TŠENOLA is one of the villages in Maseru that are famous for producing some of the finest players to have graced the beautiful game in this country.
May 16, 2022
4 min read
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One such name is Lire Phiri, who to this day still holds a record of 30 goals scored during the 2000/2001 season of the Lesotho Premier League.
While many players of yesteryears claim to have scored more than the 30 goals that Phiri scored almost two decades ago, it’s a similar story to that of Zambians, who have been making request to FIFA to recognise former Chipolopolo striker, Godfrey Chitalu’s feat of scoring 107 goals in 1972.
The move came in 2012 after Argentinean superstar Lionel Messi scored a record of 88 goals in a football calendar year to overtake Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals.
Coming back to the Mountain Kingdom, former Bantu forward, Litšepe Marabe is the closest to have come forward to challenging Phiri’s record when he scored 22 goals during the 2014/2015 season.
“I was born in Motse-Mocha in Tšenola and that’s where my football career started, playing for Tšenola FC, which was followed by a move to Chelsea FC that used to campaign in the A Division before winning promotion to the Lesotho Premier League in the 1990s,” Phiri explains.
The player who many people believe failed to fulfil his true potential as he was battling with incessant injuries throughout his career, states it was painful that injuries eventually forced him out of his beloved sport just after he turned 30.
“To be honest, I was not expecting to quit the game that early, but injuries forced me to hang up my boots in my early 30s, which was heart-breaking for me because I felt I still had a lot to offer the game,” Phiri says.
The retired former Lesotho international says while strikers always get all the credit for scoring goals, he believes having a good team makes life easier for the striker to find the back of the net.
“Scoring goals, I think is all about teamwork because without your teammates it is impossible to win the golden boot. I was playing for a very well-oiled machine in the army team and I scored a total of 30 goals for them. All the players in the team made it easy for me to get the lovely goals,” the retired marksman also notes.
Phiri says while he was surrounded by quality all-round playing for the powerful LDF side that dominated Lesotho football in the late 1990s going into 2000, he also did his part as player by putting an extra shift in training.
“You have to take the initiative as a player to improve your game and work hard in training. I pushed myself to be a better player and perform well for my team.
“With the emergence of the likes of Marabe, who was eight goals short of reaching Phiri’s record during the 2014/15 season and the likes of Motebang Sera and Katleho Makateng in recent years, the Premier League record goal scorer, is challenging the current generation to break his record.
“It is not easy for me to say if I’m surprised that my record has not been broken almost two decades later, but I’m still looking for the day that we will have a player that will break that record,” Phiri says.
“Regarding the issue of Tšenola being famous for producing some of the best footballers in the country, I can safely say, God deliberately entrusted the place to produce top players to be able to feed the top clubs.
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“From years back, I’m not sure if we would have been able to sustain a premier league team if we had one. Maybe the best thing is just to produce top players for various teams across the country.”
The former army forward, who was renowned for scoring scotchers at the peak of his career, ranks a goal he scored against former national team goalkeeper, Tšepo Mathetha as one of his best.
This was during high school football competitions, in which he was playing for Maseru High School while Mathetha manned Sefika High School goals.
“I have two goals that I will never forget. The one I scored when ‘Shalane’, as Maseru High School is affectionately known, played Sefika and they had Mathetha in the goals. The other one was when LDF played LCS and Kholuoe Phasumane (another former national team goalkeeper) was their goalkeeper,” Phiri recalls.
Phiri, who moved into coaching after he retired from competitive football, says his biggest dream is to give back to his country by helping produce quality players that can help Lesotho be a forced to be reckoned with.
He attributes his success in football to the the likes of the late Ntate Kalake, Ntate Nkoe and Ntate ‘Kepi’ Mokoena.
“As a young boy, I would get excited just being called up for the national team, but it all changed when I joined LDF to become a soldier, I learnt the importance of representing my country and donning those national team colours,” he concludes.