Likuena and ’metse

Likuena and ’metse

THIS is a true story.
Just before Likuena left for their decisive match in Cape Verde last week, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane visited the team at Bambatha Tšita. The official purpose of the visit was to give the team a special send-off but his real reason was to find out if the boys were clever enough to know what was at stake.
Thabane feared that the whole team was full of dunderheads.

So Thabane gathered the Likuena team into a room, pulled down a white board and drew a door.
“Anyone who opens this door first will win M20 000 instantly,” Thabane said.
And so a stampede ensued as the players struggled to open the door on the board. Thabane watched in amusement for hours as the players battled to open the ‘door’.
Tired and dejected, the boys slumped on their chairs.
E thata ntho ena,” said striker Motebang Sera who was panting like a dog.
“I am shocked that we cannot open such a simple door. Ke Mohlolo,” said goalkeeper Sam Ketsekile who was now lying on the floor with his body drenched in sweat.

Midfielder Kefuoe Mahula and defender Kopano Tseka were crying in one corner.
Striker Roboama Koloti and defender Lesia Thetsane asked to go to the loo so that they could call their friends for answers. Rethabile Selonyane was banging his head against a wall as he tried to figure out how to open the door and win the M20 000.
Nkoto Masoabi, Jane Tšotleho, Tumelo Khutlang and Jane Thabantšo were trying to persuade ’Maesaiah to give them clues.
“Monyako ke ona bana ba ka! M20 000 e teng ka pokothong,” ‘Maesaiah kept saying.

Tshwarelo Bereng and Hlompho Kalake were just blankly starring at the door while Tankiso Chaba was screaming his lungs out.
Ke batla ho bua le Morena oa ka,” said Setho Moshoeshoe, as he aggressively scratched his head.
A disappointed Thabane was just about to leave when he saw the team’s coach, Moses Maliehe, who was sitting in the corner, laughing out loud.
“Ntate Maliehe, you are laughing? Maybe you can tell the boys how they can open that door on the board,” Thabane said.
Kikkikikikik, Mohlomphehi, these boys are stupid. They don’t know that they can’t open the door because I am the only one with the keys,” Maliehe said.

There was a brief moment of silence in the room until the team’s Captain Mafa Moremoholo started chuckling too.
“And why are you laughing, Ntate Morehoholo?” asked Thabane.
“Ah, Mohlomphehi, I knew the coach had the keys because he kept winking at me when we were trying to open the door,” Morehoholo said.
Thabane had proven his point and he knew disaster awaited in Cape Verde.

And sure enough a tragedy is what we witnessed in Cape Verde on Sunday afternoon. Likuena went into a match with a golden chance to qualify for the AFCON finals.
Never before has this mediocre football team come so close to glory.
The mathematics was simple.

Likuena could afford to draw the march as long as Tanzania drew or lost against Uganda. If both Tanzania and Likuena drew Likuena would qualify because of the head-to-head rule.
If they both won, Likuena would still qualify.
But to control their fate, it was logical that Likuena had to play to win the match because they had no influence over the result of the match between Tanzania and Uganda.
A draw would have sufficed but only if Tanzania lost or drew. So a victory was the only sure way Likuena were going to qualify.

You would have expected the whole team to have known these permutations before going into the match.
Surely there should have been someone telling the players about the score in the match between Tanzania and Uganda.
But Maliehe could not be bothered by those dynamics. He instructed his team to park the bus and play for a draw.
You could see the players wasting time.
The goalkeeper stole the show with his time-wasting theatrics. The other boys were walking the pitch, waiting to hoof the ball into the stands.

The whole match was an eyesore that, in the way, vindicated Muckraker’s decision to shun local soccer. We don’t play football here but something that resembles football.
The players were clearly under instructions to camp in their own half.
We could live with that drab football were it part of a well-informed strategy.
But playing for a draw was horribly wrong.
In the aftermath of that atrocious show some people are asking what went wrong in Cape Verde. Some say it’s the coach while others say it’s the players.

Some say it boiled down to poor communication between the coaching team and the players. All these explanations are nonsense. Mathematics is what went wrong.
Muckraker can bet you her last coin that the whole Likuena team, from coach to the medics, failed Mathematics at school. They hated arithmetic with a passion.
As far as the team is concerned, Mathematics is a monster that bites. If they understood that four plus four is not 44 they would have played that game differently.

You see, the point of high school Mathematics is not to create mathematicians, engineers or actuarial scientists.
Rather, it is to prepare students so that they function properly in the world.
Mathematics teaches you to calculate risks and make sense of things.
It is what informs your judgement on money matters like changing a job, getting a loan or buying something.
And it is useful when you are playing in a match like the one between Likuena and Cape Verde.
That is why it was such a sad sight watching the whole team celebrating after the draw.
The mathematically incompetent souls thought they had qualified. The commentators were stunned as the players bumjived to celebrate a victory that never was.
“Do they know that they have not qualified?” one of them asked.
“Do these buffoons know they are making a fool of themselves and their country?” would have been a more apt way of putting it.

But Muckraker cannot say she is shocked. Likuena are not alone in their fear of numbers.
A couple of years ago a whole country called South Africa celebrated a fake qualification to a World Cup because they did not understand simple permutations.
The whole stadium descended on the pitch to ululate as the players danced in front of cameras.
Even radio commentators were caught in the euphoria and they wrongly announced that Bafana Bafana were on its way to the World Cup.

Even when news of their failure trickled into the stadium some fans kept celebrating. It was as if they were not going to allow facts to get in the way of their joy.
It took the whole country a day to recover from the shock of discovering that they were all sailing in a boat teeming with imbeciles. But even after the sobering reality, some people insisted that the system had been rigged to trip their team.

The same is not going to happen here because nearly everyone with interest in football knew what Likuena had to do to make it to the AFCON finals. Only Maliehe and his team were in the dark.
All this comes down to one thing: we must encourage our children to love Mathematics. This has to be said because Muckraker hears that some parents use numbers to discipline their children.
“U thole u re tu! Ho seng joalo ke tla re u etse ’metse. U tla etsa ’metse hona joale.”


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