â€˜Give him a chanceâ€™
Prominent premier league coaches have lauded the Lesotho Senior Menâ€™s National team coach Vaseline Jelusic, saying all he needs is ample time with the squad to deliver the desired results for the team.
This is despite Jelusicâ€™s charges recently bowing-out of the sub-regional Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup at the King Zwelithini Stadium, in Durban being ousted by eSwatini in the group stages of the tournament.
Likuena started the tournament on a promising footing where the lads surprised the Flames of Malawi and Mauritius to bag a thrilling 2-1 win in both opening games before suffering a 0-2 defeat at the hands of eSwatini.
The fine-tuned Jelusicâ€™s Likuena finished second in the group B with six points one behind eSwatini which achieved first spot with seven points in the 21st edition of the contest.
Nonetheless, Chipolopolo of Zambiaâ€™s late goal in the extra-time against Namibia was enough to clinch their sixth trophy at Moses Mabhida Stadium a fortnight ago.
Lesotho had been amongst the favourites to make it out of the group stages to the knockouts needing only a draw or a win in their last game but eSwatini proved to be the better side.
One of the prominent coaches in the country, Bob Mafoso who is Lioliâ€™s Technical Director said the coach needs to be given time as he has proved his mettle to building a winning team.
â€œI believe the coach needs to be given time to build his team because clearly as a new coach, he has got few things right looking at how he has managed to have new players who are highly capable.
â€œIn his short time while still getting to know the players, he has shown that he can create a winning mentality amongst the current group of players in the team,â€ Mafoso said.
The former Lesotho under-20 coach and Former Bantu coach explained that there have been a number of positives to take out of the recent performance by the national team.
â€œThings do not always get right all at once but he has managed to bring an attitude that some of the previous coaches struggled to do from the new players, such as Malane, Makateng and Mafatle who are hungry to win games,â€ he said.
â€œLooking at his tactics, defence is looking good although a few costly mistakes were there but the fighting spirit is there when we donâ€™t have the ball and even in attack the team looks threateningâ€
â€œWhat happened during the match with eSwatini was an unfortunate situation. Apart from that, one can tell that he is looking to build a competitive team that will hold its own in the international level. The structure, the fitness, the height and age are all there,â€ he explained.
Likuena has so far played seven games under Jelusic; recording two wins, two loses and three draws including the one where they held one of the continentâ€™s powerhouses and giants Ivory Coast to a 0-0 deadlock in the African Cup of Nation (AFCON) qualifiers.
Mafoso stated that given a chance Jelusic can build a team that will qualify for the AFCON 2025 edition.
Likuena is yet to clinch championship status in the COSAFA and AFCON cup. The team last made it to the COSAFA finals back in 2000 where they lost to Zimbabwe.
Another coach who echoed the similar sentiments as those of Mafoso was Casswell Moru who acknowledged that five months is a short time for any national team coach to be judged.
He said that being the case, the coach needs to work together with the local coaches who are familiar with the style of play and challenges in the countryâ€™s football.
â€œAlthough he has not been in charge of the team for a long time, he has shown that he is capable of delivering. However, I believe that he will have to work closely with the local coaches especially those in the top league because that is where those players start before going to the national team,â€ Moru said.
He explained that Jelusicâ€™s bravery has managed to do something that most coaches were reluctant to do which is introducing new faces to the national team set up.
The 23-year-old forward Makateng was the poster boy for Likuena in the five games in recent times scoring twice in the AFCON qualifiers and twice in the COSAFA Cup. But there were other new faces that impressed Jelusic enough to get first call-ups inclusive of A-Division side Limkokwingâ€™s forward Lemohang LintÅ¡a, Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) defender Lehlohonolo Lenka and Lijabathoâ€™s RetÅ¡elisitsoe Mopeli.
â€œFootball right now has a lot of demands and changes frequently so a change in the national team set up introducing young players is a very positive move that shows intent,â€ said Moru.
According to one sports caster, Boitelo Rabele, Likuena has been lacking its own identity for a long time and the new coach inspired that change giving the team an identity while also giving the nation some form of hope with the team.
â€œAnother thing we were lacking is believe and hope from players and the nation when it comes to our team, however, we have seen the change in the way the players apply themselves technically and mentally,â€ Rabele said.
Rabele believes that given sufficient time and resources, the national team coach can turn the countryâ€™s fortunes around. He added that the coach has implemented something that past coaches were afraid to do which is to give a fair chance of a call up to the national team for all the players.
â€œSince Jelusic took the reigns there is a lot of positivity looking at the players, they are highly motivated and work rate is high.
â€œHis selection is also different inspiring a certain wave of
Competition amongst the players especially since even players in the lower division get a call up,â€ Rabele said.