By Monday this week, the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) was yet to make a decision on whether our national under-20 side, Makoanyane XI, should honour their away match against Nigeria this Saturday, due to the Ebola virus which is wreaking havoc in the West African country.
Yet it was not just the Ebola outbreak which seemed to be the problem for the national under-20 side ahead of their crucial tie, whose winner qualifies for the African Youth Championship (AYC) finals in Senegal next year.
Early this week, the football federation also admitted it was facing challenges in getting funds from the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation to finance the trip — the same problem Lefa grappled with when the national team, Likuena, were supposed to go to Kenya a fortnight ago, for the decisive Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) fixture .
This group of youngsters has done the country proud, eliminating Swaziland and Angola in the first and second rounds of the competition respectively and it would be unfair on these boys if Nigeria were to qualify for the finals without playing Makoanyane XI, due to the aforementioned problems.
I also feel the Confederation of African Football (Caf) is being unfair to countries like ours, which are not yet affected by the disease, as Lesotho is not the only nation that has written to the continental football mother-body with concerns over travelling to West Africa.
Caf has already warned Lefa that if Makoanyane XI fail to make it to West Africa this weekend, the team would be booted out of the competition, while Lesotho could be punished further for the boycott.
Coming to the match itself, some local soccer fans are not giving Makoanyane XI any chance of beating the Flying Eagles, as the Nigeria under-20 football team is popularly known, and say the team might as well forfeit the match without bothering to face the Flying Eagles in the two-legged tie.
I feel this is a bit harsh based on the hard work that our youth team has put in to reach this third and final round of the competition.
Football is a very fickle sport and anything is possible, for Makoanyane XI have done tremendously well since the qualifiers began early this year and I still believe they have what it takes to give the West Africans a run for their money.
The Eagles might be a better team on paper because they have players plying their trade in top leagues in Europe, but I still believe our boys are going to progress to the finals at the expense of the Nigerians.
Again, luckily for Lesotho, some of the Nigerian players, such as Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho who has been outstanding for his team during preseason matches, will miss the first-leg match due to club-commitments.
As I write, Caf has authorised the game to go ahead as scheduled, but unfortunately, apart from the Ebola outbreak, Lefa is having a financial crisis which seems to be hampering the progress of the national teams as Likuena are also expected back in camp to start preparations for next month’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) group stage qualifiers.
It will really be a shame if Lefa fails to fly the team to Lagos for the weekend match, that is should the safety of the Makoanyane XI players be guaranteed.
Lefa and the Ministry of Sports must both come out and explain these financial problems that are affecting the programmes of these national teams.