sports

May 1, 2022

STAFF REPORTER

5 min read

Football fraternity mourns ‘Gunners’ great Litšitso ‘House on Fire’ Khali

Football fraternity mourns ‘Gunners’ great Litšitso ‘House on Fire’ Khali

The now defunct Arsenal FC (The late Litšitso Khali second from left, squatting)

Story highlights

  • Khali came to prominence in the late 80s
  • He was blessed with superb speed and balance

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THE local football fraternity is mourning one of the greatest football players to grace the beautiful game in the Mountain Kingdom in Arsenal and national team Likuena legend, Litšitso Khali, who passed away earlier this month.

‘House on Fire’, as the late Khali was popularly known at the peak of playing career, came to prominence in the late 80s going into the 1990s playing for the all-conquering Arsenal side (Go Go Gunners) that was coached by the late April ‘Styles’ Phumo.

Former teammate at club level and the national team, Thabane Sutu, who was signed by Egyptian giants, Al Ahly from that all-conquering Arsenal side, describes ‘House on Fire’, as one of the greatest players to have played football in Lesotho.

First heard about his (Litšitso) unfortunate passing last week Tuesday, Lepekola Seetane gave me the message. I talk to him quite regularly,” Sutu says.

“Obviously I took it very hard, Litšitso was one of Arsenal founding members, he was there from the very beginning, long before the club was formed in 1984.

“He was an incredible player, right up there amongst Arsenal’ greatest ever players. He was blessed with superb speed and balance. Add that to his speed of thought and you had an almost total package. He was a supreme goal scorer.”

Sutu, who has been living in the United States of America, where he has continued to work in football as a goalkeeper has ensured that a lot of Lesotho players secure football and academic scholarship to the USA.

He says it is a shame that the late Khali never got the opportunity to take his football career abroad.

Adds Sutu: “Obviously he was blessed with incredible pace, but his game wasn’t just about speed. Later, in his career when he got a bit older, he reinvented himself by becoming more of a play maker. He was quite versatile and could play across all front four positions, but he was also capable of playing as a number eight if needed. I was talking to some of my colleagues last week and told them no matter how bad Arsenal played, if he was in the pitch, we had a chance.

“He didn’t need too many opportunities to score. His goal per chance ratio was frightening. When he was operating at the peak of his powers (late 80s-early 90s) he was unplayable at times. He really was. It’s a shame a player of that talent couldn’t test himself overseas. I think with the right exposure to international scouts, he would have easily made a name for himself internationally. That’s how highly I rated him. Little by little, the old Arsenal rear-guard is whittling away and that’s quite scary. I’ve learnt to enjoy every moment and not take anything for granted,” he says.

Former Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) Vice President and Chairman of the Premier League Management Committee, Tlholo Letete, who worked with Khali as an administrator at the now defunct Arsenal, says the late former national team legend, was not only a good football, but an amazing human being, who cared for all around him.

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“Apart from being one of the best strikers to have come out of this country, he was a committed and brave player that was never afraid to take on defenders,” Letete states.

“I remember in one of the games when Arsenal won promotion to the Premier League and were playing Rovers and after the match, ‘Frisco” Khomari sat on the bench long after the game and told us that he never experienced anything like that because of the torrid time they had marking Khali.

“He was a menace to defenders, and I remember another time when he was picked by LDF to assist them as they were representing the country in continental competitions. He scored and bagged an assist against Sunrise from Mauritius, but not only was he a powerful striker that gave defenders sleepless nights, but he was also a great human being who, who cared for his teammates, administrators, supporters and all around him,” the former PLMC chairman concludes.

The LeFA has joined the football fraternity in expressing its sadness at the loss of a member of its golden generation.

“The Lesotho Football Association has learnt with shock and sadness of the passing away of one of the country's most decorated players of yesteryear in Litšitso Khali,” LeFA said in a statement.

“The legendary Khali, who was popularly known as "House on Fire", a name that came to prominence at the peak of his career, was a member of the Likuena team in the early 1990s though he missed the famous 2-0 victory over Cameroon in 1994.

“Khali was also part of the Football Veterans Association that last-year met with the Lesotho Football Association to map the way forward in reuniting the legends across the country. "Our deepest condolences to his family, friends and the football family for the loss. We hope they find strength during this difficult period,” LeFA said.

 

 

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