Our beloved Likuena were in battle once again on Wednesday last week, as they took on continental football powerhouse Gabon in their second 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) group stage qualifier.
Despite being one man down, Seephephe ‘Mochini’ Matete’s charges managed to hold their celebrated opponents to a one-all draw and secure the much-needed point, thereby keeping alive their dream of debuting at the continental showpiece to be held in Morocco.
Last Saturday, the national team opened their group stage campaign with a 2-0 loss to Burkina Faso away in Ouagadougou, but roared back in spectacular fashion to salvage a draw against the Gabonese.
This was despite being one man short after goalkeeper Mohau Kuenane was red-carded in the 32nd minute of the match, for handling the ball outside his box.
Again, Likuena finished the Burkina Faso tie one man short after defender Nkau Lerotholi saw red in the second half.
One can only imagine what could have been the outcome of both matches had Likuena ended the two ties with all the eleven players on the pitch.
Considering the team’s lack of preparations in the run-up to the two qualifiers, I have nothing but praise for Likuena for managing to fly the country’s flag high and ensuring the nation was not embarrassed with double-digit defeats.
For the record, Likuena only trained once before the Burkina Faso defeat after being forced to break camp due to lack of funds. Burkina Faso are a very dangerous side, and on Wednesday, they beat Angola 3-0 in Luanda to claim top spot in four-nation Group C, clearly showing that by losing 2-0 in Ouagadougou, Likuena did extremely well. After the two matches, Burkina Faso now lead the group with six points, followed by Gabon on three, while Lesotho occupy third place with one point and Angola anchor the pool after losing both their fixtures.
Turning to our players’ sending off, it will be a blow for Likuena as both Lerotholi and Kuenane will miss the team’s next match against Angola.
I will not say much about Nkau’s expulsion as I did not watch the match, but what Kuenane did at Setsoto on Wednesday proved the love he has for this nation.
Had the courageous keeper not handled that ball to save us from conceding an early goal, Likuena could have lost that match by a big margin considering how Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, who plies his trade in Germany’s Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund, was causing problems for our defence.
Now looking at our next Afcon tie against Angola on 10 October at Setsoto, with the return fixture set to take place four days later in Luanda, before we go to Gabon on 10 November and our last fixture at home against Burkina Faso, the obvious question Basotho are asking themselves is: is this the year we break our Afcon jinx?
I mean, we still have a chance to collect six points against the out-of-sorts Angolans, our under-20 side has proved that this is possible. We can also beat Gabon in their own backyard and hope for a draw against Burkina Faso at Setsoto stadium.
But this all depends on whether the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) can put their house in order and make sure the team gets proper training this time around.
Speaking of Lefa, this organisation must start raising its own funds and stop blaming government for its bankruptcy. For instance, Lefa should have approached companies to market themselves during Wednesday’s match, thereby raising the much-needed revenue.
But this did not happen, leaving one to wonder if that organisation has a marketing department, or anyone capable of taking it to the professional level that is expected of it.
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