…as he reveals big plans for local football

By: Sekonyela Qaitsane

Maseru – Lesotho football legend Lekhanya Lekhanya urges the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) to make a little compromise for the benefit of the national team and the sport in general, in the country.

According to the former Lioli FC winger, the football standard in the country has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years and is currently not far off standard excellence compared to other footballing nations on the continent.

However, he feels that there is still room for improvement in terms of talent development, which is where the association comes in.

The 34-year-old is of the notion that LeFA should take a leaf out of Kick for Life’s book when it comes to talent development from the grassroots.

“Copying is not a bad thing. Especially when you copy only the positives. Kick for Life, for example, has been doing a very good job developing talent from an early age, with some of the kids in their programs going abroad to further their football development, merging it with their academic studies.

I would love to see our association do the same or more. They can take maybe five kids or three at least, annually or every two years, and send them to advanced academies in Europe. This could be a massive investment, with our national team enjoying a world-class talent advantage, and within ten years, I bet we could become unstoppable,” he says.

Another worry for Lekhanya is the fact that there is far too little competition for local clubs, where some clubs play merely 30 fixtures of the league campaign and only on weekends. Lack of football activity or competition for clubs, he says, reflects badly on the national team, as the fitness levels of Likuena players may, to some extent, fail to match those of their opponents. On this matter too, the former speedy forward believes LeFA should do something.

“We need more investors in our game to establish more competition besides just the league fixtures. Our players should get used to high levels of competition, and our football standards could rise even more.

LeFA on its own should establish “our own” FA Cup (a football association tournament where all elite clubs compete, mixed with a few from other lower divisions). This will bridge that gap and bring us an inch closer to where we want to see ourselves football-wise,” he says. 

The former Lesotho international goes on to admit that he has a role to play in Lesotho football and is willing. For his part, he says he is on course and cause to establish an agency or at least become a link between local players and established international player agents. This, he says, will help sell local players to elite clubs abroad, an aspect that he says has been lacking over the years.

During his time, Lekhanya won everything local football has to offer, mostly during his time with Lioli, where he claims to have mostly enjoyed his career. He is notably among a few players who can boast about playing for the local big three of Bantu, Matlama, and Lioli. His best performances for the senior national team include scoring against Gabon in 2014 as Likuena secured a 1-1 draw in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. 

He was also a crucial member of the formidable Makoanyane XI Class of 2011 that qualified for the African Youth Championship tournament that was held in South Africa in 2011, led by Coach Leslie Notši. They booked their place at the eight-team showpiece after finishing on top of a group consisting of Mozambique, South Africa, and Kenya.

It was at the very tournament that he played against today’s football household names in Mo Salah, Ahmed Hegazi of Egypt, Ahmed Musa of Nigeria, and Orlando Pirates’ Kermit Erasmus, among other Superstars. Having competed and gone toe to toe with the aforementioned Superstars who were part of his generation, Lekhanya admits he had started dreaming big and hoped to make it to the South African top flight at least. Something that did not happen, thereby becoming his biggest regret in his career.

He attributes his failure to secure international moves along with his teammates partly to the fact that there were no agents in Lesotho to sell them to international suitors. 

“Many of the players of our generation with whom we competed and came out superior in some instances managed to make it to the top leagues around the world. Solely because they had agents who exposed them to clubs around the world, and they got suitors. Something we didn’t have the privilege of,” says the former player nicknamed “General.”

This situation, he says, demoralized him throughout his career, and he had little to fight for as he found himself trapped in local football with no hope of making it out of Lesotho. He says even the current generation of players is equally affected, where the highest achievement for local football is arguably the national team call-up and nothing much afterward. 

“We have had a few lucky players like Motebang Sera who have managed to impress scouts while representing Lesotho and secured moves outside the country in recent times. But the majority of our players, who are equally good and even better, are not getting that exposure as a result of this situation. So I am planning to tap into that space and see where and how I can help,” concludes Lekhanya.

Lekhanya last turned out for Matlama in the 2019–2020 season. He left the club at the end of that season after finding himself having to prioritize his work over the sport to secure a living for his family, he says.+