leagues, but at the very same time we would like their experience and knowledge.

They know the culture of the team and we want them to share it with the younger players. That is why even the players we are signing, we made sure they are from Lesotho. We didn’t want to bring in a lot of foreigners and ruin the team, which would also affect the national team as well.

Tlalane Phahla

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