Likuena at crossroads

Likuena at crossroads

Lesotho’s 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup campaign begins on Sunday and it comes with Likuena at another crossroads.

It has been an underwhelming, stop-start year for Likuena and it is impossible to know what to expect from the side in Namibia.

The Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) knows what it expects; caretaker coach Moses Maliehe has been given a mandate to reach the semi-finals of the regional showpiece.

However, the dictate appears ambitious at best and reckless at worst.

Going on the side’s results and performances over the past 12 months, Lesotho has not shown anything close to a place amongst COSAFA’s top four nations and such a mandate is out of touch with reality.

More worryingly, the mandate doesn’t appear to have come as a result of discussion between Lefa’s bigwigs, technical director and national coach, which is what Lesotho needs right now.

It is good to aim high, but setting a high target just for the sake of it is pulling wool over the public’s eyes and needlessly setting Maliehe up for failure.

Last Sunday’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying 2-1 defeat to Ethiopia had some positives, Jane Thaba-Ntšo’s continued development being one, but, mostly, the game showed Likuena has some way to go before they become competitive on the African continent.

That is why the target of reaching the COSAFA Cup semi-finals is overambitious.

Would it not have been better to go to the tournament to build a lasting philosophy and style of play?

Of course, such an approach would not include excusing a shabby display in Namibia, but a discussion along those lines would have actually given measurable targets.

Reaching the semi-final is not a measurable target, it is a wish.

And, this is where Lefais continually getting it wrong.

The association is sending the players and coach out and saying, ‘go play’ and, on the evidence of the past year, there has been little or no emphasis on trying to attain a particular philosophy.

That is why Lesotho lost an entire year under SeephepheMatete who took charge in early 2014 and was sacked with a whimper last November.

Without direction from top to bottom, Likuena will continue to wander aimlessly, even if there is new blood in the team as there is now.

And, looking at it, Lesotho has been lost since Leslie Notši departed in February 2014.

Notši’s teams never uprooted any trees with their displays but he had his concrete ideas, a plan to have a pragmatic team that played according to a specific system.

Because there was a plan, Lesotho overachieved under Notši and it bought a false sense of success.

Since his departure Lesotho has reverted to a haphazard approach. Matete changed players regularly and even the basic tactical identity also seemed to change every game.

With the lack of professionalism at club level in Lesotho this is more detrimental than could ever be imagined.

Maliehe has tried to pick a young side and credit to him for that.

Likuena have also been training since early April, which is excellent. However, without a long-term vision, there is likely to be panic at the first sight of danger.

This is the worry with the COSAFA Cup.

Lesotho kicks off with an opening game against Mauritius. What happens if the team loses? What happens if the side bombs out in the group stages again as it did at last year’s edition in South Africa?

Unfairly, some of these young players in the squad may find themselves on the chopping block. And, again, like last year’s disaster, we may have had a COSAFA Cup with no tangible outcomes.

 

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