LIKUENA coach Moses Maliehe says the senior national soccer side could still do well at the African Nations Championship (CHAN) despite losing seven key players who retired from international football last month.
Jane Thabantšo (Matlama), Basia Makepe (LMPS), Tšepo Seturumane, Tšoanelo Koetle, Tšepo Lekhooana, Kopano Tseka (all Lioli) and Hlompho Kalake (Bantu) initially turned down call ups to the national team before submitting retirement letters to the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA).
Poloko Mohale, Makara Ntaitsana (Both LCS), Tšeliso Ramathe, Nkesi Rankhasa (Matlama), Tšeliso Ramafikeng, Motlalepula Chabeli (Kick4Life), Likano Mphuthi, Koete Mohloai (LDF), Keketso Snyders, Tšepang Ntsenyane (Sky Battalion), Tsebang Lebata (Bantu), Lehlohonolo Fothoane (Swallows) and Johannes Molapo (Sandawana) have since been called up as replacements.
Likuena are set to resume their CHAN preparations on Monday and Maliehe this week told the Lesotho Times that while the seven would be missed, he would not force players to join the team against their wishes.
“It would not make sense to force people to be in the team and it is obvious that they will not give their full commitment,” Maliehe said, adding, “I can’t risk that, so I will only work with players who want to work”.
“Those (seven) are very good players and among the best in the country but if they don’t feel like playing there is nothing I can do so I had to select replacements.
“Of course their departure is a big loss but we still have time to prepare because the qualifiers start in April. And again the same players started somewhere that means even these new ones will at some point reach that level and it’s just a matter of time,” Maliehe said, adding the team would be trimmed to 18 from the current 25 players.
Maliehe said persuading the players to stay would have caused more harm and recreated embarrassing episodes like last year’s fiasco where the team ended up being walloped 0-6 by Algeria in the Africa Nations Cup qualifiers.
“I didn’t want to witness a similar incident to the Algeria game where we literally had two camps in one team. It was such a humiliating experience where a certain group of players would be in one corner and others in a different corner. The results only speaks volume as we got thumped 6-0.
“It got so bad that the same players took it to their teams where they ended up having divisions,” Maliehe said.
Likuena full squad:
Goalkeepers: Daniel Jousse (LCS), Likano Mphuthi (LDF)