Likuena held the Harambee Stars of Kenya to a goalless draw on Sunday in Nairobi — a result which saw the national football team qualify for the group stage of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament.
After beating Liberia 2-1 in the first round of the campaign, Lesotho needed to pull-off another famous win against Kenya to make the group and final phase of the qualifiers.
Following the 1-0 first leg, second round win at Setsoto stadium a fortnight ago, Sunday’s 0-0 draw in the return fixture was enough to see Lesotho join Angola, Burkina Faso and Gabon in Group C of the final qualifier, whose winner and runner-up make it to the Afcon finals set for Morocco.
I must say this is a very special moment that will be remembered for many decades to come, as far as football is concerned in our country.
It is a fact that Lesotho were facing a very formidable Kenya side dominated by some Europe-based professionals, and looked to have come to the end of the road following the slender 1-0 win at Setsoto.
For the return leg, the Kenyans brought in all their pros who had missed the first leg, among them the dangerous Dennis Oliech, who plies his trade with French top-league side Ajaccio, and it appeared Likuena were on their way out of the competition.
I mean, this is a team that has Victor Wanyama who plays for Southampton in one of the toughest leagues on the planet, the English Premiership.
Wanyama is a regular player for his team and captained the Harambee Stars in the two matches against Likuena, while his brother, McDonald Mariga, won the 2010 European Champions League with Inter Milan.
In our team, only Jane Tšotleho plies his trade outside the country and could only make the match in the second leg as coach Seephephe Matete opted to go for experienced players.
The left-footed Tšotleho is playing in the second-tier league in the United States of America and I’m sure playing for Lesotho has boosted his chances of joining a bigger, topflight league team not only in the US but also in Europe.
Above all, I think the man who deserves more credit is the coach, who faced so much criticism when the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) gave him the job on an interim basis early this year following the departure of Leslie Notši.
Matete took the criticism and went about his job like the mature coach he is.
His tactics have been spot on since the first round matches, and one can only have nothing but praise for such insight into the game.
I also wish to salute veterans of this team such as Moitheri Ntobo, Bushy Moletsane, Mohau Kuenane, and Ralekoti Mokhahlane.
These experienced players have shown maturity over the years and ensured
Likuena qualified for the group stage of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers at the expense of Burundi.
Even in a tough group that consisted of Ghana and Zambia, Likuena did well as they only lost to Ghana in all their three home matches, with Zambia and Sudan both failing to win at Setsoto.
The team also reached the semi-finals of the regional Cosafa tournament in Zambia last year.
So the challenge now is on maintaining the standards to make sure that the dream of qualifying for the Afcon for the very first time is realised.
This a chance for the Lefa leaders to put their house in order and make sure the players never go on strike over camping allowances, ever again.
These boys’ role is to play football and they must get all the support they deserve from all the relevant parties, including our Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Thesele ‘Maseribane.
You made us proud Likuena and May the Almighty be with you throughout the qualifying campaign.