Nothing wrong with switching allegiances

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Mikia Kalati

THE inclusion of two South African players, Teboho Lilane and Moloisane Ramasimong, in the Likuena squad by coach, Moses Maliehe, for friendlies against Botswana and Namibia hit a snag at the 11th hour when the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) developed cold feet.

This was mainly attributed to the on-going Bantu FC scandal where Lioli challenged the Mafeteng side’s irregular registration of foreign players.

I am not worried about the case but the confusion that has emanated from this scandal has disrupted the plans of the national team.

First of all, I do not see anything wrong if Maliehe called the players and they were willing to switch allegiance to Lesotho instead of South Africa.

Both are playing for local teams and have been on top of their game through-out the season.

In the case of Ramasimong, it took him time to settle after he joined the club last season, but he has been a marvel to watch for A Matšo Matebele this season.

He was outstanding in the CAF Champions League home loss to Mbabane Swallows at Setsoto Stadium in February to prove that he is also a player for the big occasions.

I understand why the Likuena coach is tempted to have him play for Lesotho along with Lilane.

Frankly speaking, their chances of representing South Africa are slim given that the country has a bigger pool of players to choose from.

Surely, they could give a few good years for Likuena.

This practice of switching allegiances has become popular world-wide and the football governing body, FIFA, has also made the rules flexible because they are aware of challenges that players go through in different stages of the game.

This flexibility has become helpful for most African players who go to Europe at an early age or are born in that part of the world and are tempted to represent these developed countries.

A noticeable example is Wilfred Zaha of Côte d’Ivoire, who earlier in his career had decided to play for England turning out for their youth teams as well as the senior team in a friendly match.

The winger, later, through the help of the Ivorian Football Federation, wrote to FIFA to switch allegiance from England to Côte d’Ivoire, his country of birth.

Then there is Diego Costa, he played twice for his native Brazil in 2013, but later declared his desire to represent Spain, having been granted Spanish citizenship in September 2013. He made his debut for his adopted nation in March 2014, and represented them at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

All I am saying is that we have football administrators who know all the procedures to be followed if they see the need for Likuena to utilise the services of the two players and any other foreign players playing in the country, who might be interested in playing for Likuena.

Yes, I agree that at this stage, the timing might not be right based on this case involving Bantu and Lioli, but it’s something that the association should consider going forward because I think some of the players can give the national team coaches options.

At the same time, I also understand worries of football pundits who were unhappy with the exclusion of Setho Moshoeshoe and Rethabile Selonyane of Liphakoe and Linare respectively.

The two strikers are among forwards fighting for the Golden Boot in the Econet Premier League and I think they have also done enough to have at least been given a chance to show what they can do at the national team level.

Of course, the Likuena coach has promised to give them a chance and I hope he keeps his word because scoring goals has been one of the worries for the national team.

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