From goalkeeper to coach: Ketsekile opens on life in the dugout
After 15-years of service to the beautiful game as a player, former Likuena goalkeeper, Sam Ketsekile says moving into coaching revived his love for football, a sport that has already given him loads of fulfilment.
The Lesotho Football Association media team sat down with ‘Dida’ as the retired goalkeeper is popularly known, to speak about the smooth transition from playing to coaching.
LeFA: First thing first, where did it all begin for Sam Ketsekile as a football player?
SK: I grew up in Qeme, playing football with other boys in the dusty streets of Ha Mantṧebo. I could tell when I joined the development team of Qeme United, where I used to play as a striker that football was my calling. I fell in love with the game more and more when my coach in those days, Mr. Mothusi Letsie, felt I had the potential to make a good goalkeeper. He convinced me to make the switch, which I did and as they say, the rest was history. It did not take me long to be promoted to the senior team at Qeme United, but I did not play long at the club as Rovers FC from the National University of Lesotho came calling for my services. I was scouted to play for them by a group of its former players, who had formed a social club called ‘Vintage’. That’s where my journey playing in the premier league started. I left Rovers for a short stint with Swallows, which was followed by a move to LCS in 2009 and I played for the club until I retired in 2019.
LeFA: You had a very long career as a player and never hogged the headlines for the wrong reasons. How did you achieve that?
SK: Football requires discipline and a solid work ethic. It was very important for me to remain grounded to have a successful career. I knew that I had to respect the game, my teammates, and the coaches. It is always important as a player to listen to your coaches and those that have been there before me. It worked wonders for my career.
LeFA: Take us through that transition, hanging the gloves and moving into coaching…
SM: I was very fortunate because immediately after retiring, I was roped in to work as the goalkeeper coach for LCS FC and later also got the opportunity to serve my country in the same role for the senior national team. It’s been a humbling experience as I have been given the platform to give back to young players as the goalkeeper coach at club level and the national team. It was not really a difficult transition because I had been in the game for a long time. I would say, it was well calculated. Being a coach comes with a lot of responsibilities. One must lead by example on and off the field so that it rubs off on the players.
LeFA: Your appointed as the Likuena goalkeeper coach attracted a lot of criticism as some people felt it came too early after your retirement. How did you take the criticism?
SK: I noted the criticism, but it’s part of the game because people always have their own opinions on everything. It did not shake me to be honest because my appointment was made by the Lesotho Football Association, which for me was an indication that they saw something in me. My focus was always on doing the job to the best of my abilities.
LeFA: Did you feel the need to prove your critics wrong?
SK: No, not at all. For me, it was all about serving my country and helping improve the goalkeepers that we have in the national team. It was a chance for me to learn and will forever be grateful to the Association for giving me the opportunity to work with the national team.
LeFA: What is the difference being the goalkeeper coach for the national team and at club level where you work at LCS FC?
SK: Well, the difference is that at club level you have a lot of time to work on improving the goalkeepers while with the national team there is no time really, but there is a lot of pressure because you work with goalkeepers from different clubs and each of them has his eyes on being the number one. However, the goal is the same and it is to improve the goalkeepers to be better players.
LeFA: The Likuena goalkeeping department has shown a lot of improvement with Sekhoane Moerane recently attracting the attention of international scouts after impressive displays against Ivory Coast?
SK: I’m very happy for him that his performance is doing the talking in the field of play, but it’s all about teamwork. I think it all comes down to the healthy competition in the goalkeeping department. His competitors have been pushing him hard at training and they also deserve credit for creating that competitive atmosphere among themselves. We shouldn’t forget the goalkeeper coach at LMPS FC Mr Liphehlo Selai, because he spends a lot of time with the player at club level.
LeFA: Like most of his teammates in the national team, consistency seems to be a problem as he failed to maintain the same standards at the COSAFA Cup?
SK: I think he was just unlucky in that game against Eswatini at the COSAFA Cup, but It happens in football even to the best players. He is still young and will learn from those mistakes. He is a work in progress and will get better with time. I think he did well in the tournament and was conditioned very well.
LeFA: Do you think he is ready for a new challenge outside the country?
SK: I think so, he proved himself against a top team in that match against Ivory Coast and other teams, but we should not put him under any pressure. Age is still on his side because we all know that goalkeepers get better with age. I have no doubt that when the time is right, God will open doors for him because he has the talent.
LeFA: You have surely gathered a lot of knowledge being part of the national team working with experienced gaffers such as Veselin Jelusic, Leslie Notsi and Thabo Senong.
SK: Like I have said, it’s been an honour for me to serve my country and learn from each of these experienced coaches. I’m a young coach, who is always happy to learn from those around me especially when they have been in the game longer than me. The is to help produce world class goalkeepers that will go and represent us well internationally. It would be a bonus for them to get contracts to go and play beyond our shores.