On Saturday 22nd July, ACE Maseru FC commenced its pre-season at Tsénola. The goal of preseason training is not only to train the players’ physique — as they must be in excellent shape to be able to give their best during games — but to also equip them with the necessary technical skill set and a broader mindset of winning.
ACE Maseru FC is a newly formed football club based in Maseru which will compete for the first time in the Lesotho National League in August 2017. Competing this season the B division, the team operates just like any other club in Lesotho, by aligning with the rules and regulations of the Lesotho Football Association as custodians of Lesotho football. The team consists of 25–27 players, some of which have played for the national youth teams.
ACE Maseru is coached by Motlalepula Majoro, an established football figure in Lesotho. Locally known as ‘Maradona’, Majoro’s stellar career as a player began in the year 1982 when he joined the youth team of Matlama Football Club, famously known back then as “Bafana”. Due to his brilliant way of playing and extensive technical knowledge of the game at a very young age, he was then promoted to the First Team in 1985 where he first played against Lioli FC. In 1992 he joined and played for Lioli for a year and half and he rejoined Matlama FC in 1994. He then left for Arsenal in 1996 and played for one season.
In September 1998, Majoro retired from playing and began his coaching career by leading his newly formed team, the ‘Maradona Juniors’, in Berea. The Juniors qualified to Premier League, and in 2001 he guided Berea District Under 17 team to the championship of the first ever national U17 Youth Tournament. In 2002, Ntate Majoro left the country to the USA and spent 5 years coaching youth clubs and obtaining his coaching license. During this period, he worked with 5 companies: Soccer Academy Inc., in Virginia, Head -First in Washington DC, Annandale Boys and Girls Club Virginia, Bowie State University and Victoria Football Club both in Maryland.
To learn more about Ntate Majoro’s career and the ambitions he has for ACE Maseru’s first season in the league, we sat down with the renowned player for an interview. We met at the African Clean Energy offices in Maseru, where Majoro has been working for over a year.
What inspired you to get into football, while growing up?
M. Majoro: My inspiration was ignited by my two older brothers. I was 7 years old when one of my brothers bought me football boots, I was so excited I would put them on with my school uniform and go to school. I took forever to get to school every day because I was fascinated by the footprints that my boots left behind and how they made my feet flexible to kick the ball like famous football players back then!
How was your experience in USA?
M. Majoro: First of all the United States of America is a more diverse country, the lifestyle in the US is way different than in Lesotho. Although it is not a football country, it has more pitches, more broad coaching programs especially for youth. Unlike in Lesotho where there is lack of infrastructure and only a few football pitches. One more thing: back then Lesotho had just a few places to out to, whereas in the US there were many restaurants and coffee shops where I would meet people of different social status. Interesting enough, the experience did not only help me gain interpersonal skills but I learned how to work with people from different backgrounds at a professional level. I really enjoyed most of my days there and I was always looking forward to my next coaching lesson.
What was the most challenging situation you faced during coaching programs?
M. Majoro: The biggest challenge I’ve encountered while coaching has been trying to teach a 3-year-old child to play. As with any student, my goal was to sharpen him into a fantastic player who understands technique, not only how to kick the ball. Due to the fact that the boy was too young to understand and become serious, it was challenging to instill good playing tactics in him.
Can you tell us more on your return to Lesotho after the US experience?
M. Majoro: After my time in America, I came back to Lesotho where I introduced the “Under 10 Afternoon Coaching Program and Summer Camping’. I managed to do this by working with primary schools such as Maseru English Medium Preparatory School, Leseli Community School, Unity English Medium and Lady Brand Academy in South Africa. I then coached Nyenye Rovers in the Premier League, and at some point I found myself working as an assistant coach for the ‘National Under 20’. During this period I ended up with Kick4Life where I guided it to the Lesotho Vodacom Premier League. I worked for Kick4Life until November 2015.
How did you start working at African Clean Energy ?
M. Majoro: It was whilst I was with Kick4Life when I met the ACE company director who told me they needed an HR manager within the company, an offer I gladly accepted. It was during my interactions with the company directors that i got to understand their interest in using football as a force for social development and harnessing community spirit. Currently at ACE I am both an HR manager and a coach for ACE Maseru FC.
What makes a good coach?
M. Majoro: One who has advanced interpersonal skills, who is able to start at grassroots level by coaching children from the age of 4, one who is a role model to his players and those who surround him. A good coach is a teacher to all and a parent to many. On the other hand, having coached different age groups, I personally prefer to coach youth teams because the players are always eager to learn, they are cooperative and willing to explore beyond their comfort zone.
“A good coach is a teacher to all and a parent to many.”
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
M. Majoro: When I am off-duty, I enjoy watching TV — especially sports programs or the National Geographic Channel.
If not football, what career would you have pursued?
M. Majoro: I think I would have pursued a career in music, as a singer.
What is your message for young Basotho players who aspire to have a career as successful as yours?
M. Majoro: My message is to stay away from drugs, especially alcohol because it does not only affect your health, but also your psychological being and consequently, your future.
As a coach how do you pick players?
M. Majoro: To become a good football player, one does not need only status or knowledge of football. A good player is picked based on the following 4 aspects: conditioning, techniques, tactics and the psychology of football. Of course knowledge and understanding of football is crucial, but you may find that one player lacks one of the aspects. For instance, one may be a good header and receiver, but may lack passing skills or tactics. Hence, my job as a coach is to blend all these aspects and make sure my players are more than ready for the games. A player can have the talent and skill but at the end of the day, perseverance and understanding football psychologically are what matters more.
“A good player is picked based on the following 4 aspects: conditioning, techniques, tactics and the psychology of football”.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
M. Majoro: It is a known fact that football is more interesting when watched by a lot of supporters. It’s going to be an exciting season, especially since some of the ACE players are from the Premier League and they are going to make the games more interesting to watch, judging from their experience in football. My major expectation for this season, is that on first attempt, ACE Maseru FC should move to the A division. However the most challenging part to reach this goal is that the football pitches in this division are not up to scratch.
How much does African Clean Energy contribute to the team?
M. Majoro: As a social enterprise that aspires to contribute towards the health of communities and creating a world without a dangerous cook smoke, African Clean Energy uses football as a force for social development, and to promote healthy lifestyles. They are looking to harness community spirit by creating an environment where people can simply enjoy the fun of sports and unite by manifesting support for their local football teams. The company does so by using the ACE Maseru brand to create awareness about the dangers of open fire cook smoke and providing a cooked snack for players and fans of both teams at the games.
So far, what programs or initiatives have been implemented for skill development?
M. Majoro: In collaboration with the KNVB and LEFA, ACE Maseru FC has facilitated the expansion of the KNVB World Coaches program to Lesotho, which included a week-long visit to Maseru by Johan Neeskens and Bert Zuurman, both famous Dutch football players. The initiative was intended to support grassroots development of football communities and to channel the power of the sport towards building a more cohesive society. The program came at the right time as the pre-seasons have started to prepare for Premier League in August, and ACE Maseru FC wishes to maintain a long term relationship with the KNVB. It was a great week!
In the end, Ntate Majoro’s lesson for other coaches is simple: they must treat players like students by teaching them all the time, so as to help them improve not only their football skills but also their life orientation. A good coach makes sure that the players see and value their improvement and helps them maintain the pace of advancement. Embracing this simple technique alone can make one more successful than they ever thought possible!