Cosafa debacle a sad reflection of our football

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Tsoanelo Koetle of Lesotho challenged by Zweli Nxumalo of Swaziland during the 2015 Cosafa Cup match between Lesotho and Swaziland at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
Tsoanelo Koetle of Lesotho challenged by Zweli Nxumalo of Swaziland during the 2015 Cosafa Cup match between Lesotho and Swaziland at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Mikia Kalati

Likuena’s disappointing performance at the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) currently underway in South Africa, was a sad reflection of the poor standard of soccer in our beloved country.

The rot starts at administration level where the beautiful game has continued to suffer while some administrators are happy to get allowances travelling across the globe on “Fifa assignments”.

Yet despite immense sacrifice from clubs such as Bantu and Lioli to uplift the game, it is clear there is still a long way to go before we reach that level where we can compete with the best in our region and beyond.

The fact that we have still not won the regional competition launched way back in 1997, and almost always struggle to make it past the group stage, should ring alarm bells at the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) headquarters.

But I believe clubs are equally guilty of failing our game as they have not been able to turn professional which, in turn, was going to change our national team’s fortunes.

Turning to our football grounds, to say they are a joke is but an understatement because most don’t deserve to host a match of premiership status. However, it doesn’t appear as if this lack of proper playing infrastructure is going to be addressed anytime soon, and the players will continue plodding on surfaces that do not do justice to their talents.

And while certain quarters were happy that two Lioli and Likuena players had found employment in the police, I was a bit disappointed to see the duo—Tšepo Seturumane and Basia Makepe—abandoning their potentially money-spinning careers for a job that will not even pay them M10 000 a month.

The two were among the best young players in this country and I don’t believe they will ever reach their true potential now that they are going to work as police officers because they won’t be focusing on their football.

What I’m trying to say here is many of our players have not been able to focus on their game because they need to find other ways to earn a living since our football hardly pays.

This means even with national duty on the horizon, the players still need to go to their formal employment and sometimes then miss crucial training sessions because of work commitments. It happened at times before our team left for Rustenburg for the ongoing Cosafa tournament, and the results were there for everyone to see—two losses and one win, and an early exit from a competition Lesotho were supposed to dominate considering we had sent an experienced squad unlike our competitors who decided to go for youth.

The bottom line is there is no other road to success apart from having a professional league or players signing for top clubs outside the country.

I also feel it is time our football bosses change their approach when it comes to sponsorship.

Like I said a few weeks ago, it’s an insult that our league champions get M200 000 for winning the biggest prize in domestic football.

A club like Bantu recently had to spend M80 000 for the operation of star-striker Tsebang Lebata, who had been sidelined the entire 2014/15 season.

Lebata could not practice his craft simply because his team could not raise the required funds.

Yet if our football was adequately sponsored, M80 000 should not have been a problem for a club as big as Bantu, hence why our administrators should emphasise the need to inject more funding to potential or existing sponsors.

On the other hand, the A Division went the whole 2014/15 season without a sponsor, and as we speak, the premiership management is having sleepless nights because Vodacom is yet to pronounce itself on whether or not it would renew its sponsorship of the topflight league.

If Lefa officials are serious about improving our football, then they should declared that it is in a crisis state because we cannot compete internationally while our leagues are struggling to get meaningful sponsorship.

Our clubs have also failed dismally in continental competitions, and if this is not a crisis, then I don’t know what is.

Football is the number one sport in this country, but has still failed to reach a stage where it can bring joy to the thousands of Basotho who follow it so religiously.

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