National team coach Seephephe Matete has been left with no choice but to persuade veteran defender Moitheri Ntobo to come out of retirement once again.
Matete was concerned by the team’s defence, hence his decision to recall the 35-year-old who had called time on his international career last year. Ntobo had first retired from the national team, Likuena, in 2013, and was asked to return after the coaches could not get an ideal replacement for the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) defender.
The fact that Likuena have been conceding goals either towards the end of the first half or very late in the match would have worried any coach.
In last month’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Algeria, Likuena conceded two goals in the last five minutes of the match in their 1-3 loss to the Desert Foxes, and I believe that’s the reason Matete had to seek out Ntobo yet again.
That late collapse was really disappointing and something had to be done to fix the problem. However, recalling Ntobo cannot be the long-term solution considering the player’s age.
One thing this quick-fix has exposed is our poor development structure because surely by now, the coach should have found a replacement for Ntobo.
Since the defensive stalwart announced his second retirement from the team, Likuena have played in the regional Cosafa tournament and one African Nations Championship (Chan) qualifier.
These are competitions most nations use to unleash young talent and help the youngsters get used to international football.
But this has not been the case with Lesotho as Matete opted to use seasoned players instead of giving youngsters the international exposure they needed.
I understand the coach has no option but to beg Ntobo for his services since results have not been forthcoming. But my problem is there will come a time Ntobo won’t be available anymore because at 35, he is obviously nearing the end of his career.
It is a concern when we don’t have youngsters to replace the likes of Ntobo and Lioli midfielder Bushy Moletsane, who is also in the twilight of his career.
When LeFA introduced a Likuena ‘B’ team last year, the expectation was this arrangement was for grooming young players and bridging the gap between the tried-and-tested and those that are still getting used to international football.
But it seems the plan is not working because Matete has overlooked young players once again for someone who began his international career way back in 2000.
My question now is: why are we struggling to produce good defenders the same way we came up with Ntobo and Lehlohonolo Seema?
Is our country in a crisis as far as football is concerned?
Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with Ntobo returning to the national team. Not only do I admire this man for his leadership skills on the pitch, he is also a great gentleman off it.
I believe our football is still struggling because unlike other countries, Matete has been using the same team for different competitions.
Like I said, I expected a different side for the Chan and Cosafa tournaments the way the other countries did by using their development sides for the competitions.
By the way, Lesotho had one of the oldest squads at this year’s regional Cosafa tournament held in May in South Africa, which tells it all—that we are lagging behind other countries when it comes to youth development.
This is really worrying and shows LeFA officials have not been doing their homework properly.
This shows there is serious need for the association to rework its strategies to ensure we move with the times and are abreast the other nations.
We really cannot continue along this vein because it’s a shame we have never qualified for the Afcon tournament.
Meanwhile, this week’s sacking of Bantu coach, Katiso Mojakhomo, less than three months after his appointment was too juicy for me to ignore.
This is because I once said it in this very column the A Matšo Matebele management had blundered by firing Motlatsi Shale, who won them their first and only premier league title in 2013/14.
Shale won the title in his first season in charge and took the team to second place on the premiership table the following term.
For the sake of competition, I hope Bantu are going to get the right man this time around.
I always had this feeling Mojakhomo was never going to succeed at Bantu because of his coaching style and way of doing things which can only work at government clubs like LCS, Lesotho Mounted Police Service and Lesotho Defence Force where the chain of command is clear.
With that said, I wish to say Happy Independence to Basotho.