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Lefa pin hopes on junior teams

Teboho Molapo


MASERU — There is light at the end of the tunnel for local football, Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) public relations officer Baba Malephane has said.

Two months after riling football lovers by failing to enter Likuena, the senior national team, in the 2012 African Nations Cup qualifiers, Malephane says it’s not all doom and gloom for Lesotho football.

Lefa decided to disband Likuena and concentrate on developing youth sides into a competitive national team for the future.

The jury remains out on the merits of Lefa’s decision, but the past two weeks have left the football authorities smiling.

For the past two Sundays Lesotho’s Under-17 and Under-20 sides have beaten their Mozambican counterparts 3-1 and 6-1 respectively at Setsoto Stadium.

Both matches were CAF Youth Championship preliminary qualifiers for their respective age groups and this afternoon the Under-17s, Bahlabani, are in Maputo defending their first-leg advantage.

Malephane said the youth teams’ results vindicated Lefa’s decision.

“The decision we took was correct,” he told the Sunday Express on Friday.

“Our focus like we have said before is developing a formidable national side.

“Whether these two teams proceed or not we will make sure that we prepare the teams (for the future).”

“Like I have said there is light,” he added.

“If you take the score-line by the Under-20 team it’s a national record.

“It shows that we are going somewhere considering where we are coming from.”

He also denied allegations of age-cheating that have surfaced and threatened to taint the early success of the youth sides.

After his side’s defeat Mozambique coach Torsten Spittler said he had doubts about the age of Lesotho’s Under-17 players.

Malephane said Lefa had done all it could to verify the players’ ages.

“We tried to verify (the players’ ages) with their schools,” he said.

“We also checked with their club licences. So it would mean there are many people lying to us.”

He said the Under-17 and Under-20 youth teams, which now form the core of Lefa’s development plan, will have training camps and hopefully a series of friendly matches during the off-season.

But Malephane’s biggest revelation was that a national Under-17 league was soon to be established.

The Mohale Declaration, signed in April 2008, recommended that Premier League clubs should participate in Lefa-organised grassroots and youth leagues starting from the 2008/09 season.

“There is going to be a national Under-17 league. It is coming. We are already in the process of finalising the project,” Malephane said.

“We have made mistakes, but we don’t look back. This time we are learning through our mistakes.

“In 1998 we had the best Under-17 side that was able to supplement our Under-20 team and even formed part of the Likuena team that made it to the Cosafa final in 2000.

“But after that there was no proper follow-up on those players.”

Malephane also cited a similar case of Lesotho’s 1998 Under-12 side which boasted Katleho Moleko, Tefo Maipato and Dlomo Monapathi.

That golden generation built Lesotho’s national youth teams until they reached the CAF Under-20 Youth Championships in Benin in 2004 — the second and last time Lesotho reached a major international tournament.

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