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No short cut to football glory

by Lesotho Times

THE African Nations Cup explodes into life on Sunday in Angola promising a football festival to a country still recovering from the ravages of war.
The African Nations Cup tournament has been described as a tempting starter ahead of the sumptuous feast in neighbouring South Africa in June.
The tournament is the first to be held in a Portuguese-speaking country since the tournament’s inception 53 years ago.
Sixteen nations will battle for the trophy with football lovers across the continent set to stay glued to their television sets during the 22 days of fun.
But for football lovers in Lesotho participation at such esteemed football festivals remains a pipe dream.
Lesotho has never qualified for the Nations Cup or any other football tournament of note since independence in 1966.
We have remained spectators in a game we so much love.
Our qualification campaign under that obscenely paid Serbian coach, Zavisa Milosavljevic, was one which we would want to quickly forget.
Milosavljevic who was reportedly getting a salary of US$10 000 a month, reduced our national football team to the whipping boys of African football.
Milosavljevic’s record at the helm of Likuena was to say the least nothing short of scandalous.
Under his tutelage, Likuena played 17 international matches losing nine times, drawing six and tasting victory only twice.
A catastrophic 2010 World Cup/Nations Cup campaign in which Lesotho lost all their six games was the final straw.
The national team scored a measly two goals and conceded a whopping 12 goals.
With this pathetic record, Milosavljevic’s 16-month dance with the Crocodiles came to a screeching halt in September last year.
It is important that we put our football miseries in proper perspective.
When results fail to come our way on the playing field the first casualty is the coach.
To a certain extent that is correct because the coach picks the team and when the team fails to click he should get the kick in the teeth.
But if we are to exorcise the demons holding us from progress we need to go beyond this simplicity and deal with the issues that have held us back from realising our full potential on the football field.
As a nation we have tended to quickly apportion blame on national coaches.
This practice has bred an unfortunate national syndrome that has bordered on mob justice much to the detriment of our football.
It is important to note that some of the nations enjoying their place in the sun in Angola are no bigger than Lesotho.
Take for instance the Republic of Gabon which has an estimated population of just 1.5 million people.
But the Gabonese national football team is a powerhouse on the African continent.
Gabonese football players are dotted across Europe playing at the highest levels in superior European leagues.
The West Africans, better known as the Azingo Nationale, are making their fourth appearance at the tournament finals after just narrowly missing out on the 2010 World Cup tournament in South Africa.
The lesson that we need to learn from Gabon and other nations taking part in the tournament at the risk of regurgitating a tired cliché is that there is no short cut to success.
Without sound planning and management we will continue to be the whipping boys of African football.
This meticulous planning involves coming up with well thought-out junior policies that seek to tap raw talent at a young age.
All countries that are serious about their football have vibrant junior leagues from the under eight age group right up to the under 18s.
If we fail to set up such programmes we will continue to watch from the sidelines as other nations rub shoulders at prestigious football tournaments like the one that explodes into life in Angola on Sunday.
The Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) must harness its energy to revamp football rather than engage in wasteful arguments with the media.
Banning newspapers and threatening journalists while refusing to talk to others will not uplift the standard of football in our country.

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