African safari

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Premiership outfit Free State Stars have embarked on an international brand profiling campaign this year, which will include visits to neighbouring countries.

"It is one of our New Year's resolutions to build the profile in other southern Africa countries," said Rantsi Mokoena, Stars' brand manager.

"We are talking to our brothers in Swaziland and Lesotho with a view to playing international friendlies against some of their top clubs.

"The plan is to play some of the games during the three-week long Africa Cup of Nations break. The names will be confirmed in due course.

"For now, we will be playing against the likes of Likhopo and Matlama in Lesotho. In Swaziland, we will be taking on Mbabane Highlanders.

"We hope the games will help to keep the players in shape during the Afcon break. Hopefully we can see one or two impressive players in those countries."

Mokoena said the link with the Swazis was facilitated by their Malawian coach, Kinnah Phiri, who used to work in Mbabane before rejoining Ea Lla Koto.

"We are quite happy with the ever-improving support base for Free State Stars in the country, but we're planning to lure more brothers and sisters in other African countries to rally behind the team."

The Stars' brand manager said Phiri and his technical staff had also recommended two friendly matches against First Division clubs.

'We are in the process of finalising the deal with the clubs in question before mentioning their names, people are going to see a more hungry Stars in February."

Stars assembled in Bohlokong yesterday after the festive season holidays.

Duncan "The King" Lechesa, Stars' captain, said: "We are aware that we raised the hopes of many people with our incredible display last year.

"The plan is to step up a gear in 2008 after doing so well last year."

Meanwhile, Mokoena has also rubbished reports that their deadly striker, Fanyana Dhladhla, was heading for Kaizer Chiefs or Mamelodi Sundowns.

"He is still contracted to us until the end of the season, with an option to renew. We are all surprised to read about him leaving us," he said.