MASERU – “It’s now or never!”
Those are the words of Lesotho’s national Under-20 coach Leslie Notši.
On Sunday afternoon, at Setsoto Stadium, Makoanyane XI face a date with destiny when they battle Kenya in the second leg of their African Youth Championships qualifier.
The winner of the match will book a place among Africa’s elite eight youth sides for next year’s championships in Libya.
The top four teams at the championships will represent Africa at the Fifa Under-20 World Cup.
But before looking that far, Makoanyane XI have to focus on preserving their 1-0 lead from Nairobi last month.
“We are taking this game as a final,” Notši told the Lesotho Times yesterday after a session with his charges.
“It’s now or never for the players, for myself, the association and the country.
“There is an opportunity and this is the time for us to be counted.”
One headache however has been the absence of the side’s captain, Basia Makepe, because of school commitments.
The Joy centre-back has been a rock in defence and an ever-present throughout Lesotho’s campaign which has included a 7-2 aggregate thumping of Mozambique before a 3-2 triumph over South Africa.
“He (Makepe) hasn’t been with the team for this week because he is writing exams in Hlotse,” Notši said.
“We have other players who are also writing exams but they are based in Maseru, so they have been able to come to sessions in the afternoon.”
Notši however said he had options in case Makepe didn’t play.
“We will have to give him a fitness test to ascertain whether he can play or not,” he said.
“We don’t want to put him under pressure and because of the importance of this game we don’t want to take any chances.
“It gives us a problem, but there are other players that we can call upon.
“When we beat Botswana’s Under-23 team, Mangana (Maoela) and Motiki (Mohale) played in central defence.
“Last week Wednesday we played against Bloemfontein Celtic reserves and they did well again.”
Notši said it was important to stick to the game plan and not believe the match was a done deal.
“We are going to see to it that we don’t give them space to play but at the same time create chances because it will be very difficult for them to come back from two goals down,” he said.
“Yes, we want to qualify, but we are approaching this match as if the first leg didn’t happen.
“We will give Kenya respect where it is necessary.”
Notši said the crowd at Setsoto would play a huge part in their quest for victory – just as they did in pulling the team through against South Africa in the last round.
“The most important thing is that they should come and motivate the players, and then the players will give something,” he said.
“That is all we can ask for – their support.”
Defending African youth champions Ghana, Nigeria and Mali are well-placed to qualify while traditional giants Egypt and Ivory Coast will have to overcome one goal deficits when they host Senegal and Gambia respectively.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s Vodacom Premier League fixture between high-flying Bantu and Lioli in Mafeteng has been postponed because A Matšo Matebele have three players in the Makoanyane XI squad.
For similar reasons, Swallows’ home game against Likhopo and Matlama’s clash with Mabeoana have also been postponed.
It means table-topping LDF have the chance to extend their lead if they beat surprise package Maduma in Khukhune.
At Central Prison, two unbeaten sides with contrasting fortunes clash.
LCS, who have drawn all their four games and are languishing in ninth place, host Linare, who are third with two wins from their three matches.