MASERU — Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) president Salemane Phafane (pictured below) has admitted the association made mistakes in nurturing Lesotho’s Under-20 crop from 2004.
Phafane was speaking in a rare interview following Makoanyane XI’s aggregate victory over Kenya last Sunday booked Lesotho’s place at the Caf African Youth Championship for the second time in six years.
Phafane said six years ago Lefa did not have a concrete plan to promote the successful Under-20 team.
The failure to build on that side played a part in the disbanding of Likuena, the senior national team, in February.
“We made a mistake after they qualified,” Phafane told the Sunday Express.
“We asked someone to build a (senior national) team, and what did they do? They diluted it.”
Phafane was referring to Serbian Zavisa Milosavljevic who was hired as national coach in 2008.
But asked whether this meant a local coach would now be preferred to build the new senior side, Phafane was non-committal.
“It doesn’t matter whether the coach is white, yellow or pink — it’s about the results,” he said.
“It is dangerous arithmetic to play there.”
On short-term plans for Makoanyane XI, Phafane said Lefa planned to arrange as many friendly matches as possible to fine-tune the side.
He said Lefa would look to hold a training camp in Libya, the host of next year’s tournament where Lesotho will face a tough field comprising world and African champions Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Mali and Gambia.
“We are going to keep them busy,” Phafane said.
“That is what we have been discussing with the PS.
“My principal secretary and I have agreed to challenge the so-called big teams.
“We have to start talking to the Libyans about whether the team can go there for a training camp, to gain the exposure and experience the conditions.”
Phafane said the Metropolitan Cosafa Under-20 Youth Championships and the Supreme Council of Sports (SCSA) Games, both in December, were important for preparations.
“The plan is to keep these boys busy all year round,” he said.
“That is why we have registered them in both the Cosafa Under-20 and the SCSA tournaments.”
When the question of facilities available to Lesotho’s players inevitably cropped up, Phafane insisted this was mostly the responsibility of the government.
He also urged businesses to help in efforts to improve local football.
Lesotho is supposed to run a professional league by 2014.
“Facilities are not an area we can do much about,” Phafane said.
“That’s the area where we hope the government will develop and we will continue talking to them.
“We also have to try to begin to really utilise the co-operation agreement we have with South Africa.
“That is the biggest challenge but it doesn’t lie with the association — it lies in the hands of businesses.”
“But we have to spearhead it,” Phafane added with regards to the roadmap to professionalise domestic football.
Phafane said Makoanyane XI’s victory was a boost for local football especially after Likuena’s disastrous 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.
“It’s a big achievement for the team and for the country but most importantly it is exoneration,” he said.
“We have had sceptics who thought we made a stupid decision to withdraw Likuena but we are beginning to see that it was the correct decision.
“It has been a long time since the country was happy.”