‘We’ll be at next World Cup’

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Moitheri NtoboMASERU — Lesotho will not only qualify for the 2014 World Cup but Likuena could win  football’s most coveted prize when Brazil hosts the tournament after South Africa, according to Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, ‘Mathabiso Lepono.
Lepono made the audacious remarks when addressing journalists at the Moshoeshoe I International Airport on Monday night. This was soon after the arrival of the Fifa World Cup Trophy on its last leg of an African tour, which began in Egypt on September 24, 2009.
Lepono believes the trophy’s two-day presence in the country is set to fire enthusiasm among locals, insisting Lesotho would be ready to challenge for the big prize “inside two years”.
“Its presence will help uplift the spirit of sport in Lesotho,” Lepono said.
“It will act as motivation for our country to be ready in two years, so that we can be part of the next World Cup (in 2014). The Lesotho national team’s achievements cannot be ignored given that it is a young team but we remain confident a few years from now, the team could walk away with the Fifa World Cup Trophy.”
The minister expressed the country’s gratitude to be among the 54 nations where fans were given an opportunity to view the trophy at close range, ahead of the 2010 final draw set for Cape Town tomorrow evening (19:00hrs). 
“With the success of the first Trophy tour in 2006, we are privileged to be considered part of the second tour and even more grateful to Fifa and Coca-Cola partnership for giving us the opportunity to view the real trophy. This shows that Lesotho is recognised and accorded due respect as a (sovereign) country.”
The trophy ― 18-carat gold and weighing 6.175kg ― had already been to 52 African countries when it arrived in Maseru, where fans were afforded the rare chance of having their pictures taken while holding the prestigious accolade.
In Lesotho, the public was also given the same chance on Tuesday morning, with scores of fans and government officials converging at the Convention Centre for a close view of the trophy.
The trophy was accompanied to Lesotho by Fifa representative, Hèdi Hamel and Coca-Cola senior vice-president, Shay Drohan and left for Cape Town late afternoon on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Majantja Football Club president, Sello Matete, shared the same sentiments with Lepono, insisting local football has improved tremendously over the years.
“Our standard of football has improved in recent years,” Matete said, citing Sunday’s exciting Vodacom Soccer Spectacular final between Matlama and LCS.
“Lesotho should be ready to compete for the World Cup sooner than the 2014 that the minister is predicting.”
But Matete lamented lack of commitment and professionalism among some Premier League clubs.
“We can be ready in less than five years if the people we are working with can work hard to help players reach the next level of their football careers,” Matete told the Lesotho Times.
Linare coach Pitso Mosothoana, has however, scoffed at suggestions Lesotho is ready for the biggest stage in team sports.
“Five years is too short to say Lesotho could be ready to play in the World Cup final,” Mosothoana said.
“Our standard of football is way, way behind to think we can play at the next World Cup.”
Mosothoana said Lesotho’s biggest problem was lack of a vibrant junior development policy.
“We are never going to reach a stage, where we can be ready for the international stage. And one of the reasons is that Premier League teams have been recycling and exchanging the same players for years now,” he said, pointing out other areas that need redress as a matter of urgency.
“There are four important areas which need to be addressed, which are lack of proper stadiums; poor training methods and football structures; poor club management and lack of financial resources.”

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