sports

May 9, 2022

STAFF REPORTER

4 min read

Going down the memory lane with Tlali Maile

Going down the memory lane with Tlali Maile

Former Likuena defender, Tlali Maile

Story highlights

  • The star is one of the most decorated defenders in Lesotho
  • Maile won the league title four times

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FORMER national team player, Tlali Maile will go down in the history books of football as one of the most decorated defenders to have graced the beautiful game in the country having enjoyed an illustrious career that includes winning the league title four times as well as other cup competitions.

Among his many accolades, ‘King Khabazela’, as the diminutive defender was popular known in football circles, will be remembered for being the first Bantu captain to lift the league title during the 2013/14 season.

A Matšo Matebele at that time had gone through a drought that had taken them over 70-years to win the biggest trophy in the Mountain Kingdom.

They have since added three more and now sit in fifth spot in the ranking of teams with most league titles in the country.

Matlama lead the table with 11 titles followed by LDF at eight while LCS and Lioli come in third and fourth places with six and five titles respectively.

“I have won the league title four times, twice as the captain of Bantu and twice early in my career while playing for FC Likhopo. I have won the Independence Top 4 four times with Bantu as well as the LNIG Top 8 once,” Maile explains.

“I also represented my country in both the junior and senior teams, which was a dream come true.”

Maile, who was a member of the Lesotho National Under-20 side that took the country to the 2005 Africa Youth Championship in Benin, says he does not have any regrets about his long career as he feels he achieved all that was there to achieve.

“I have no regrets honestly; I feel like I fulfilled almost everything I wanted to achieve growing up as a young player. Playing for some of the big clubs in the country, representing Lesotho from the youth level, playing in continental competitions at club level and winning major trophies here at home, was a dream come true,” reminisces the retired defender.

The former Bantu skipper says helping Makoanyane XI qualify for the Africa Youth Championship in 2005, which was the first time a team in the country qualified for a CAF tournament, was the highlight of his career.

“I think what made us tick is that our head coach, Pepper (Seephephe Matete) and his assistant, Thots (Lehlohonolo Thotanyana), ensured unity in the team. We became a family and everything on the field of play came easily. We were one big happy family and loved playing for our country,” he recalls.

Maile says representing his country at the highest level playing in both the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers as well as the COSAFA Cup rank among things that he will cherish for the rest of his life.

“Definitely, representing my country is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I got a chance to compete against the best football countries on the continent and some of the best African players. The 2013 COSAFA Cup in Zambia particularly was heart-breaking because we had gone as far as the semi-finals, where we lost to South Africa on penalties and I was one of the players, who missed the penalties,” the defender remembers.

Maile’s career started at an early age in the dusty streets of Ha Abia, on the outskirts of Maseru, where he chased the ball with his peers at Red Arrows and later Peacemakers, which were notable developmental teams of that era.

“I started playing football at an early age in Ha Abia, where I was born and bred.”

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He was later scouted by FC Likhopo’s owner and coach, the late Bishop Molatoli, who helped him become a household name in the country.

It was during his time with Likhopo that Maile enjoyed a lot of success, winning his first league title and playing in the CAF Champions League against the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.

Maile left Likhopo and joined Lerotholi Polytechnic when he went to pursue his studies at the higher learning institution.

The Lerotholi Polytechnic team was relegated from the premier league years back and this season it was also axed from the A Division league.

Likhopo are second from bottom in the Vodacom Premier League and in danger of losing their topflight football status, which Maile has described ‘as a sad situation’.

“It’s very painful my brother. I really can’t understand what went wrong for the teams to be where they are now, and it hurts a lot to see what it happening to FC Likhopo this season.”

Maile’s career was inspired by the likes of Lekoane ‘Computer’ Lekoane, Malefetsane Pheko, Majara Masopha and Shalane Lehohla, who were big names in Lesotho football as he grew up.

“I looked up to the likes of Computer, Majara, Shalane and Malefetsane, who were big local stars as I was coming through the ranks as a young player,” he concludes.

 

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