Tuesday Aug 06, 2019. 14:00
By Nick Said
Lesotho ended a 25-year wait when they completed a comprehensive 6-2 aggregate victory over South Africa in the African Nations Championship qualifiers this past weekend.
This amazing result was engineered by coach Moses Maliehe, who is starting to make a name for himself in the international game.
Lesotho claimed 3-2 and 3-0 victories against an admittedly woefully under-strength South African side to record their first ever wins against Bafana Bafana.
That sets up a meeting with Zimbabwe in the final round of CHAN qualifiers in September and October.
The victory over Bafana for the South African-born Maliehe was a sweet, sweet moment.
“It was nice for me, because you know I was born in the North West of South Africa,” Maliehe tells AfricanFootball.com.
“My father used to work on the mines. He was great friends with the father of Phil Masinga, so I knew him and Bennett Masinga well. It is funny that both men ended up having footballers for sons.”
Maliehe played junior football for Klerksdorp City, and later under Shakes Mashaba at Vaal Reef Stars.
“I would say I learned a lot in that time, though not just working under Shakes. All of my coaches had an influence because I was always eager to learn,” added Maliehe.
After being appointed Lesotho Under-20 coach in 2008, he was handed the reigns of the senior national side in 2015 and led the team to three consecutive semifinal appearances at the regional COSAFA Cup.
His ultimate ambition, though, is to get the team to the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2021 but having been drawn in the same qualification pool as Nigeria, Benin and Sierra Leone, that will be a mighty challenge.
“Football in Lesotho is improving,” said Maliehe.
“A few years ago we had almost no players in leagues abroad. Now I have three at Black Leopards [Tshwarelo Bereng, Tumelo Khutlang and Luciano Matsoso], one at Bloemfontein Celtic [Sera Motebang], one in KwaZulu-Natal [Nkoto Masoabi at Real Kings] and one in the USA [Sunny Jane at Louisville City].
“This shows our improvement and results like that against South Africa, with a young group of locally-based players, backs that up.”
Maliehe, 53, confirmed that he will meet his football association executive on Wednesday to plan for the Afcon and World Cup qualifiers, where his side have been drawn against Ethiopia in the preliminary round.
“The good news with so many players at home is that, as the league is not professional, we can train a lot together,” continued Maliehe. “I can train with them three times a week and so we can get a lot of work done in the next few months.”
Maliehe believes he has undertaken a regeneration of the Lesotho squad to bringing the average age down so that they can build for the future – targeting the same sort of progress that Namibia made to reach the 2019 Nations Cup finals.
“I was from the Under-20 system and I still like to use young players rather than the older ones. We have tried to change the dynamic of the squad in that way and I think it is working. Namibia is our blueprint and I believe we can match their achievement,” said the Lesotho coach.
As for the win over South Africa, Maliehe himself is not getting too carried away: “We knew they would not play a strong team, but all the same we were prepared to play any team they put in front of us.
“We won the first game 3-2, but they had more of the ball than us. If you play a team you don’t know, it is very difficult. The second leg we were much better, we looked at a few things technically, and analysed their strong and weak points.”