- Capital: Maseru
- Official Languages: Sesotho, English
- Nicknames: Likuena (Crocodiles) [Men’s side]; Beautiful Flowers [Women’s side]
- Association: Lesotho Football Association (LEFA)
- FIFA Code: LES
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best AFCON/CAN Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best AFCON/CAN Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best COSAFA Cup Result (Men): Finalists (2000)
- Best COSAFA Cup Result (Women): Group Stage (Various)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 105th (August 2014)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 92nd (December 2009)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 185th (August 2011)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 156th (April 2021)
- Most Capped Player: Nkau Lerotholi – 62 caps [as of May 2021]
- Top Scorer: Refiloe Potse – 9 goals
The Kingdom of Lesotho (Naha ea Lesotho) is a small southern African country which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, making it the largest enclaved country in the world. Previously known as Basutoland whilst a part of the British Empire, football was brought to the country by colonists in the early part of the 20th century, with the country’s FA being founded as early as 1932. Lesotho would become a full member of CAF (1963), and FIFA, (1964) before it gained its independence from Britain in 1966, and would subsequently become a member of the COSAFA sub-confederation in 1997. Lesotho played its first officially recognised international four years after independence, beating Malawi 2-1 away.
Lesotho have yet to qualify for either a World Cup or African Cup of Nations, with the nation often failing to enter the African qualifying campaigns throughout the 1980s and 1990s, although they have been more regular attendees of the qualifying stages throughout the 21st century. Their best performance in qualifying came during the 2014 World Cup when they progressed beyond the two-legged first round match by beating Burundi 3-2 on aggregate before entering the second round group stage of qualifying for just the second time in their history. Even though they failed to progress to the third round of qualifying, and suffered a heavy 7-0 defeat to Ghana in their first group game, the Likuena managed to draw and beat Sudan, and achieve a goalless draw at home to the then newly-crowned African champions Zambia to ensure a third place finish in the group. Sadly they won’t be playing in the second round of African qualification for the 2022 World Cup having drawn 1-1 on aggregate to Ethiopia, but being knocked out on away goals. In addition, they have failed to progress to the 2021/22 AFCON having ended their campaign with just three points during the group qualifying stage, achieving two draws against Sierra Leone, and one against Benin.
Lesotho have seen more success in the regional COSAFA Cup, where they regularly reach the final four of the competition. Their best performance was in the 2000 edition when they reached the final of the COSAFA Cup, beating Zambia on penalties, and Angola 2-1 in the semi-finals, to face Zimbabwe in the final. Alas the Crocodiles were heavily defeated over the two-legged final to lose 6-0 on aggregate. Nonetheless, Lesotho have performed much better in the most recent editions of the COSAFA Cup, having reached the final four in the last three editions of the tournament. They finished in fourth place in 2017, and 2019, and finished in third place in 2018 by beating Madagascar 1-0 in the Third Placed playoff match – their best finish in the tournament since their historic 2000 charge to the final.
To talk about a side who have yet to qualify for an AFCON but have reached the final four of the regional COSAFA Cup competition in the last three editions, we interviewed the excellent Banjo Sports. He is a Lesotho-based production technician, reporter for @lesothoradio and TV, as well as a sports contributor for http://news4u.co.ls. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @LebajoaTebalo
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
The striker Teele Nts’onyana who played for Arsenal [the Lesotho team based in Maseru], and the South African sides Witbank Aces and Wits University. He was able to score goals even when the team was performing poorly… playing for both Wits and Aces speaks volume at how good he was.
The best manager of all time is Mr. Monaheng “Doc” Monyane (RIP), he was like the father to all the players, and he was the first coach to guide the senior national team to the finals of 2000 COSAFA Cup.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
For the past, it is Teele Nts’onyana for the reasons I said previously, and currently it is Motebang Sera [26-year-old forward] who is playing for Bloemfontein Celtic in South Africa.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Lesotho national side currently?
It would be Ts’epo Toloane [23-year-old forward] who currently plays for Lesotho Defence Force FC.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
The performance of the national team is not good at all. The reason was that after the team failed to qualify for AFCON 2019, where they had a good run to potentially qualify, the Association leadership decided to terminate the contract of previous coach Moses Maliehe and hired new coach Mr. Thabo Senong from South Africa. 4 months into the helm, COVID-19 forced football to stop for almost a year. That had a huge impact.
Q. Are there any Lesotho players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Yes we do, players like Neo Mokhachane [24-year-old midfielder] from Bantu FC, Thabang Malane [23-year-old right-back] from LCS FC, Mokoteli Mohapi [23-year-old midfielder] from Kick4life, Miller Lebetsa from Linare, etc..those are very exciting players who should focus for future.
Q. Looking at Lesotho’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance for the national team in your opinion?
In 2000 when Lesotho defeated Angola in the semi-final of COSAFA Cup, defender Motlatsi Maseela scored the equalising goal and then Teele Nts’onyana scored the winner…what a performance! That game still in my mind.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Losing 7-0 against Ghana in 2012 [during the Second Round of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers] was the lowest point in the history of the national team.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Lesotho national team?
The best things are when the team performs extremely well and bringing joy to the country. But worst is when the football association and the government do not do enough to elevate the standard of football and the national team by motivating them…
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
No, not at all.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
Unfortunately, I dont have a particular shirt that stands out for me.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Lesotho national team?
I am hopeful that the national team can do better if leadership of football and the country as a whole commit themselves to lift the spirit of the boys by motivating them, investing in football broadcasting so that people outside the country can come and watch our football… Our players can easily get exposure.
A massive ke leboha haholo to the superb Banjo Sports for answering our questions on the Likuena. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.