LESOTHO is one of the countries that impressed at the recently ended COSAFA Cup where they clinched the third place ahead of Madagascar who settled for fourth.
Likuena started the competition at the quarterfinal stage against where they beat eSwatini through a solitary goal by Motebang Sera.
The second test for Moses Maliehe’s side at the tournament came in the form of Zimbabwe. The side has always been problematic for Likuena and this time they said through via a penalty shootout which they won 3-1.
Few people gave Lesotho a chance going into the match against eSwatini given that were ranked 19 places above us. eSwatini also won the last encounter between the two countries.
It has also been a similar situation in the CAF Champions League where eSwatini’s Mbabane Swallows eliminated Bantu at the preliminary stage of the competition.
Some also expected the relatively better equipped Zimbabwean side to trounce Likuena. However, Likuena were fearless and instead took the match right to penalties where Sunday Chidzambwa’s side got their sixth title and a second in a row.
Likuena dismissed Madagascar in the third-place play-off through a solitary Nkoto Masoabi goal.
Despite bagging the M150 000 prize, Likuena left the tournament with pride as the only side that kept a clean sheet in open play at the tournament.
The side also received immense praises from pundits for their spirited performances in the three matches that they played.
However, despite all the exploits, it remains worrying why local players struggle to get contracts in foreign leagues like the South African Premier League.
In the past, several players have been linked with moves to South Africa but nothing solid has materialised
In 2014 Nkau Lorotholi and Litsepe Marabe moved to first division side Garangua United but returned without playing any competitive games due to work permit challenges.
After the 2013 edition of the competition in Zambia, it was reported that Ralekoti Mokhahlane had caught the attention of Polokwane City but nothing came out of it.
Matlama’s Jane Thabantšo and a few other Likuena players in 2016 caught the attention of some South African clubs but nothing materialised.
After an impressive performance in the 2017 edition, Tumelo Khutlang also caught the eye of South Africa’s First Division side Mthatha Bucks. The deal collapsed at the 11th hour.
This year several South African clubs were said to be interested in the services of Khutlang, Nkoto Masoabi and Basia Makepe.
Two of Botswana’s players were immediately signed by Chippa United after impressive performances.
The question then is: what is it that Likuena players do wrong?
It was at the same tournament that former Likuena player Teele Ntšonyana helped the side reach the 2000 finals and was signed by Wits University.
His other teammates such as Lehlohonolo Seema, Motlatsi Shale, Lebajoa Mphongoa and Tšeliso Thite also signed for Bloemfontein Celtic.
Paballo Mpakanyane had a spell with the now defunct Tembisa Classic while Kutlisiso Nthonyane played for Bloemfontein Young Tiger and Durban United after the same edition of the tournament.
While I remain hopeful that there will be positive outcomes after this year’s tourney, it still is worrying that in previous years nothing tangible has materialised for the current crop of players.
Gaborone United got a tongue lashing from Botswana national team coach Major Bright as he felt it was disrespectful that the team’s management sneaked into camp to finalise the signing of their two players by Chippa United.
However, I also think it was prudent that the side fought to complete the signing once they heard about Chippa United’s interest.
That is probably the same approach that local clubs should take to ensure that their players secure deals in the neighbouring country’s league.
There is no doubt that these players can earn better salaries and improve their lives while playing in South Africa.
Had our clubs been proactive, Tšoanelo Koetle would have sealed a move to South Africa after his standout performance at COSA 2015 that had clubs for the neighbouring country making inquiries. While Likuena were poor, Koetle bagged the man of the match award twice at that tournament.
For me, he played his best career football that year and deserved a new challenge which could have helped him take his game to another level. His standards have dropped since then and I believe a new challenge could easily have improved his fortunes.
Several South African coaches admire Khutlang and Lioli should help him by pushing that he secures a deal in South Africa.
There are several other local players that can still make the grade in South Africa especially given that Likuena players got won the man of the match award in all the games that they played.
There is also need for player managers and agents in the country who ensure that deals are sealed as soon as a club has expressed interest.