Stakes high in cross-country championship
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.