They have the character
Soccer Laduma|4 December 2019
Cut Lehlohonolo Seema’s skin andhe’ll probably bleed green andwhite – such has been the man’s loyalty to Bloemfontein Celtic. Born and bred in neighbouring Lesotho, the Mangaung outfit is a club that’s always had a pull factor on him. So much that it is they who pulled him from obscure Bantu United from the mountainous kingdom in 1998, and he would go on to represent the club until 2006 when the allure of Orlando Pirates, understandably, proved too great a pull factor. Yet even a five-year spell with the Soweto giants, which included a season-long loan stint at Mpumalanga Black Aces, would not prevent him being pulled back in the direction of Siwelele, albeit to begin a coaching journey in the junior ranks. The next step was to become an assistant, a job he performed with aplomb, before being called on to take the hotseat together with John Maduka after the departure of Steve Komphela at the tail end of 2018. Much against general expectation, the duo has done fairly well, if Celtic’s off-field troubles of the recent past are to be taken into consideration. Soccer Laduma’s Beaver Nazo sat down with Seema to discuss this, that, and the other.

Beaver Nazo: Coach, you’ve done well relatively speaking since taking over the coaching reigns from Steve Komphela. What do you attribute that to?

Lehlohonolo Seema: The technical team that is there is made up of former players of the club. We have been here for a very long time and we know just about everything there is to know about the club. We have been through hard times with the club. That connection and understanding has helped us. We know the players and the culture of the club well.

BN: Notably, you guided Siwelele into a Top Eight finish last season, which under the circumstances was an outstanding achievement.

LS: We had to talk to the guys and tell them to just focus on our job on the field of play and not even look at things that we don’t have control over. Those problems came when we were doing well and that gave us an indication that we are a good team.

BN: What is the target for this season?

LS: The team has signed about 10 new players and most of them young players who have never played in the Absa Premiership before. It will take time for them to fully adjust to the way we do things, although it looks like they have (adjusted) now, but they are not there yet. Therefore, our target for the season is to improve from last season’s performances and get a cup, maybe, for the club.

BN: The club turns 50 this year, a milestone worth celebrating...

LS: Yeah, it would really be very nice for us as a team to win something for the club to celebrate the 50th anniversary with.

BN: After losing key players like Tshegofatso Mabasa, Bongani Sam and Kabelo Dlamini to Orlando Pirates, many expected the club to tumble. How did you manage to hold it together?

LS: We had to sit as the technical team and see how we come out with the solution. We needed to acknowledge that we had problems and therefore we needed to try to come up with solutions. We worked very hard to try to see to it that they (departed players) were not badly missed. Yes, they were always going to be missed because of their quality, but we needed to rather try to minimise the void they left by getting the 10 players that we signed.

BN: Some may argue that the players that have left have not been adequately replaced even though the club signed the 10 new players. Your take?

LS: We have to be realistic because we know our situation. The certain calibre of players like those who left the club doesn’t come cheap and it was a well-known fact that the club was facing financial woes. We couldn’t go to the chairman and say we want a cheque book to sign players. We then decided that we would go for young players who will learn from here. It is part of learning for us as well. We got the players and they are doing well. The character of this young technical team has been built by all of this. We can only say thank you to the management, under the circumstances.

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