MAKOANYANE XI’s hopes of qualifying for the 2017 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations tournament to be held in Zambia hang by a thread after the national under-20 team slumped to a 2-0 defeat at home to South Africa’s Amajita on Sunday.
While there remains a mathematical possibility that our boys can turn the tables in the reverse fixture, it will take an exceptional performance because the South Africans have a commanding lead.
In my view, Makoanyane XI were not outplayed as the result suggests. It was more down to Amajita’s experience and quality which earned them an early goal. The early advantage ultimately galvanised the South Africans to solidify the lead in the second-half.
In contrast, Makoanyane XI failed to mount a cohesive and effective offensive. Amajita edged our boys primarily because they play more regularly and at a higher level.
Over the years, I have bemoaned the limited opportunities our players have in competing at the international level. Resultantly, the lack of exposure works against them as they come up short, which was the case against South Africa on Sunday.
The way forward is for the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) to ensure that junior teams participate in international youth tournaments. Going toe to toe with other countries at junior levels will give our players the mettle needed to perform at major tourneys.
Notwithstanding sponsorship constraints, I think it is imperative for LeFA to introduce a reserve league to accommodate the under-20 players since some of them don’t play regularly at their clubs.
The South Africans recently introduced a reserve league from which the bulk of the Amajita squad that walloped Makoanyane XI emanates.
The reserve league is very competitive and also enables senior players from top flight teams to play if they are not getting enough game time.
In his post-match remarks, Makoanyane XI coach Motlalepula Majoro partly attributed the loss to the absence of striker Romoaba Koloti who missed the match due to injury.
While Majoro understandably pinned his hopes on Koloti, given his prolific form, football remains a team sport.
Koloti had an outstanding season at club level and also scored against Mozambique to ensure Makoanyane XI’s progress in the qualifiers to face Amajita.
However, the fact remains that Majoro should always be spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting players.
Sunday’s defeat should serve as a wakeup call on the need for a larger pool of players with the right exposure and experience to compete against any country and qualify for continental competitions.