OUR national under-20 football team, Makoanyane XI, is scheduled to fly to Nigeria this week for a decisive African Youth Championship qualifier against the Super Eaglets to be played next weekend.
The match is set for Kaduna in north-western Nigeria — a city under siege from Fulani and Boko Haram gunmen — and where the authorities are battling to calm residents who have become restive due to the Ebola virus which has claimed the lives of two Nigerians over the past week.
President Goodluck Jonathan declared a national emergency over the deadly virus on Friday, and his government is now offering incentives to anyone who volunteers to help in the fight to contain the disease because Nigerians are reluctant to go anywhere near health centres where the infected are being treated.
Nearly 1000 people have died in West Africa since the outbreak of the virus, which kills up to 90 percent of those infected and is as contagious as more common viruses such as colds, influenza, and measles.
The Nigerian authorities have confessed that they don’t have the capacity to fight the Ebola virus, and have appealed to the international community for help, as the rare but deadly virus, which causes bleeding inside and outside the body, shows no signs of abating.
President Jonathan has also urged Nigerians to desist from gathering in large groups in order to minimise the risks of spreading the virus, which has no cure.
“Religious and political groups, spiritual healing centres, families, associations and other bodies, should discourage gatherings and activities that may unwittingly promote close contact with infected persons or place others at risk,” reads a statement issued yesterday by the Nigerian presidency.
There is no doubt that Nigeria is a place to give a wide berth in its current Ebola state, hence the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) should never entertain the idea of sending Makoanyane XI to such a hellhole.
Makoanyane XI’s heroics might have brought a lot of joy to many Basotho by reaching this final stage of the qualifiers, but this is no reason for Lefa to risk the lives of these youngsters by throwing them into such a deadly environment.
It is true the Confederation of African Football (Caf) might impose heavy penalties on Lesotho should Lefa refuse to send Makoanyane XI to Kaduna, but this is a risk the association should take by standing firm on its demand to have the match moved to another safe country or postponed to a later date.
Lefa has suggested flying Makoanyane XI to Nigeria on the day of the match and leaving the country soon after the tie should Caf insist the fixture should be fulfilled as initially scheduled.
But considering how this disease is spread, Lefa should not even consider this option which does not guarantee the safety of the players whatsoever.
As the association’s secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi rightly points out elsewhere in this issue, whose child is going to be sacrificed for the sake of a mere game of football?
The fact that Nigeria has banned all large gatherings due to the virus should be warning enough that the disease can only be underestimated at one’s peril.