No takers for Lesotho

MASERU — With the 2010 Fifa World Cup only 175 days away, Lesotho is yet to secure a national team to camp in the country and it seems increasingly unlikely any side will use the country as a training base come June next year.
The draw for the tournament was made three weeks ago and it is expected more than 500 000 fans will descend on the region for the football showpiece.
Tournament spin-offs are expected to be enjoyed throughout the region, with Botswana and Mozambique reported to have already signed tentative agreements to host teams next year.
In August, the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) signed a partnership agreement with German marketing and television giant Sportfive to help in the bid to secure a national team to camp in the country.
The deal with Sportfive — the official sales agent in Europe for the World Cup’s hospitality programme — will run until the end of the showpiece and as part of the agreement, natural grass will be laid over the Setsoto Stadium’s artificial turf when renovations are complete.
“We are still waiting for feedback from Sportfive on who, according to their knowledge, will use Lesotho as a training base,” Lefa vice-president Tlholo Letete told the Lesotho Times yesterday.
Asked if he was confident Lesotho would have a team camping in the country next year, Letete said: “I can’t say, because it is something out of my control; but it would be a great honour for the country.”
But with Setsoto only scheduled to be opened next April at the earliest, it is unlikely any of the 31 qualified nations will be attracted, especially as teams need to train on natural grass.
“We have been told that by March next year, the stadium will be ready,” Sportfive’s MacGowan von Holstein said at the unveiling of the deal in August. “But it depends on what is not ready; most importantly, teams need to have a pitch to play on.”
Meanwhile, Lesotho will end the year in 150th position in the world — and 40th in Africa — after Fifa’s world rankings were released yesterday. It is Lesotho’s highest end-of-year ranking since 2005 when Likuena managed a 145th place finish.  Lesotho’s highest-ever end-of-year ranking was 120, which was achieved in 2003.
Likuena’s latest ranking, meanwhile, comes after a year of relative improvement. The national team was ranked 162nd in February.
However, Likuena have only managed to win one of their eight international friendly matches this year — an unconvincing 1-0 win over Mauritius at the Cosafa Senior Challenge in October.
“The ranking (150) is still low but considering where we are coming from, it is promising. It’s something that I feel is job well done, not just for me as an individual but also the (Lefa) national executive, the technical team and most importantly, the players,” Likuena’s caretaker coach, Leslie Notši, said yesterday.
Because Lesotho has failed to qualify for either the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) starting in Angola next month or the World Cup, Likuena’s next competitive fixture will only come in  September 2010, when the 2012 Afcon qualifiers are due to start.
Notši — who was roped in to coach the national under-20 side at the recent Cosafa Under-20 Youth Championships — said he planned to make recommendations and draw a programme for the national team, which will be submitted to the Lefa executive.
“We would like to play two friendlies during the Afcon (next month),” Notši said. “And then try to play two or three games each month. But those are things that we are going to be discussing with our superiors. Our performance in Zimbabwe showed that we have what it takes (to compete) but for that to bear fruit, there is need to keep the team together and make sure we play more matches.”
Notši revealed talks have not yet taken place over whether he will be appointed as the substantive coach.
“After I returned from Zimbabwe, I was (immediately) assigned to the under-20 team, so there hasn’t been any time but the national executive is going to meet early next year,” he said.

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