Nigeria could reignite its rivalry with South Africa on a different level later this year, as one of their group opponents in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Lesotho have hired a coach from The Rainbow Nation.
Nigeria’s rivalry with South Africa resurfaced during this year’s AFCON in Egypt, as the Super Eagles beat Bafana Bafana 2-1 in the quarter-finals, with a last gasp winner by William Troost-Ekong, such that Lesotho will be banking on that threat spreading in favour of their squad.
The Eagles will be up against a South African coach when they confront Lesotho in the race to AFCON 2021 in Cameroon, as the landlocked tiny nation have employed a gaffer from the country that encloses them.
The Eagles are set to battle Lesotho in their second match of the race to Cameroon 2021, ahead of which their hosts for the November 19 fixture have appointed Thabo Senong as their new coach, a week to their 2022 World Cup preliminary round qualifiers against Ethiopia, over two legs.
The 38-year-old Senong arrives after helping South Africa to the last two FIFA U-20 World Cup, but his contract was not renewed in May, after the latest tournament in Poland, where his team failed to win a match.
Before that, he had served as assistant to Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba and Stuart Baxter with Bafana Bafana, but he fell out with the duo and was moved to handle the under-20 team.
At club level he rose to prominence as the assistant to Pitso Mosimane at Mamelodi Sundowns but the Lesotho job will be his first senior post.
Senong made a presentation to Lesotho Football Association on Monday and was offered the job thereafter before being unveiled in Maseru on Wednesday, to replace Moses Maliehe, who is battling with illness.
Lesotho’s FA technical director, Lesli Notsi had been acting as coach in the absence of Maliehe in recent time, which included a 6-2 aggregate victory over South Africa in the Championship of African Nations (CHAN) qualifiers earlier this month.
Senong will now start work with a pre-arranged selection, as Notsi has already selected a squad for the two legs against Ethiopia. Lesotho play away on September 4 before the return leg in Maseru four days later.
They also have CHAN 2020 qualifiers against Zimbabwe later in the month, and are in a group with Nigeria, Benin and Sierra Leone for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that start in November.