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A prodigious footballer and sprinter, Maseela

Aug. 20, 2020 4 min read

4 min read

While most athletes tend to fail to create a balance between their varied talents and would rather focus on one discipline as they develop and grow, Motlatsi Maseela is one of the few who managed to nurture his diverse skills until he represented Lesotho in both football and athletics at well recognized international competitions.

Born in 1971, the talented athlete was bred in Maqhaka, Ha Majara in the Berea district. Maseela who is the third child of the late Enea Motlatsi (senior) and ’Mamotlatsi Maseela started playing football and running at the age of 10 as a learner at Leshoboro primary where he completed his primary education in 1984. He thereafter proceeded to Cenez Secondary where he completed his Junior Certificate in 1987. He was both a strong sprinter and a fine footballer – he went on to represent Cenez in the Lesotho Institutions of Sport Association (LISA) competitions.

In 1987, he went to Berea High School and finished his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) the following year. He still made a name for himself in athletics and as a gifted football player at Berea even though the school itself was not a powerhouse in sports. While at high school, the versatile Maseela also played for his home team Maroala FC – the club played in the B Division. He remained with the team for the entire 1988 season before he joined the now-defunct premier league giants Arsenal FC in 1989 under the tutelage of the formidable late Styles Phumo.

Because he was a tyro in the star-studded side, Maseela spent four months on the bench but Phumo kept a watchful eye on him because he had seen raw talent in the youngster. His chance came when teammate Tumisang Posholi who played in the left-back position sustained a knee injury in a league game. 

Maseela did not waste that opportunity and from that day onwards, he earned a permanent place in Gunners’ line-up – he assisted the team to win the league in the 1989 season. His debut call up to the national squad was in 1990 with the national under-20 side Makoanyane XI and was shortly thereafter honoured with the squad’s armband.

As captain, he led the team to the 1990 COSAFA Under-20 cup hosted by Lesotho and they lost to Zimbabwe in the final. His first international match at club level was in 1990 against Denva Sundowns of Swaziland in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) champions’ league.

The same year, he was made Arsenal’s captain and served for four consecutive seasons on that capacity. He enrolled at the Lerotholi Polytechnic (Fokothi) in 1992 and graduated in 1994 with a Certificate in Bricklaying and Plastering, just before his reign as Arsenal’s skipper ended. After graduation, Maseela joined the institution as a volunteer instructor until he was eventually hired as a permanent staffer.

He represented Lesotho at the 1994 Commonwealth Games held in Canada competing in track and field events in 200 and 400 metre races.  His favourite player who stole his heart with incredible footballing skills was Zambia’s Happy Sichokolo who was a right-back during the 1990 COSAFA under-20 cup.

“I am right-footed but through dexterity, I played left-back and we kept challenging each other on counterattacks. He played the most impressive football and we ended up as good friends,” he recalls. The following year he was called to the senior national team Likuena  and he captained the side until 1998.

His coaching career started a long time ago as he first attended a coaching course while he was still with the Gunners in 1996 and acquired a Coaching Intermediate Certificate. He shortly thereafter began coaching Arsenal as an assistant to head coach Phumo.

In 1996, he represented Lesotho at the Atlanta Olympics held in Georgia in the United States of America. In Atlanta, Maseela competed against the then world fastest man Frankie Fredericks of Namibia. He was appointed FIFA Ambassador for SOS Corporation in Lesotho in 1998 and attended a Futuro II coaching course the same year.

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He started working as a player cum head coach for Arsenal when Phumo relocated to South Africa to coach Bloemfontein Celtics. Maseela also attended a high-level coaching course in 2000 and then enrolled for an advanced division football coaching course in 2001.  He was also part of Lerotholi Polytechnic FC (Lihale) from 2000 to 2001. He joined Lioli FC in 2002 as an assistant coach cum player until 2004. He deputised Khethang Khohlooa under the leadership of club chairman Reggie Tekateka. 

During his two-year spell with Tse-Nala, Maseela assisted the then struggling side to reach the Top 4 in 20 years. Under his guidance, Lioli players who were in those days notorious for assaulting referees changed their ways and started behaving professionally.

In one of his best international games, goals by Maseela and fellow teammate Teele Ntšonyane helped Lesotho beat Angola 2-1 in the 2000 COSAFA Cup before Likuena went down at the hands of the Warriors of Zimbabwe in the final. In 2007, he obtained the International DBF Coaching certificate in Germany where he was attended the training with several Nigerian coaches and South Africa’s Pitso Mosimane.

Maseela also holds a Confederation of African Football (CAF) B Licence coaching certificate. Although he started playing football as a midfielder, Maseela was placed at the defense by most of his coaches due to his strength and ability to read the game well.

During his playing days, Maseela won 84 caps and scored one goal for Likuena before he hung up his soccer boots in 2008. He is married to ’Mannerea Maseela and the couple has four children, two boys, and two girls. Maseela still works at Fokothi as a trade instructor.

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