MAKOANYANE XI crashed out of the 2017 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations qualifiers on Sunday with a 5-0 aggregate loss at the hands of South Africa in Bloemfontein.
In all honesty, our national under-20 side were outclassed by the South Africans home and away after losing 2-0 and 3-0 respectively.
South Africa were able to dictate the tempo of the first leg match at Setsoto Stadium on 10 July 2016, and were even more dominant in Bloemfontein.
With only one short on target during the match played at Petrus Molemela Stadium, there was no way we could overturn the deficit and book a place in the tournament to be held in Zambia from 26 February – 12 March 2017.
When teams lose matches, coaches mostly take the flak, but in this instance the truth is our team was not good enough.
Makoanyane XI’s defeat should serve as a reminder to our football administrators that more needs to be done to invest in young talent.
The last time we qualified for a youth continental competition, then coach Leslie Notši was spoilt for choice and had a big and competitive side.
The national under-20 side’s route to qualifying for the 2011 tournament was certainly tougher, and yet they still prevailed.
Their started off with Mozambique before taking on South Africa and Kenya with victories home and away.
Players in the “class of 2011” included Tšoanelo Koetle, who had to fight for the right back position against Lekhooa Salebone and Sepiriti Malefane who was versatile enough to play as a defensive midfielder.
Due to the intense competition, the likes of Litšepe Marabe and Lekhanya Lekhanya at times found themselves settling for the bench.
The first ever national under-20 side to qualify for the tournament in 2005 was also special since it had some of the Mountain Kingdom’s best ever young players.
The likes of Bokang “Lefty” Mothoana ended up playing at the highest level in Tunisia, while Neo Makaba, Dlomo Monaphathi, Katleho Moleko and Tefo “Chigo” Maipato won contracts at Orlando Pirates’ youth development side, although they did not break into the first team.
The late Bishop Molatoli contributed immensely to Makoanyane XI’s success at the time because many players who were in the 2005 and 2011 teams were his protégés at Likhopo.
Unfortunately, Molatoli is no more, and there is no pool of talented youngsters any more.
The Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) needs to address this matter.
It is only when we have proper youth structures that we can produce quality players and hold our own against the rest of the continent.