MASERU – Lack of talent-building opportunities and football development in Lesotho might soon be a story of the past – another football academy is up and running with former FC Likhopo mentor, Retšelisitsoe Lephaila, picking up the gauntlet.
Lephaila is also a former Lioli FC, Melele FC, ACE Maseru and Manonyane FC coach. The well-travelled coach has set up a football academy christened D’Mamaz Soccer Academy, founded in December last year. He told this publication in an interview that he has chosen the name D’Mamaz as a brand name after his nickname ‘Mamale’.
“This is my brand name since I am known as ‘Mamale’ in the local sports fraternity,” Lephaila continues, adding that “I wanted to come up with a different name altogether.” Despite the December 2020 founding, operations at the academy have been indefinitely put on ice because of current COVID-19 lockdown restrictions that have halted sporting activities to date.
“We founded this academy in December, 2020. We had already started operations and sessions as children were there and the interest was very high. But we had to stop indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Lephaila adds that they already had about four companies which had expressed interst to support the initiative. He said like anyone else, they are also waiting for the return to football action to resume their activities. “We already have a big number of children and the turn up was very good.”
Lephaila, who is also a former member of the Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC), said when football returns to action his academy will be mainly focusing on three categories of development, being the under-13, 17 and 20. “But we are aiming to have about four categories in future. Presently we want to have the under-13, 17 and 20.
Lephaila also continues that: “So we will be having those three categories in the beginning, but when time goes on we will introduce another category of children below 13 years.” As the academy is still a nascent project, Lephaila says he is so far the only man in charge. “This is my academy and I am the one in charge. It is true that with time there may be people who would like to join. But I want to start everything by myself, with my vision and philosophy.”
Lephaila says he is going to be very strict when it comes to people that might be roped in to join him in the academy. “Because the academy is definitely going to attract many children with time, I will, as therefore need people to work with but I am going to be very strict when recruiting such people, as you know that I am also a coach and sport administrator.”
Lephaila further says: “It is not about business or about money. I have been in football and sports in general for a very long time and I have realised that this country is going nowhere as far as sport is concerned.” Lephaila explains that he founded the academy in order to contribute to the development of football in the country and stop being part of the people who only criticised when things were not going well.
“I am no longer going to wait until I am offered a coaching job to coach a team of players who are not well developed and who do not direction. I want to start my own thing because I think that’s how I would be able to contribute to the development of football in my country.”
Lephaila further says: “And of course I was challenged by the fact that we are lacking in development structures as a country. I think I am tired of being part of the people who criticize and do nothing. Now I want to be part of the solutions.”
Lephaila adds that his other advantage, as a teacher by profession, is that he is used to working with children and therefore he knows and understand their needs very well. “So I think that is going to be very easy for me since I am already working with children. We want to be the first academy to export players straight to Europe in numbers and with clear procedures, direction and a philosophy.”
D’Mamaz Soccer Academy is based in Maseru. They are using both Sefika High School and Pitso Ground for training sessions. Lephaila further revealed that they are going put in place tough procedures for local clubs to acquire players from their pool “because of the exploitation of players in this country.”
“Because we are aware of the rampant exploitation of players in this country, with some of the big clubs out to get players for free, we are going to impose tough processes and agreements with the parents.” Lephaila said they plan to register a team in the C-Division to facilitate game time for the academy’s players.
Lephaila, who is also the former assistant coach for the Lesotho Under-17 national side, has previously guided the high schools’ national football team to winning three gold medals from the Confederation of Southern African Sports Association (COSASA) Ball Games. He was Lesotho’s chef de mission to the 2014 African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Under-20 Games held in Zimbabwe.