GROWING up in Machoaboleng, Ha ’Makhoroana on the outskirts of Berea, Kopano Tseka had a dream to become a professional footballer.
April 25, 2022
4 min read
From humble beginnings: How Kopano Tseka became a national treasure
Kopano Tseka doing national service for Likuena
- Tseka’s dream has pitted him against some of the best in Africa
- The defender has won over 40 caps for Lesotho
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But it never occurred to him that his dream would take him across the continent to take on some of the finest footballers to have graced the beautiful game in Africa.
“To be honest with you, I never thought I would don the national team jersey based on where I come from, but all has been possible through God’s grace. He makes our dreams come true,” Tseka says.
Before becoming a household name in Lesotho football and winning over 40 caps for his country, Tseka’s football journey began in his home village, playing for his childhood team, Hunters FC.
“I started playing in my home village for Hunters FC, but my first team in the elite leagues was Mphatlalatsane FC, which I later left to join Lioli,” the defender explains.
He won several trophies with Tse Nala including the league title, the Independence Cup as well as the LNIG Top 8.
“My elder brother Kalaela, who also played football and is now a coach, is my role model because he is very passionate about the game as well. He is always pushing me to be a better player.”
The lanky defender, whose accolades include helping the Lesotho National Under-20 side, Makoanyane XI qualify for the African Youth Championship in 2011, where he came up against Egypt superstar, Mohamed Salah, says he will always be grateful to the late former national Under-17 coach, Matita Lemao, for spotting his talents while playing for Mapoteng High School.
“I was spotted by the late Ntate Lemao to play for the national Under-17 team, (may his soul continue to rest in peace). He saw me playing for Mapoteng High School during a schools tournament and he selected me for the Vision 2020 squad. That where it all began for me with the national teams. After the Under-17, it was the Under-20 and I then graduated to the senior team-Likuena,” the defender recalls.
The Makoanyane XI side that was coached by current LeFA Technical Director, Leslie Notsi, qualified for the junior tournament after eliminating Mozambique, South Africa, and Kenya.
South Africa however, managed to get their way back into the tournament replacing war torn Libya, as the new hosts of the tournament to eventually get their revenge after the two countries were drawn together in the group stage. Makoanyane XI exited the tournament in the group stage with losses to their neighbouring country and Egypt, but managed to get a point against Mali in the last game.
“I still remember that game against the Egypt Under-20 that had Salah, where they won 2-0 with the Liverpool striker scoring the second goal from the penalty spot. Their coach was very impressed with how we gave them a run for their money and I still believe that if we had agent here at home, most of us in that team would have ended up playing in big leagues like them.”
Tseka, who has been playing topflight football for over a decade now, attributes his longevity to good discipline and his passion for the game.
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“I think above all, it’s about putting God ahead of everything, working hard on your craft and putting the discipline into it because you cannot make it for so long in football if you don’t respect what you do and the body that you need to succeed as an athlete,” the defender says.
The Berea-born player, who recently helped Likuena reach the group phase of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations having featured in the back-to-back preliminary round matches against Seychelles, says his dream is to help his country qualify for the prestigious continental competition.
“Winning bronze at the 2018 COSAFA Cup with Likuena is one of the highlights of my career, but my biggest dream is to help my country qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations and win the COSAFA tournament,” Tseka states.
“I want to compete for trophies and win the league. It would also be a big milestone for me to play outside the country before I retire.”
Tseka says he has always felt safe playing alongside Likuena captain, Basia Makepe in the heart of the defence as the two have developed a good understanding having played together from their time with the national Under-20 side.
The two were rock solid in the recent 2023 Africa Cup of Nations preliminary round qualifier first leg match against Seychelles, but Makepe missed the second leg due to injury with Bantu’s Motlomelo Mkhwanazi filling in the for the Likuena skipper.
“I think we have developed a very good understanding because we have played together for a very long time and I’m also developing the same understanding with Lehlohonolo Moabi at club level due to the fact that we are also getting a lot of minutes partnering each other for LCS,” he said.