Ntobo reveals Afcon ‘dream’
Defender’s Likuena return spurred by desire for continental showcase
Veteran defender Moitheri Ntobo came out of international retirement last month because he wanted to fulfil his dream of playing at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament.
Ntobo told the Sunday Express although he had called time on his international career in September last year, he readily accepted a re-call to the national team (Likuena) for the 2015 Afcon first leg, first round qualifier against Liberia because he still had unfinished business with Likuena.
Ngwenya — as the 34-year-old Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) centre-back is popularly known — was a last-minute replacement for the Bantu duo of Thabo Masualle and Tlali Maile, who had failed to turn-up for camp due to personal commitments.
The hard-tackling defensive rock only had a single training session with his international colleagues before leaving for Monrovia, where they lost 1-0 to the West African nation.
However, Seephephe “Mochini” Matete’s charges hit back in the return leg, winning 2-0 at Setsoto stadium to advance to the second round of the qualifiers.
“At the time of my retirement from Likuena, I had felt it was time to call it a day and sincerely believed I had done my part as far as the national team was concerned,” Ntobo said.
“I really felt I should make way for youngsters, but was tempted to help the team, as well as pursue my dream of playing at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament when the call came requesting my return.
“It was not a problem for me to re-join the squad. The management and new coaching staff came to talk to me and that was enough to convince me to make a comeback.”
The veteran defender, who played for Tunisian topflight side Union Sportive Monastirienne between 2002 and 2005, said his heavy schedule was also one of the reasons he had retired
from Likuena after 13 years of service.
“I had been with the team for a very long time and apart from my age and family commitments, felt it was time for the younger guys to take over from me, but is always tempting to play in such important continental qualifiers.”
However, on returning to the team, Ntobo was handed back the captain’s armband and gave a man-of-the-match performance in both legs of the Liberia qualifier, as Likuena eliminated Liberia on a 2-1 aggregate score.
“The coaches told me that my experience was badly needed and also that there were some problems with the other players who had failed to report for camp.
“I don’t regret my decision and I’m still here to help the team reach the Afcon finals next year.”
The no-nonsense defender said it felt natural to be back in the team, and is determined to ensure Likuena prevail over Kenya to book a place in the group and final stage of the qualifiers.
“My focus now is on helping Likuena qualify for the continental competition and I have suspended my retirement.
“I’m happy playing for my country again and now focusing on next month’s game against Kenya.”
Ntobo also explained he still has “a few more years” of club football within him and intends to remain part of LCS Football Club next season.