One of Lesothoâ€™s most decorated midfielders of his generation, Ralekoti Mokhahlane has announced his retirement from the beautiful game thus bringing down the curtain on an illustrious football career.
To make his break into the professional phase of the game, Mokhahlane came through the ranks at FC Likhopo as a rookie through whose dedication and contribution the late Bishop Molatoli-owned side, won back-to-back premier league titles in the 2004/05 and 2005/06 seasons.
The now 35-year-old won more league titles with LCS after he left Likhopo for greener pastures at the prisons-side, where he has also been working as a correctional officer.
â€œIndeed, my playing days are over, but I would love to remain involved in the game as a coach, working to develop young players.
â€œI think I had a very good career, and I enjoyed every moment of it though it was not very easy as we all know that football in Lesotho hasnâ€™t been professionalised yet, which meant that I had to have other means to put food on the table for my family,â€ Mokhahlane said in an interview with Newsday Sport this week.
He said he enjoyed every moment of his career and said he was indebted to all who had made his stay on the field of play memorable as well as all those who spotted him and ensured that his star shone bright.
He said that representing his country and playing against some of the best players in the world stand as some of the greatest moments he intends to cherish for the rest of his life.
â€œPlaying for my country against some of the best teams and players at the pinnacle of my career was truly fulfilling. It gave us a chance to weigh ourselves as a country and as individual players to see how far we are in our football,â€ he added.
â€˜Westâ€™, as Mokhahlane was popularly called by his fans, reminisced about helping Makoanyane XI qualify for the Africa Youth Championship of 2005, which was the first time a Lesotho team secured qualification to a CAF tournament.
â€œThat for me was a very special group of players; it was a turning point for all of us in that team, and gave us hope that we could become very successful footballers.
â€œWe never looked back from there and a lot of us were able to graduate into the senior team, where we also managed to help our country compete against good teams. So, looking back, I think I had a decent career both at club level and the national teams.
â€œI learnt a lot as a player, especially playing in international tournaments – the COSAFA Cup from the junior level and the different CAF competitions at club level. I enjoyed it a lot because they helped me to become a better player,â€ he said.
Mokhahlane was also a key member of the Leslie Notsâ€™i Likuena side that reached the semi-final of the COSAFA Cup in Zambia in 2013, where he was among outstanding individuals walking away with two man-of-the-match awards.
NotÅ¡i who is now the Technical Director of the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA)sees the veteran midfielder as the best to ever do it in the country.
â€œI have had the privilege to work with him on two occasions, coached him in the premier league at Kick4Life and also in the national team set-up, he was one of the best midfielders a coach could have at his disposal,â€ NotÅ¡i said.
Mokhahlane started his career in 2005 playing for FC Likhopo at the age of 19 spending two years making 50 appearances then later joined LCS in 2007 until 2008 where he made 20 appearances.
Mokhahlane caught the attention of international clubs making a move to Tunisia where he played for Sfax Railway Sport in second division, Jendouba Sport, Stade Tunisien and ES Beni-Khalled between 2008 to 2012 before moving on to FC Blazers in Swiss 1st League spending two seasons with 28 appearances. He made a return to Lesotho in 2014 where he reunited with LCS.
The diminutive midfielder, was instrumental in Likhopoâ€™s two premier league successes in 2004 and 2005 as well as for LCS in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. He was captain of the first ever national under-20 team that qualified for the 2015 African Youth Championships