Stakes high in cross-coun­try cham­pi­onship

Lesotho Times - - Sport - Mikia Kalati

The Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con) foot­ball tour­na­ment cur­rently un­der­way in equa­to­rial Guinea has made me think of our own na­tional team, Likuena.

There were many neg­a­tives for the team in 2014, es­pe­cially dur­ing qual­i­fiers of the same Af­con com­pe­ti­tion, where prepa­ra­tions were con­stantly dis­rupted be­cause of fi­nan­cial woes. The prob­lems even­tu­ally led to a bonus row be­tween play­ers and the Le­sotho Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (Lefa), and the be­gin­ning of the end of a promis­ing cam­paign.

And as one of the coun­tries strug­gling when it comes to in­ter­na­tional foot­ball, I feel Lefa should have al­ready an­nounced pro­grammes for Likuena, as well as the other na­tional teams to show that we have learned from our mis­takes.

We are into the sec­ond month of 2015 and Lefa should start ne­go­ti­at­ing with other coun­tries for in­ter­na­tional friendly matches as we build for the fu­ture.

A big­ger por­tion of play­ers who were in the na­tional team last year are al­ready on the wrong side of their play­ing ca­reers, so we ex­pect a new-look Likuena go­ing for­ward.

There is no ques­tion that play­ers like Moitheri Ntobo, Bushy Mo­let­sane and oth­ers have done their part and it is time for them to fo­cus on club foot­ball.

But the chal­lenge re­mains in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure for many of our young­sters who al­ways strug­gle to adapt to the in­ter­na­tional stage.

One good ex­am­ple is Mat­lama’s Phafa Tšosane. This is one player who de­liv­ers week-in-and-week-out for his team, but has re­ally strug­gled to shine when it comes to the na­tional team.

Tšosane is still in his early 20s and among a group of play­ers who have been con­sis­tently per­form­ing well in our league, but has to show his class on the big stage.

This year, Likuena will fight for the re­gional Cosafa Cup in South Africa in May as well as the African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship, pop­u­larly known as CHAN.

The CHAN qual­i­fiers are ex­pected to start around June hence I say prepa­ra­tions should al­ready be un­der­way to make sure the team is ready by that time.

We al­ways have prob­lems when it comes to prepa­ra­tions and I ex­pect this mat­ter to be ad­dressed this year, but it looks like we are go­ing to go through the same rou­tine again.

Most coun­tries use the two com­pe­ti­tions to build their teams for the fu­ture and I think Lefa should start work­ing with a group of at least 40 play­ers as we pre­pare for the big­ger com­pe­ti­tions—af­con 2017 as well as World Cup 2018.

Of course, there are also young­sters based in the United States of Amer­ica (US) that I feel are ready for na­tional team-ma­te­rial and should be in­volved in Likuena ac­tiv­i­ties reg­u­larly.

Well, we also saw Jane ‘Sunny’ Tšotleho in the few games he played last year that he is a qual­ity player and Likuena coaches also val­ued his abil­i­ties.

Un­for­tu­nately, Lefa could not af­ford fly­ing him from his US base last year, and that is why I say the as­so­ci­a­tion should be work­ing hard to raise fund­ing for our team.

And this in­cludes fly­ing Tšotleho for im­por­tant matches as well as other Le­sotho boys based in the US.

At the mo­ment, I see lack of am­bi­tion from Lefa lead­ers who are yet to say any word re­gard­ing Likuena. The Le­sotho Am­a­teur Ath­let­ics As­so­ci­a­tion (LAAA) is set to host a Na­tional Cross-coun­try Cham­pi­onship in ha Mabote on Satur­day.

In ad­di­tion to un­earthing new tal­ent, the com­pe­ti­tion would also be used to se­lect a team for this month’s South­ern African Re­gion Cross-coun­try Cham­pi­onship in Malawi, ac­cord­ing to LAAA Public Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer Se­jana­mane Maphathe.

“We are ex­pect­ing ath­letes from across the coun­try to come for Satur­day’s race, be­cause a lot would be at stake.

“Those who excel in the two com­pe­ti­tions stand a chance of rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try at the 2015 World Cross-coun­try Cham­pi­onship set for China in March,” Maphathe said.

The re­gional com­pe­ti­tion, he noted, was ini­tially sup­posed to be held in Botswana, but had since been moved to Malawi.

Maphathe added: “We are look­ing for­ward to Satur­day’s com­pe­ti­tion be­cause it has al­ways pro­duced sur­prises in terms of new tal­ent.

“This com­pe­ti­tion re­mains valu­able to the LAAA as it gives young ath­letes a plat­form to show­case their tal­ent. And be­cause this is a com­pe­ti­tion for both male and fe­male ath­letes, we ex­pect a big turnout in ha-mabote.

“It is all-sys­tems-go for Satur­day and we are con­fi­dent it is go­ing to be a suc­cess­ful com­pe­ti­tion, stakes are very high in this event; there would be so much to fight for for the run­ners.”

Maphathe also noted 2015 would be a busy year for lo­cal ath­let­ics.

“This is go­ing to be a hec­tic year as far as ath­let­ics is con­cerned be­cause there would be the All-africa Games, as well as World Cham­pi­onships, among other ma­jor in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, and we hope to send contestants to most, if not all of them. That is why we have to make sure we have a large pool of very good ath­letes,” he said.

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