‘Likuena team needs to be rebuilt’
NATIONAL soccer teams around the world have been busy playing 2018 World Cup qualifiers as well as friendly matches but Likuena have been idle. In this heart to heart interview with Lesotho Times (LT) sports reporter Mikia Kalati, Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) secretary-general Mokhosi Mohapi (MM) discusses this and other issues.
LT: We just had the FIFA weekend where most national teams were playing in World Cup qualifiers, while most countries that did not take part used the opportunity for friendly matches. Likuena remained idle. Why is it that our team hardly plays friendly matches like the others?
MM: Let us be frank on this issue. We don’t have matches for them for now. You would recall what transpired on the eve of their trip to Algeria in the last qualifier of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. So on that basis and truly speaking, it will be very difficult to select a team.
We have to start all over in the selection of players and they must be given time to play in the domestic league and moulded into national team players.
We cannot afford to go to matches and be embarrassed with losses. It is not good at all for the association and the nation at large.
LT: Does this mean that players that were in the team that lost 6-0 to Algeria in August will no longer be selected?
MM: Some of them will not be selected. There are those who appear to be unwilling to work well with the association, for reasons known only to themselves and many other things too.
You have to put them aside so that you can work on building a new team. I think the coach has come to a stage where he will not consider them in order to build the team anew.
By the way, Ntate Moses Maliehe is continuing with the team until the African Nations Championship (CHAN) and probably the COSAFA Cup as well. We are giving him a chance because he did exceptionally well in the last COSAFA Cup.
We also feel he was sabotaged by some players but he seems to have a plan going forward.
LT: Players’ allowances have been a thorny issue for many years and in the past the association said it discussed the matter with players. What is the association doing to bring the issue to finality given that it recurs ahead of important games like before the Ghana match in 2013 and Kenya in 2014?
MM: It is true it happens but the players already know the issues beforehand. I am sure you have heard an audio clip that is played regularly on the Radio Lesotho Sports programme where a player like Mabuti Potloane explains that they know and were told about these things.
It is also important to ask why it keeps happening that way. We are also humans and would love to give our players allowances that would make them happy.
Going forward, together with the Ministry of Sports, we need to look at ways of solving the problem. We need to look at the budget. We are all aware that there is not enough money in the country and so let us avoid giving a lot of unnecessary excuses.
We need to sit down with the ministry to find ways to keep our team motivated. They are the ones who are supposed to assist us with the national team so we have got to work on how to motivate our players so that they can perform well. But the players should not behave like mafia.
They should know that playing for the national team gives them a platform because if you look at the number of players playing in Europe, it was through playing for their national teams. Unfortunately our players do not see it in that perspective.
When they were on strike, they were not aware that some scouts wanted to watch and make contacts with them.
So they are not aware of the opportunities that they are missing and we need to help them get there, but we can only achieve that if we work together.
LT: Will we at least see Likuena in action in November because there will be another a weekend for international teams?
MM: No, I do not see it that way. Look, our finances have not been healthy since we have not been getting our subvention from the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC). We have to prioritise.
First of all, we have the under-20 team going for the COSAFA competition. What do we say about that? We have to focus on preparing that under-20 for the regional competition in Moruleng, North West South Africa from 4-16 December.
So, yes people want to see the national team playing, but we cannot bankrupt the association like in 2011 just because people want to see the national team playing. (LeFA was broke in 2011 and could not afford to pay salaries for its staff).
What is the significance of a friendly match when you do not have money? I would rather start playing the team in January when the finances have recovered. Let us give the under-20 a chance this time.
LT: Talking about the under-20, I have learnt that Ntate Motlalepula Majoro has made some changes to his team after the disappointment of the African Youth qualifiers early this year. He has picked players that some feel are long past playing for the under-20s as they have been playing for Likuena for almost two years. The players are Jane Thabantšo, Thabiso Brown and Morapeli Letsoetsa.
MM: Morapeli has not got his chance with the senior team despite being selected on a few occasions. As for Brown and Thabantšo, I do not know.
If it was up to me, I would not take those you already know to that tournament. I would take young players that we can build on for the future. However, Thabantšo had a splendid competition at the senior COSAFA tournament in Namibia.
LT: The LeFA Congress will be held soon. What is on the agenda?
MM: Yes, we have the congress on 22 October and it happens to be an elective year.
All association sub-committees must have elected their new committees before then. Unfortunately elections for the coaches’ association did not take place but let us wait and see what happens. At this stage I do not want to dwell much on that issue.
LT: The premier league has been going strong with different competitions that have sponsorships while the A division is still without a sponsor. What are your views on the standard of football in the country?
MM: Let us face facts. How is the economy of this country doing, what are the other resource issues that we have? Do we have that type of a television station that broadcasts matches, do our radio stations do their part through commentary of matches consistently and are we a sport loving nation?
A lot of critics talk about the struggles to attract sponsors but some of these critics are actually part of big companies who cannot sponsor.
So, you see there is no incentive for companies to come and sponsor and it is still not clear how the taxation issues work.
There is so much that can be done but sponsorship is still an issue. There is also the element of political stability: do people view our country as stable in order to bring investment into our country? This is another problem.
If you think it is only football that has problems in attracting sponsorship, look at the rate of unemployment in this country. Would it not be reduced if companies came and invested in our country so that taxation is paid so that facilities and sports infrastructure are developed? The facilities are one of the things that the government has not invested in.
If the government is not investing in sports, why should the private sector invest in sports? The private sector does things at the invitation of government. It is not the mistake of the current minister or government but the cash flow.
If there is no money coming in, government cannot afford to build stadiums. Look at the only stadium we have in Setsoto and compared to national stadiums in other countries, it is a far cry from them.
LT: Your association has been busy training coaches, what are you hoping to achieve with the courses?
MM: We fought battles with a lot of people to reclaim our autonomy as an association and now the focus is on our core business which is development.
How do we develop when most people do not know that we have leagues for under-10 and 15? Now we have an under-12 league because we have Ntate Mohaila Letseka as youth officer. He has run under-12 leagues in the country.