IF LESOTHO CAN DO IT, WHY CAN’T WE?
My dearest readers... Dumelang! Yes, I am at the mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho, which to you dear reader, could be mistaken for the modest Siteki in reverse.
Here on duty by COSAFA on the Media Committee, it’s been an eye-opener and experience I will cherish for a long, long time.
Inspite of the in-fighting within the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) following a fierce election on October 26 where president Salemane Phafane retained his position under a cloud of controversy and went further to even exchanged unsavoury words with the Minister of Sports Thesele Maseribane, the COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championships are on.
The atmosphere is electrifying, the usual sleepy Maseru town is abuzz with the billboards and posters screaming about the tournament in every corner.
With limited resources and facilities, Lesotho is about to stage the biggest youth tournament in the region. Our own national youth squad kick-starts the tournament against their Botswana counterparts at noon today at the Sesotho Stadium.
The official opening ceremony is scheduled for 6pm at the same stadium. The whole tournament will be screened live on Mzansi Fo Sho – SABC 1.
That’s when you get the feeling that this is not a Mickey Mouse tournament – it is the real deal.
That the COSAFA Organising Committee headed by our very own Timothy Shongwe has managed to clinch a television deal of this magnitude is commendable but for me the most important thing is for a Federation or Association like LEFA, with a shoe-string budget managing to bring the whole region to their shores. LEFA owes its Ministry of Sports, government to be precise, a huge thank you for making it possible. Government has put up not only its resources but cash injection to make this tournament a reality. It is heart warming to see our own government support sports, in particular football, the way it has been the case in recent times.
Here I am talking about His Majesty King Mswati III’s E5 Million to Sihlangu, which the Lion said he hopes one day he will watch playing in the biggest continental showpiece, Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
For me, it is time to move forward. We have hosted the COSAFA Senior Challenge in 2007 and the experience we gained from hosting the tournament should not be lost. If a country with limited resources and facilities as Lesotho can pull off staging a tournament as Under-20 Championships, why can’t we?
Lesotho has provided only two venues – the Sesotho and Mafatane, which would make the Prince of Wales look like the artistic Moses Mabhida Stadium.
If our Football Association (FA) can under declare a sum of E5 million from the World Cup profits, what can stop us from hosting a tournament of this tournament? We have both Somhlolo National Stadium and Mavuso Sports Centre, which are both good enough to host a tournament of this magnitude. Our FA should start thinking big. They need to put to good use the huge sums of money they receive from FIFA and we need to start ‘small’ like hosting an Under-20 tournament. The Captains of the Industry would no doubt join in, if the product is good.
In Swaziland, we are lucky that we have sponsors like MTN Swaziland, SPTC, SwaziBank, Swaziland Bevarages which are pouring millions into the game at premier league level. We need to keep these sponsors happy while chasing after new ones. Besides the financial gain that comes with hosting a tournament of this nature, there is the big exposure for the country especially with big TV stations like SABC.
I am hopelessly aware that government has many pressing economic, social problems to deal with but, through football we can also boost our economy like what Lesotho has achieved here under limited resources. It’s time to start thinking outside the box Mr FA President, Adam ‘Bomber’ Mthethwa...
THE UNDER-20s SHOULD BE OUR BEDROCK FOR THE FUTURE
That said... Thank God, I am not a cry baby, otherwise I would have been moved to tears listening to National Under-20 squad coach, Musa Mamba moaning and groaning about the pain of being a coach of the youth squads in Swaziland.
I was thrown into a seismic fit of rage as he narrated how at times he had only four players at training. I know, perhaps, Mamba might have been looking for empathy in the event the squad, as it has become a norm, crashes out in the preliminary round of the tournament but I share his pain. It is a tricky and unfortunate situation that the tournament is staged at a critical time of the year when the players, who are still school going, are writing their final examinations.
So certainly this is a catch-22 situation for both the FA and the coach, who has to juggle with coming up with a good time within a short period of time. We cannot therefore blame our coaches because really they are being asked to play violin by urinating on it! A daunting task indeed. The FA needs to come up with a plan where the squad will be selected much early, at the start of the year and then use the school holidays to have its full time camp and also play a lot of preparatory games because at the rate we are going, its like throwing the boys into a lion’s den.
Most of their opponents in this tournament have played five or more international games and have been in camp for a month or so. We should stop treating the Under-20 tournament as a prerequisite to participate in the COSAFA Senior Challenge or as a means to an end. This tournament is about development and if we want to change Sihlangu’s fortunes, we should invest on the Under-20 squad, which, if truth be told, has a good mixture of already experienced premier league players. I am glad, if not overly proud, that the Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs David ‘Cruiser’ Ngcamphalala has already raised this issue and will work on it. We need to ‘cruise’ to the future with open minds, not open mouths!
WINLESS ‘BIRDS’ CAN STILL WIN IT
And now... The club many love to hate, Mbabane Swallows has now played six games – including the second leg of the Castle Premier Challenge Cup – without a win and the social networks are abuzz.
Predictably so. When a dominant team suddenly becomes comatose the cynical critics will be rushing to their media space to tell the world how the wheels have come off. For me, this is normal – it is called a slump in form. Many dominant teams in the world go through it. Spain’s FC Barcelona have lost two games in a space of a week and the Spanish media is on their case. It was bound to happen to Swallows as well as they have used almost the same team for three seasons now and unfortunately they did not replenish their squad at the start of this season after the remarkable treble success.
The changes announced by the club management last week did not help matters. This has brought excitement to the MTN league, which at five games played, looked to be a one-horse canter as the ’Birds’ were quick out of the blocks first.
But thanks to their stuttering form, Young Buffaloes, Royal Leopard and Manzini Sundowns are right in it for the first round grand prize E250 000. But I still put my one Maluti on Swallows winning the first round prize – thanks to their goal scored advantage!
MOYES, DE SA CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH
Finally... Thanks to Swaziland Ele-CRUELTY Company (SEC) I was in a fit of rage when electricity just went off at the start of my beloved Orlando Pirates game against Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday night and I had to rely on updates from friends.
It was as traumatic as the end result itself. Then again, when I was at Oliver Tambo International Airport, the Manchester United/Spurs game started and then I had to board the big bird to Maseru. I missed it too.
The end result, another depressing draw. I have a feeling Rodger De Sa and David Moyes are cut from the same cloth. The two teams they are coaching are just way too big for them. Even as De Sa prepares to lead the mighty Buccaneers to a third Cup final of the season, I am not holding my breath and luckily I will watch this one on TV – not at the VIP suite. I will be, of course, in the company of Mr. Glenlivet – the single malt that started it all. Hopefully, we can celebrate a Bucs victory because we are sick and tired of silver medals.
Until next week, Salang hantle... as they say in Sesotho speaking Maseru!
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