LOCAL clubs’ struggles in the CAF Champions League continued on Sunday as Bantu suffered a disappointing 2-4 loss to Mbabane Swallows playing in front of their supporters.
As football fans we may take out our frustrations at Bantu for the loss but the reality is that the standards of football in this country have been on the decline while countries like Swaziland and Botswana are improving.
Gone are the days when our teams could hold their own against tough continental teams as they did in the early 1990s.
The performance of our clubs and the national teams have not been good for some time now and I believe Sunday’s result is a true reflection of our league that has failed to transform from being amateurish to professional.
I know our national under-20 team, Makoanyane XI, reached the final of the regional COSAFA Cup in Zambia in December last year and that was good for a change.
But the fact that this came after almost 13 years since the team had gone past the group stages of the regional youth tourney bears testimony of our struggles.
Likuena have not fared any better as they have not reached the finals of the regional tournament 18 years after having last done so in 2000.
The ball is now in the court of the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) as the custodians of the beautiful game in the country to lead the way and come up with a new strategy that will help our clubs and national teams to be a force to be reckon with in the region and continent.
It is about time LeFA called for a symposium where all the stakeholders can sit together and find lasting solutions to end this rot in our football.
Looking at the way Bantu performed on Sunday, they failed to match Swallows pound for pound.
A Matšo Matebele lacked the depth and experience to get past Swallows and it was embarrassing for them to concede four goals at home.
Defensively they were extremely poor and it boggles the mind why they did not strengthen in that department.
I may not be a technical expert but I think moving their most experienced defender, Thapelo Mokhehle, to left back was costly as it left inexperienced centre-backs on their own against a very lethal and tricky attacking Swallows trio of the experienced Tony Tsabedze, Wonder Nhleko and Felix Badenhorst.
I believe this was a lesson learned for the coaching duo of James Madidilane and Bob Mafoso who are both young and inexperienced in competitions of this nature.
I believe that our teams can do better if they get more support from the association and the league. The latter can even postpone their league matches to allow to focus on preparations for the continental competition.
They can even be assisted to secure friendlies against teams that regularly compete in CAF competitions.
This would help young players like Johannes Molapo and Itumeleng Falene whose lack of international exposure was badly exposed against Swallows.
It is not right that we continue to be the whipping boys of the continent at club and national team level.
This has to come to an end.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Dr Mahali Phamotse following her appointment as the new Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation.
I think she was the best candidate to replace her late friend, Ntate Kabelo Mafura, who passed away in December last year.
Mme Phamotse showed a lot of passion for sports in her previous Justice, Human Right and Correctional Services portfolio.
On several occasions she showed her support for sporting activities including during the times when she would leave her comfortable VIP seat at Setsoto stadium to join supporters in singing in the open stands.
I hope she will bring that same passion into improving the sports ministry that is facing a lot of challenges which include financial issues which have plagued our different sporting codes and contributed to their struggles in international competitions.