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Caf tourney showcases Lesotho talent

Teboho Molapo

JOHANNESBURG — Even if Makoananye XI does not make it to the next round of the Caf African Youth Championship the boys can find solace in the fact that at least they got a chance to showcase their skills to talent scouts that descended on South Africa for the tournament.

To play before hordes of talent scouts from the world’s biggest football teams is a rare opportunity for Lesotho’s young players, most of whom don’t even dream of making international moves during their careers.

They play their football in Lesotho’s amateur league and in ragged fields that international scouts don’t even bother to visit.

For most of them football is a hobby and not a career.

In most cases football is a stepping stone into a career either in the army or the police. 

Big international breaks are rare for Lesotho players.

The South African league is as far as some of our promising players have reached.

More often than not talented players have spent their promising careers “holed up” in the Lesotho league.

The reason for this has nothing to do with their lack of quality to make it in bigger leagues but the fact that our players are not seen by the people who matter — talent scouts.

The games in Dobsonville in South Africa are therefore a godsend that many players have been waiting for.

Those that impress might make the big break that has eluded many local players no matter how talented they are. 

Scouts from all over the world and other international figures whose opinions matter in football have descended on Dobsonville to watch Africa’s eight best Under 20 teams play.

On display is raw talent waiting to be nurtured to produce football stars.

Lesotho’s talent is also on sale.

At the end of their tournament they will leave South Africa with names of young players they can “poach” from Africa’s poor leagues.

One of the many watching the games is SuperSport United and Tottenham Hotspur Academy technical director Eric Winstanley.

Winstanley, who oversees one of the largest football academies on the African continent, told the Sunday Express so far he has been in impressed with the way Makoananye XI have played.

“They (Lesotho) surprised me a lot,” he said.

“I saw them earlier in the year against South Africa and I was impressed with them.

“For a small country like Lesotho to be competing with some of the top sides on the continent means somebody is
doing something right,” Winstanley said.

“Overall, not brilliant but not bad, they don’t have many weaknesses,” Winstanley said when asked about his overall assessment of Makoanyane XI’s performance so far.

He said he is looking for “ability more than anything, but also pace and strength.”

So far he has been impressed by players from Nigeria and Ghana, he said.

“Nigeria and Ghana have caught my eye. I’m also interested to see Cameroon,” Winstanley said. “Egypt is also becoming a force in international football. Those are the countries that generally do well.”

“It’s very difficult for the players because of the state of the pitch,” Winstanley added.

“The game slows down. It’s a pity because I think there are some outstanding players on view.”

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