Mixed reactions to Jelusic departure



Football analysts differ on Veselin Jelusic’s departure as Likuena’s coach. The Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) announced on Monday this week that it had parted ways with Likuena’s head coach, Veseline Jelusic.

This comes after the national side lost 1-0 to Comoros in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Qualifiers last Saturday. Likuena played the Comoros game already out of contention as far as AFCON qualification is concerned, but LeFA said before that it wanted the squad to complete the AFCON qualifiers on a high note.

LeFA even secured friendly matches against Eswatini and Togo for Likuena in preparation for the Comoros game, with Jelusic’s team beating Eswatini 2-1 in the first game before losing 1-0 against the Swazis in their second friendly.

The team later lost 2-0 at the hands of Togo. Likuena, under the Serbian mentor’s guidance, have registered a single point out of five matches at the ongoing AFCON Qualifiers. They held Ivory Coast to a goalless draw and lost to both Comoros and Zambia.

Likuena are still awaiting an away AFCON Qualifier against Ivory Coast in September.

Still under Jelusic’s tutelage, Likuena could not go beyond the group stages at last year’s COSAFA Cup. “The National Executive Committee of the Lesotho Football Association and the Senior National Team Coach, Mr. Veselin Jelusic, have reached an agreement to part ways amicably with immediate effect after 16 months working together,” reads the LeFA press release.

“The development comes following Likuena’s Saturday 1-0 loss to Comoros in the 2023 Total Enegies Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, which has left the Lesotho team rooted at the bottom of their group with just a point that came in the goalless draw against Ivory Coast in June last year.”

The LeFA press release further says: “The Lesotho team has gone through a bad spell of results, losing their last competitive matches, including back-to-back defeats to Zambia as well as Eswatini, Togo, and the Comoros.” But former Likuena goalkeeper Tšepo Mathetha contends that LeFA’s timing to sack Jelusic was not right.

He says LeFA could have waited until after the upcoming COSAFA Cup to be held in South Africa next month since Jelusic still had eight months left in his two-year contract. “I think LeFA should have waited until after the COSAFA Cup since Jelusic’s contract was not yet over,” said Mathetha in an interview with Public Eye on Monday.

He added: “Because, to be honest, parting ways with the coach ahead of the COSAFA Cup is not going to help us. Any coach to be appointed now will have to start from scratch.”

Mathetha further said: “LeFA would be doing justice to Jelusic if, after the COSAFA Cup, he would not be delivering the intended results. Then they would have a strong case to fire him.”

According to the former Likuena goalkeeper, Jelusic tried his best with the poor resources he had.

“I think he tried his level best, especially because he said it before that there were no resources for him to be able to deliver, being complete players who could turn the team’s fortune around.”

However, Mathetha says that at the end of the day, LeFA would always have discretion over whether a coach should stay or go.

He also notes that people will always call for the sacking of the national team coach because they want good results, but if the country still lacks the resources that Jelusic was talking about, Likuena will always be the whipping boy of Africa.

Because Jelusic’s mandate was to guide Likuena to the qualification of the AFCON Tournament and to the COSAFA Cup finals, one of the local coaches, Bahlakoana Mohoanyane, says LeFA could have parted ways with the Serbian mentor immediately after back-to-back defeats against Zambia in March this year (3-1 away on March 23 and 2-0 home on March 29) because it was obvious after those two losses that Likuena’s chances of making it to the AFCON Tournament were over.

“Because he was given a clear mandate, he could have been fired after Zambia beat Lesotho because it was clear that Likuena’s chances of qualifying for the AFCON Tournament were over,” says Mohoanyane.

He adds: “So whether he could have been fired by then or now, nothing changes because Likuena were and are still out of contention as far as the AFCON Tournament qualification is concerned.”

Mohoanyane believes LeFA could not just dismiss Jelusic as his contract was far from over, adding they wanted to save the association’s money because they would have to buy his contract out.

“I think the only difference was to save the association’s money, because it doesn’t make sense why LeFA kept him after all.

“Otherwise, I don’t understand why they chose to keep him from the beginning after he failed his mandate and fired him now, claiming he had lost a game in the same qualifiers in which the team was no longer in contention to qualify,” Mohoanyane wonders.

The difference is only three months between March and now, if LeFA had decided to dismiss the coach in March. The Serbian coach’s two-year deal has eight months left before it expires.

Jelusic was appointed Likuena coach in February last year, replacing the South African coach, Thabo Senong, who also parted ways with LeFA ahead of the COSAFA Cup last year.

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