14 Apr 2020
Nteboheleng Setoko has led the way in showing how women can play a leading role in football, a game that is perceived to be a male dominated sport.
Holding many different roles across different spectrums of the game, the former Mehalalitoe captain even started her own women’s team which has consistently proven to be one of the leading teams in the women’s game, even winning the Women’s Super League title in 2016, still the only team aside from LDF Ladies to have won the league since the inception of the Women’s Super League.
Setoko first got involved in playing football at the age of 10, joining in on the street with boys from her village and continued to play boys football before joining women’s football. ”At the age of 14 I played with a C division team called Spikers FC based in St Monica’s and from there joined women’s football at High School” she recalls.
Setoko’s career continued to take off from there with national team call ups and even becoming one of the first females to play outside of the country. “I got an opportunity to be called for national under 20 trials in 2004 whereby I made it to the final selection and I first represented the country in the AUSC Region 5 games in Mozambique before being called up for Mehalalitoe in 2006.” said Setoko of her early days with the national team.
However it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Leribe born star as she tells us about some of the difficulties she faced as she tried to establish herself in the national team before managing to overcome the challenges “it wasn’t easy going becasue of some of the criticism I received from my team-mates”’she said.
After that things continued to get better earning a move to Mbababne Swallows Ladies in Swaziland (now eSwatini) in 2008 before going on to captain the national team in 2011 in the COSAFA Cup in Zimbabwe, which included a 3-2 win over Mozambique.
As she begins to wind down her playing career, Setoko still plays a crucial role in the growth of women’s football, running F.C. Stoko. When she first established the team in 2010 it was with the aim of developing girls not just on the pitch, but with important skills off of it too. ”I started my own team because I wanted to instill some football skills to girls, test my potential as a leader and teaching them to have self-esteem as well as discipline.” she explained.
The highlight for her club came in 2016 when F.C. Stoko, led by her brother and current Women’s Senior Team National Team Assistant Coach Paul Setoko, surprised everyone by beating LDF Ladies, who have dominated the Women’s Super League up to now, to the title. It was an acheivement that meant a lot to Setoko. “It meant a lot to me for my own team to have won the title in the just second season after the establishment of the Women’s Super League. It was a hige acheivement for a young woman to own a team and making it to the top through the odds as it affects you menatally, financially and emotionally, but we made history” she said proudly.
Talking of how the league has helped women’s football in the country she feels it has helped raise the standards of players and hopes it leads to more women’s football development across different ager categories saying ”The league has helped women’s football to grow in Lesotho as there is always something to compete for and also the regular matches doesn’t allow players to rest which increases the standard of our football. Hopefully in the future there will be clear structures of women football development at different age groups to produce a pool of quality players, at the national teams level, who are well developed”
Finally Setoko had a message for young girls who are interested in getting involved in the game. “It takes courage to be involved in a male dominated sport, so work hard, do not undermine yourselves and know that you have the potential and above all know that discipline is the key”.
We look forward to seeing many more girls in the future help raise the level of women’s football in Lesotho and one thing for sure is that Nteboheleng Setoko will have certainly played her own role in that.