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Potloane is back!




Luciah Phahla


Mabuti Potloane is back and grateful to be on the football field after a knee injury that almost ended his career.

The silky playmaker has been a crowd favourite for the past five seasons and last year sealed a blockbuster move to Matlama from his boyhood club Linare.

However, things suddenly went wrong on June 14 in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier away to Ethiopia.

Lesotho was leading 1-0 towards the end of the first half when Potloane was on the receiving end of a reckless tackle that ended his afternoon.

At first the injury was thought to be minor. The former Linare captain did not seek medical attention from a specialist and was expected to be back in action after two weeks.

Potloane immediately returned to the national team camp as Likuena prepared for its next assignment, an African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier against Botswana.

However, he could feel something was still not right.

“It was towards the of the first half, maybe two minutes before it could end when I was tackled by an Ethiopian player,” Potloane recalls in a sit-down with thepost.

“In the beginning I did not think it could take six months because after two days I could move. I thought it was a short-term injury. I travelled from Ethiopia to Lesotho and only when I got here I went to see a private doctor. I did an X-ray and everything was fine. I was given two weeks rest which meant I would be back for the CHAN qualifiers second leg against Botswana,” he says.

However, after further discomfort following the Botswana outing on July 4, Potloane went to see an orthopaedist and this time he was told to rest for six weeks.

“When I got back from Botswana I went to see a specialist and did a scan. It revealed a liquid inside my knee and it was given six weeks for it to dry. But, after those six weeks I tried playing again and I noticed there was still a problem with my feet,” Potloane says.

Next, the Likuena international went for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

“It revealed that the ligaments were affected. That’s when I realised it was more serious than I had imagined,” he says.

His ligaments were not torn but had over-stretched and Potloane was told they would repair with rest.

But, again, Potloane remained in pain after the recommended rest period. Finally, Potloane felt it was time he sought a different opinion outside the country and in October he went to Bloemfontein.

To his misery a scan revealed he had stretched his menisci, the sensitive cartilage of the knee.

Potloane admits there were times he feared he may never be able to play football again.

“You can compare my injury to that of Danny Welbeck of Arsenal. The cruciate ligaments were the most affected. It’s a common injury and this type of injury normally takes time to heal. It can take six to eight months,” he explains.

Fortunately, during this testing time Potloane was still able to perform his work duties at the Water and Sewarage Company (WASCO). It helped him keep things in perspective.

“The truth is such injuries need someone who is mentally prepared because you will have the desire to return to action quickly whereas you are supposed to take time to heal,” he explains.

Mental toughness got him through.

Despite numerous setbacks, Potloane kept belief he would return to the field.

“My recovery was special. It was not the way one would have expected. When they said in six weeks I will be fine, something else appeared. After that you are expecting to go back to action and then something totally different shows up,” he says adding that Matlama also played an important part in his recovery.

“It was difficult, but the club was standing with me giving eternal support,” he says. “When I had to go somewhere they would make sure I got there. Matlama did everything to ensure that I recover.”

Another difficult part about his injury was being forced to watch from the stands as his teammates battled it out on the field, Potloane says.

But, at last, after eight months on the side-lines, he returned to action in a Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 tie against the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) on February 21.

“I returned to training some time before the LDF game. The technical team had been working hard to make sure I am fine and ready for the game. I was ready to play 90 minutes,” Potloane recalls.

Despite Matlama crashing out of the LNIG Top 8, Potloane’s return has been a timeous one. Tse Putsoa are now top of the Vodacom Premier League and a first title since 2010 is suddenly a genuine possibility.

Potloane’s creativity and experience will be crucial to any championship push and he says he wants to help the club reach its target of ending its six-year silverware drought.

Still, after the year he has had, it is no surprise Potloane is urging Tse Putsoa to take things one step at a time.

“The plan is to do one thing at a time,” Potloane asserts.

“The main challenge right now is Matlama are competing for the league title and that’s the only thing we are left with. My focus now is helping the team to win and to reach our goal.”


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