Lesotho successful in U-17 and U-20 Qualifying


The Under-17 and Under-20 Lesotho national football teams have made it through the most recent stage of qualification for their African youth championships and will move on to play Cameroon and South Africa respectively. These results have come just after LEFA (Lesotho National Football Association) announced it would not enter the senior team into qualification for the 2012 African Cup of Nations. They made the decision because of financial reasons and also because they wanted to focus on youth development. Obviously, LEFA is using these results to justify and celebrate their decision.

BBC has a radio interview here

The other side of the story is that a lot of people in Lesotho are laughing because they believe that the U-17 and U-20 teams are age cheating, which would definitely not be contributing to football youth development in Lesotho. Age cheating is not something I gave a lot of thought to before arriving here. When I was younger I would sometimes watch the Little League World Series and there would sometimes be accusations that players in that tournament were above the age limits, but it was something I never really encountered growing up. However, from what I have read, and from talking with football people in Lesotho and South Africa, it seems that in Southern Africa, age cheating is quite common place - I would also recommend checking out this article which is quite good regarding ‘football age’ in Africa. The authors of both articles link the problem of age cheating back to poverty and believe that players believe that if they can make their way onto development teams then they will stand a better chance of playing professionally. So, if an 18 year old can find his way onto a professional team’s U-15 development team then he will have a better chance of getting a contract with that professional team.

Today was a holiday in Lesotho, Ascension Day, and a U-15 tournament was held involving eight teams. I wasn’t involved in organizing, but was invited to watch. It is about the fourth local youth tournament I have been able to attend. At every tournament there have been issues with teams using over aged players. I am not sure what the reasons are here in Lesotho because there are no professional teams. I think it might be a combination of the rules not being explained adequately, a lack of underage players, and just over competitiveness.

Maybe it also comes down to cultural perceptions of age. I grew up playing youth sports where every chronological age was separated from Under-5 up to Under-19. Age categorization seems to be a little more flexible here. I think age is perceived less as a fixed number and more as a general time period based on your situation in life. I think this is also evidenced by Sesotho terms associated to people. Men are usually addressed as Ntate and boys are usually addressed as Abute. When I first arrived, I received a couple of introductory Sesotho lessons. During the first lesson the teacher asked if I was an Ntate or an Abute. I said I did not know, but since I am 29 I guess I am an Ntate. The teacher said eh-eh (No). She asked if I was married. I said yes. She then said that I was an Ntate.

During this recent tournament I was talking with some other spectators and they were trying to justify age cheating by saying that everyone does it. They even believed that European and North American athletes are also age cheating to the same extent. I tried to explain that it might be very difficult for Wayne Rooney or Lebron James to falsify their ages, but my arguments didn’t seem to sway them.

May 13, 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment