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Congratulations to Likuena for qualifying for the group stage of the 2014 World Cup despite the number of problems Lesotho football has experienced over the years. It is a notable achievement for national coach Leslie Notši and his players, putting Lesotho amongst Africa’s top national teams and has breathed life into local football. Likuena can look now forward to competing alongside Ghana, Zambia and Sudan in 2012.
However, this success does not mean that they should rest on their laurels or become big-headed. They should not fool themselves into thinking they can conquer the world already. This is just a start that has to be built upon.
The decision by the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) last year to suspend the national team, Likuena, and focus on Lesotho’s national youth sides has so far been vindicated, but now more needs to be done to consolidate it.
For one thing Lesotho football will not move anywhere while it is still being played on potato fields. Players and supporters alike continue to decry this situation, which has been unchanged for decades. There also has to be more investment in grassroots football and talent identification has to start in schools. When this talent is identified it needs much better nurturing and monitoring.
Better management of the top-flight is also desperately needed, while clubs themselves need to work harder to improve their running. On average, premier league clubs are run on debt and are only kept afloat by well wishers. Players are not insured or paid, and have to fend for themselves. All of these factors have snowballed, resulting in Lesotho being left behind at the highest level.
This is shown by how Lesotho has always fared well in youth football but failed at the senior level. This is because of the poor levels of the league, administration and facilities. Lesotho has a talented generation of players at its disposal and their talent has to be afforded a platform. It is time we began to seriously move towards semi-professionalism.
It is not like there are not any guidelines. The Mohale Declaration is there, signed and sealed by Lesotho’s club in 2008, but over three years after its signing, it is hard to say Lesotho football has progressed in the way the roadmap intended it to.
For example, the Mohale Declaration says “by 2014 all clubs will have consistently access to (or ownership of) developed training facilities that will by 2014 be fully provided and include turf, dressing rooms and training lights”.
It is time they stopped paying lip service to things like this, and Lesotho has to use Likuena’s success as a starting point. Of course there are a lot of challenges in Lesotho football but the simple ones can be overcome. A more serious approach to security by the Lefa and improving facilities are just two aspects Lesotho football desperately needs, both of which mostly require initiative. What the sporting community has to realize is that Lesotho has fallen behind its neighbours.
True leadership means being able to offer workable solutions to problems and offer new ideas. If something isn’t done now, then this window of opportunity for Lesotho football will be missed.