Lesotho coach Moses Maliehe says he will be taking a brave new young team to the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup in Namibia from June 11-25 and warned their rivals they are not there to make up the numbers.
Lesotho have been drawn in the first round Group B along with Angola, Malawi and Mauritius, giving them a tough task to reach the quarterfinals.
But Maliehe, who took over the side from Seephephe Matete late last year, is confident his team can put on a show and surprise some of the bigger names at the regional showpiece event.
“We know it won’t be easy for us in Namibia and we have a completely new team,” Maliehe says. “But football is football and we have a lot of talented young players are looking to make a name for themselves.
“The COSAFA Castle Cup gives them the platform to do that and we are excited to see what we can achieve. We have a lot of experience in junior football and now is the time to make the step up to the senior team.
“They are very keen to play and we cannot deny them that chance.”
Maliehe says the majority of his side is made up of the squad that competed for Lesotho at the 2011 African Youth Championships, where they performed admirably on the continental stage.
“Most of them come from that 2011 side that went to the African Youth Championships, but then we have also brought in some newer Under-20 players from the team I was coaching previously. It is a good mix.”
Maliehe says that while the COSAFA Castle Cup will be a good platform for his players to gain exposure, they are going to Namibia for far more than experience alone.
“In the senior national team there is no time for development, it is about competition and winning. I don’t want to talk about using this tournament to develop our players, were are there to compete, play well and win matches.”
Waiting in the quarterfinals for the winner of Group B are South Africa and Maliehe admits for his side that would be a special occasion.
“These boys have a history with South Africa from Under-20 level when we lost to them a few times, so we will need no motivation if we make it through to the quarterfinals. That is a game they will be desperate to win.”
The coach says the fact that the stands in Namibia are likely to be packed with scouts from across the world is a big deal for his players, who don’t usually enjoy such an audience.
“It is one of the big advantages of playing in the COSAFA Castle Cup, to allow my players to truly show their ability to scouts and agents who see them as future professionals. My players will be going there to express themselves and grab that opportunity.”
Maliehe also says the standard of the domestic game in Lesotho is improving, to the point where they now have players earning a living from the game.
“Even since last year it is getting better and better and we now have four clubs who are paying their players’ salaries, which is a big step forward for us. I can say confidently that the future of Lesotho football is bright.”
Click here to apply for media accreditation to the COSAFA Castle Cup 2016 in Namibia.