- Lesotho have yet to take part in a FIFA World Cup or AFCON
- 40-year-old Thabo Senong is looking to the younger generation to turn this around
- The new coach previously led South Africa to two FIFA U-20 World Cups
In Lesotho, people always tell the same old story, and it certainly is a sad one. It’s about a country that is crazy about football but which, so far, has been unable to celebrate its passion for the beautiful game at a major tournament. Of the 22 FIFA World Cups™ and 32 CAF Africa Cup of Nations to date, Lesotho have never managed to be among the participants.
Even if they do not manage to break that barren spell in time for Qatar 2022, the Likuena (or Crocodiles) are still looking to turn things around at least from a continental point of view by 2022, and hopefully then begin a new chapter en route to the FIFA World Cup 2026. Lesotho are taking a long-term approach and banking on youth, both on and off the pitch, with 40-year-old South African Thabo Senong having been named coach.
“I really don’t think that age is an issue for a coach,” Senong told FIFA.com. “I’ve seen a lot of young coaches who have had success around the world, including Rinus Michels, Franz Beckenbauer, Arrigo Sacchi, Roberto Martinez and Carlos Alberto Parreira.”
The man who began coaching at just 20 is also certain he will get his players to respect him, even though he is just a few years older than some of them: “I have always relied on my passion and my values as a person – that’s what’s important to me. I have the experience I need to help players and teams develop.”
Lesotho will have further opportunities to see whether their new mindset can pay dividends when they face Nigeria, Benin and Sierra Leone in qualifying for the AFCON 2022. The team will be hoping to create a few surprises and maybe even make it through to the tournament in Cameroon in two years’ time.
“Being one of the outsiders puts us in a good frame of mind – it means that we have to be alert and well prepared,” said Senong. “We’re working hard to give the players the belief they need and to improve the chemistry between them as well as their fitness and the overall collective play.”
The aim is obviously to qualify for the continental tournament for what would be an historic achievement, and also to keep their supporters happy and give them something to dream about.
“They love football based on possession, with plenty of attacking and goals,” he said. “They hate direct football that’s lacking in artistry, creativity and imagination. Fans can sometimes be impatient, even aggressive and demanding. But one thing they love is a win at the end of the day.”
Hopefully Senong will be able to write a new chapter in the Lesotho story, and one with a happy ending this time around.
Thabo Senong in brief
- Professional coaching certificate in South Africa
- CAF A licence
- Coaching certificate from the Johan Cruyff Institute
- FIFA Youth licence and FIFA Coaching instructor
- Coach of South Africa U-20s from 2014 to 2019
- Assistant coach of South Africa A from 2014 to 2018
- Winner of the COSAFA U-20 Challenge Cup in 2017
- Qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cups in 2017 and 2019
Read original article on FIFA.com.