Likuena players went on strike yet again on Sunday and refused to leave for Angola due to a row with the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) over allowances.
The players were demanding M5000 each before they could go to Luanda to fulfil yesterday’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group C fixture against the Palancas Negras, while Lefa was offering them M600.
The team finally left on Monday afternoon following a closed-door meeting with Lefa officials, and sports minister Thesele ‘Maseribane.
I don’t even know where to start regarding this allowance issue, which has come to dog our national team over recent years, with no end in sight to the problem.
Two days after a goalless draw against Palancas Negras—a result which meant Likuena were still in with a chance to qualify for the Afcon tournament in Morocco next year—I must admit news that the team had refused to travel, came as a real surprise to me.
Of course, our beautiful Mountain Kingdom has not been a happy country over recent months now because of political and security instability, but it never looked like the same might be true for our national football team camp.
It is a well-known fact that the wellbeing of these players has never been Lefa’s first priority over the years, but I feel this time around, the boys lost the plot by holding the country to ransom over the issue.
I don’t have a problem when the players fight for their rights, especially when they have been doing well against top-class opponents who play in big leagues around the globe.
What I feel was wrong was the timing of the strike as the players should have communicated their grievances earlier and not on the day of the trip to Angola.
Where is these players’ patriotism? I mean, many of these lads have been doing very well and are being monitored by international scouts and should have thought about this before deciding to go on strike just a few days before such a crucial tie, whose outcome was going to decide their fate in the tournament.
Had we failed to honour the match, our country was also in danger of being suspended from continental football, meaning Bantu were going to be booted out of the 2015 African Champions League tournament.
The Afcon qualifiers have been a good platform for the players to show the world what they are capable of and possibly strike deals with big clubs abroad.
That is why the players should have used other means to vent their anger, instead of walking out on the nation.
We all know it has been a rocky road for the players over the years, and we have stood by them each time they have been ill-treated by our football governing body. But I feel this time they should have shown a bit of patriotism to represent their country at such a big stage, and deal with the payment issue later.
My point here is while they failed to beat Angola on Friday last week, I was hoping we could still sneak into Morocco.
Likuena have only lost to Ghana at Setsoto stadium over the last three years of World Cup and Afcon qualifiers, with top teams such as Zambia, Burundi, Liberia, Sudan, Kenya, Gabon and Angola failing to get maximum points here in Maseru.
This could only mean one thing—that our team was growing and our players had matured a lot and could now hold their own against quality opponents.
I believe the team could have even been better than what it is today with a better relationship with Lefa, which is why this feuding should not be allowed to continue.
It is a fact that Lefa has no money because our government has failed to give them their quarterly subvention, but the association should also find means and ways to deal with this problem once and for all.
Maybe it is time Lefa had contracts with the players in order to avoid this kind of a mess, or better still, train people who can act as mediators when such disputes arise since Fifa-accredited agents are too expensive for our football.
We cannot let allowances continue hurting our national team like this—a team which had appeared to be on the right track when it qualified for the group stage of the Afcon qualifiers at the expense of Kenya and Liberia.
It is true the likes of Bushy Moletsane, Moitheri Ntobo, Motlalepula Mofolo and Ralekoti Mokhahlane, are slowly approaching the end of their international careers, but we have enough cover through young talent that continues to come through the development ranks.
The likes of Phafa Tšosane, Jane Tšotleho, Tšepo Seturumane and Thabiso Brown are, without doubt, the future of this team and I’m very positive that we will soon qualify for Afcon—if not this time, then maybe in 2017. However, this qualification for our maiden Afcon tournament can only be possible if we get the administration part of the game, right.
It is time that Lefa adopts better strategies and works hand-in-hand with these players for the overall benefit of our game.
Lefa could even consider providing the players with short courses on management or any other life-skill as many of them abandoned their studies midstream to focus on a career in football.
I can go on and on because really, there are many issues that are not going right in our football.
Last week, everyone could see we were missing the services of Thapelo Tale against Angola, and the big question is: is Lefa doing enough to help the striker as he recovers from injury? We know the players get very little compared to their counterparts from other countries and Lefa should always take good care of them especially when they have been injured on national duty.
It is really a shame that the players were being offered a mere M600 in allowances for the three days they were going to spend in Angola.
Yet most of these players are family men, who solely rely on the game. Lefa should appreciate that these players spend most of their time away from their loved ones due to the national team’s commitments, and should therefore, be remunerated enough to ensure their families are comfortable while they are fighting for their country.