Likuena legend, Teele Ntšonyana, says local players fail to make it in foreign leagues because of poor development policies and maladministration at both club and national level.
Ntšonyana made this remark after Bantu signed national team (Likuena) forward Katleho Moleko from South African First Division side Garankuwa United, last week. Moleko had not enjoyed much game-time since joining the Pretoria-based outfit at the beginning of the current season when former Lesotho coach, Leslie Notši, was still the team’s head-coach.
Bantu striker Litšepe Marabe, Matlama defender Nkau Lerotholi and Likhopo striker Thapelo Tale have also failed to make the much-needed moves to foreign clubs due to one reason or the other.
Marabe was with Garankuwa United for the 2013/14 season but spent the whole season without kicking a ball in a competitive match after failing to secure a work permit, forcing him to re-sign for Bantu this term. Lerotholi also met with the same fate after joining United at the start of the current season and like Marabe, is back with his old club. On the other hand, Moleko joined Garankuwa at the start of the season from Santos, also in the South African first division, but could not cement a regular place in the team hence his return to Lesotho.
But according to Ntšonyana, irrespective of how good local players are, they would struggle to establish themselves outside the country because of a cocktail of reasons.
“This is a very touching matter to some of us who genuinely love football because the problem does not lie with the players, but our development methods; they are very poor,” Ntšonyana said.
The retired striker further said coaching had become “more scientific” and “like an art”, hence the players’ difficulty in comprehending what would be required, when they move to professional leagues.
“Coaching has become more scientific, more complicated; it has become an art lately so our players fail to meet those standards at their new foreign clubs.
“You will find that they play very well but when it comes to their level of fitness, it is well below the required standard, and that is where the problems start.
“The training doesn’t build them to reach the expected level of fitness, both physically and mentally. That is why in the developed world, you will hear that players’ transfers have failed due to medical examinations. Developing a player is basically building a complete package; there are no shortcuts.
“Players can be impressive talent-wise but there is more to being a footballer than technical ability, and this is where our development system is failing these boys.”
Ntšonyana, who played for Wits University and Witbank Aces (both in the South African Premier League), as well as Arsenal and Swallows locally, further said Lesotho players were taken as cheap labour, which makes them lose respect among their peers.
“What I can tell you is that irrespective of how good our players can be, they will not get the recognition they deserve outside the country because there is no particular price tag attached to them. Players must be valued to be treated with respect.
“But because they don’t have proper managers and also lack support from all the relevant stakeholders here, they are virtually on their own in a foreign land and this makes it difficult for them to perform and even be recognised as important by their new clubs.
“I was once told by Jomo Sono (South African football legend) that it is not that our players are not talented, but that we don’t take our football seriously. He said I should ask myself why players from other African countries manage to break into South African leagues so easily and are paid a lot of money yet Basotho have to struggle when they would even be better.”
That is the reason, Ntšonyana insisted, why administrative positions should be occupied by “the right people”.
“When our players move to foreign leagues and don’t play, it affects them mentally, and they also end-up losing their places in the national team.
“So in order to make sure we have the sound relationship with foreign leagues, we need to have the right administrators; people with genuine love for football, and especially those who have played the sport because they know what needs to be done and how players really feel.
“The governments of Lesotho and South Africa have a Memorandum of Understanding, which also says Safa (South African Football Association) would help Lefa (Lesotho Football Association) whenever possible. I believe we should take advantage of this by suggesting a special relationship between the local and South African leagues, for the benefit of our players.”