Spotlight on Matlama’s CAF Champions League

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NTHAKO MAJORO

The mood is upbeat among local football supporters, especially Matlama fans as Tse Putsoa face Coton Sport of Cameroon in the preliminary round of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League. Matlama host the first leg of the preliminary round at the Free State Stadium in South Africa tomorrow.

This is since the local Setsoto Stadium is suspended by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). This is going to be the first time these two teams meet in any competition or a friendly match. Coton Sport won 16 Cameroon Championships and reached the final of the CAF Champions League in 2008 and the semi-finals of the same competition in 2013.

Matlama, on the other hand, have won 11 domestic league championships, but found it tough to go beyond the group stages of the CAF Champions League. In this regard, Lesotho football analysts doubt if Matlama will be able to match Coton Sport. Tsebang ‘Owen’ Lebata, says history does not favour Matlama in this campaign.

“As the country, our football history is not good when it comes to the CAF Champions League,” says Lebata. “We haven’t been performing well regardless of which team we are playing against.” Lebata further said: “It is on rare occasions where you would find that Lesotho teams could match their southern region opponents pound for pound.

“Yes, we sometimes beat our opponents here at home, but we always found it tough against teams in the central and north regions. We generally don’t have a good history in the competition.” Lebata is, therefore, not convinced that Matlama will beat Coton Sport and advance to the next stage of the competition.

“Well, I have not been watching Matlama lately but I don’t see them proceeding to the next stage of the tournament at the expense of the Cameroonian team.” Lebata, who is a former Lesotho national team striker, says even if Matlama could play well at home, they are still going to lose away from home and crash out of the competition at the end of the day.

“Anyway, football is football and good luck to them. We just wish they could proceed to the next stage of the competition,” Lebata concludes.   Former Lifefo FC captain and now the team’s coach, Bahlakoana ‘Kenny’ Mohoanyane, believes both teams have equal chances of proceeding to the next stage of the competition.

However, he says it will depend on the preparation of each team going to this encounter. “In football, everything is achievable and it will depend on our preparation for our opponents,” says Mohoanyane. “What is going to be a determining factor in this situation is how much Matlama and Coton Sport are prepared for this encounter.”

Mohoanyane further says: “It depends on how much both teams value this game.” According to Mohoanyane, team which takes this game very seriously will be the one to prevail at the end of the day. “A team which wants it more than the other will approach this game more determined and win it. But a team which is not serious will find the going tough during the game.”

Mohoanyane, however, believes the fact that Coton Sport comes from a footballing country like Cameroon is another reason he doubts Matlama’s chances of proceeding beyond group stages of the competition at the expense of the Cameroonian champions.

“Cameroon is a footballing country and on top of that the President of the Cameroonian Football Federation (Samuel Eto’o) is very serious about the success of Cameroon’s football, and he makes sure that things go well when it comes to the international stage.

“So, even though I don’t know much about Coton Sport, I think they have prepared well compared to Matlama and that they may have good support from the Cameroonian Football Federation and from their President, Samuel Eto’o.” Because of that, Mohoanyane says you can give Coton Sport the upper hand over Matlama. “But Matlama are a big team and they are not new to this competition.”

But still, Mohoanyane says another reason why he may give Coton Sport an upper hand to over Matlama is also because the western African players always try hard to impress at the CAF competitions. “The western African players are marketing themselves with the CAF games so that they can impress European clubs as you could see that most of them are playing in Europe.”

Mohoanyane also says the fact that Matlama are going to play their home game in Bloemfontein, South Africa, is also a good opportunity for them to continue with their mission, knowing that the South African league (DSTV Premiership) is one of the highly paid leagues in the world and that some of the Cameroonian players are plying trade there.

“So the question is what is it that motivates Matlama players except that this is the international game. What it is that Matlama management, technical team and players have in common, that they want to achieve except to win which what everyone, supporters and every team wish is for.” This is while Mohoanyane says Matlama have talented players who just need to be motivated.

But his only worry though is Matlama’s defence. “Matlama have talented players but I am still not content with the team’s defence, especially when it comes to playing against big African players with determination from countries like Cameroon. “Yes, in the midfield they are fine. They are scoring goals but my big concern is the defence.

Mohoanyane furthermore says: “But in football, nothing is impossible. I am not saying Matlama Matlama could not pull any surprise. They can both win that match. “They are two big teams in Africa and are both capable of winning that match. But who wants it more will win.” Former Lesotho goalkeeper, Tšepo Mathetha, says Matlama’s big problem is to put the ball at the back of the net.

Mathetha makes an example of Matlama’s latest friendly match against South Africa’s D’General FC which had just held the Lesotho champions to a 1-1 draw. D’general are campaigning in the Free State ABC Matsepe League, one of the South African third-tier leagues.

“I have watched Matlama’s last match against D’General. They did not play well because they drew against a team of D’general status which one would think they would not find it tough to beat them, but it was not the case,” says Mathetha.   “The main problem of Matlama is to put the ball at the back of the net, and in football, if you can’t score you concede goals.” Therefore, Mathetha does not consider Matlama’s chances of doing well against Coton Sport.

“As a result, I doubt that Matlama will do well against Coton Sport. They are likely to concede goals first and find it tough to regroup. I don’t think they have prepared enough for these games. I think they needed to play more friendly matches before the Coton Sport match.”

Mathetha says if Matlama could win at home, they should consider themselves crushing out of the competition even before they play the return leg in Cameroon. “That’s because I don’t think they will win away from home,” he says. Matlama are yet to go beyond the group stages of the CAF Champions League.

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