Unpacking the LeFA Coach Education Unit
Lesotho Football Association Education Officer, Lehlohonolo Thotanyana has had quite a remarkable journey in football, from working alongside former Likuena coach, the late April ‘Styles’ Phumo to helping mastermind what is probably Likuena’s biggest victory over Cameroon in 1994.
He was also part of the technical team that guided the Lesotho Under-20 side to the first CAF tournament in 2005.
In this wide-ranging interview, ‘Thots’, as the veteran football technician is affectionately known in the football circles, opens up about his long career spanning over four decades and his role in the LeFA Education Unit.
LeFA: Coach Thots, first thing first. where did it all start for Ntate Lehlohonolo Thotanyana and football?
LT: It has been a long journey really, which started in 1989 with formal education as far as coaching is concerned. I attended a FIFA Youth Coaching course that year and through the years up to now as an instructor and Education Manager/Officer; after attending the first course in 1989 we had a project with ntate Mokhele of conducting clinics in the district of Mafeteng every weekend. Basically, it was technical training – thereafter I attended a CAF intermediate course which led to qualifying for an A License course in Germany in 1992 consequently the head coach for Bantu FC in 1993 eventually winning the Independence Cup in that year. Like I said Ntate, it’s a long journey encapsulating many coaching and coach educator qualifications.
LeFA: The Education unit is pretty much new as far as LeFA is concerned. What is it all about and how did it come about?
LT: Yes, you are correct ntate, it is something new in the Association and I learnt that after resigning from my post as the Technical Director, I was informed by the current TD that for this post some guys working for FIFA recommended my name to kick-start the unit of education in the Technical Department – but it was difficult to convince me coming back because I thought I had done my part but here I am. The Unit is about coach education – courses for instance, is about coach professional development. how do coaches improve themselves on-job, establish tools to build capacity, like library, monitoring and evaluation and periodic visits to clubs.
LeFA: It’s a been a roller-coaster year for football with the stop and go due to covid-19. Did it also affect the Education Unit?
LT: In the same vein, the Coach Education sector has been affected since the restrictions were/are cross cutting but as you would remember there was and still is a moratorium imposed by CAF in relation to education largely on the Licenses. However, we still manoeuvred by holding clinics in the districts and refresher courses for Premier and A-division; and consequently lately, we have held 2 CAF D Courses for Mohale’s Hoek and Qacha’s Nek.
LeFA: Do we have a shortage of qualified coaches in the country looking at the statistics of Premier League clubs as far as the requirements are concerned.
LT: The shortage is in the A License category and as I have indicated earlier that the moratorium imposed by CAF grossly affected us moving on, but robustly once everything normalises, we will address the gap.
LeFA: The numbers with qualified female coaches remains a concern as well. How can it be improved?
LT: There must be a sensitization program I think, which must be done by the Association through the Technical Department to recruit female ex-players to join coaching and football administration generally although in this sphere there is some headway – some strides have been made really in Administration.
LeFA: You had an interesting career as a coach. Was it a childhood dream to become a coach?
LT: Not necessarily, but it is something that I passionately developed on the way since most Basotho boys in one way or another become in love with football.
LeFA: You were part of the Likuena technical team that masterminded the famous and what is probably Likuena’s biggest victory over Cameroon in 1994. The national team punched above its weight in that match and it surely came as a surprise?
LT: We had a bunch of motivated and talented players. They also had a good technical team led by Bro Styles – so the team was solid in all departments. I think the team got motivated by even negative factors during that time and we wanted to show that despite the environment, we can do it.
LeFA: What was it like working with the late Style Phumo, who is regarded as one of the best coaches to have worked in this country?
LT: It was a learning curve for me; Bro Styles at that time was the most educated coach in Lesotho and a repository of football and coaching knowledge, so working under his tutelage and mentorship was indeed a privilege. I met him around 1987 and gave me every assistance as a young aspiring coach. Fortunately, we worked in the same Ministry of Tourism Sport and Culture where I took every advantage to learn and for him to mentor me.
LeFA: Can we still produce coaches of that calibre from the current generation coaching Premier league and the lower division clubs?
LT: I would like to echo the words of Frantz Fanon: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity” that is, generations are not alike but they should discover themselves in space and time – perpetuate and define itself. Let current coaches coach in relation of their time taking good examples from the past.
LeFA: You have coached different generations of the national teams of different age groups. Please share with us the best that you have coached…
LT: I think I am humbled and privileged to have been part of the Under 20 team which qualified for the African Youth Tournament organised and sponsored by CAF in Benin in 2005; it is one of the best talents Lesotho ever produced.
LeFA: Who are the best players that you have coached from this country?
LT: I have engaged and interacted with a lot of players in different generations/ moulds and sincerely speaking, singling out a certain player/or players is very difficult.
LeFA: The last few years have been rough as far as our national teams are concerned. What do we need to do to get the teams at their best again and qualifying for the regional and continental competitions?
LT: Planned developmental projects, establishing National academies/centres of excellence (club + Association) is the way – playing youth tournaments and progressively analysing our plans, benchmarking against international standards could yield positive dividends. Talent is here our challenge is to harness and nurture it.