Jelusic opens up on Lesotho coaching job
Veteran Serbian born coach Veselin Jelusic hit the ground running following his appointment as the Lesotho coach helping the Mountain Kingdom country clinch a 3-1 aggregate victory over Seychelles to reach the group stage of the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations.
Lesotho’s Likuena have since been drawn in Group H alongside the hosts Cote d’voire, Comoros and Zambia.
The LeFA media team sat down with the Serbian gaffer to discuss the mammoth task awaiting his team in Group H.
LeFA: Coach Veselin, welcome to the Mountain Kingdom and congratulations on the appointment to become the Lesotho men’s National Team coach.
VJ: Thank you very much. It is a great honour for me to be chosen among so many good candidates to be the head coach of the Lesotho National Team.
LeFA: Please give us a brief background of coach Veselin Jelusic?
VJ: As a coach, I started working quite early. In parallel with my work at the Faculty of Sports in Belgrade, about Football, I worked in the Serbian football clubs Čukarički, Hajduk and Obilič. I gained my first coaching qualifications and experience quite early. So, at the age of 35, I was already in Africa for the very first time as the coach of FC ASA in Angola, which I achieved significant results and later opened the door for me to be the head coach of Angola’s Men National teams.
I also worked for eight years in Botswana, four years as the head coach of the National team and another four years as the coach in charge of Youth Football and Development for the Botswana Football Association. From there, I worked as the coach of Bloemfontein Celtic in the South African Premier League as well as in Zambia for FC City in Lusaka.
I also spend some time in Russia working for FC Krasnodar and of course, all this time I was employed in Serbia, as a part-time Professor of Football at the College of Sports in Belgrade.
LEFA: You had a dream start to your tenure as the Lesotho coach helping them book a place in the group stage of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations…
VJ: The matches against Seychelles were very important for all of us. From the beginning, we had a serious approach because any relaxation in games like this can be very dangerous. In fact, the Technical Director, Mr Leslie Notsi, started the preparations back in January, which we continued so that a successful result was achieved because of a seriously organised and implemented plan of preparations for the given matches.
LeFA: What’s your assessment of football in Lesotho since you arrived?
VJ: So far, I have had the opportunity to watch with our Technical Director, several exciting matches and see all the teams. in addition to the players who are already in the National Team, we have identified some young players that we will occasionally invite to the camps to gain the necessary experience and join the National team if they show progress with time.
LeFA: Coaching the national team comes with a lot of pressure. What can Basotho expect from Likuena under your mentorship?
VJ: I will give it my best together with my colleagues and everyone who works for the progress of football in Lesotho, to make our fans feel satisfied and proud.
LeFA: You have worked in the continent since 1992, coaching in countries like Botswana, Angola, South Africa, and Zambia. How far are we from those countries as far as football development is concerned?
VJ: Due to obligations with the Senior National Team, I have not had the opportunity to get acquitted in more detail with the development programs on youth football in Lesotho, although I received a lot of information from the Technical director and my colleagues. Of course, without the development of youth football, there is no progress, no future, and the task for all of us is to pay the greatest attention to it and get as close as possible to the positive examples around us and in the world in general.
LeFA: Very few people know that Uganda National team coach Milutin Sredojevic was your student during your time at the Faculty of Sports in Belgrade?
VJ: Yes, I can proudly say that because Milutin Sredojevic-Micho is a very successful coach, who has coached many famous African clubs and national teams and managed to achieve significant success with them.
LeFA: The World Cup scheduled for Qatar is already gathering momentum. How far can African countries go?
VJ: With due respect to all the national teams and the desires of their Federations to achieve the best possible results in Qatar, it seems to be that Senegal, has a pretty good chance to go far in the tournament.
LeFA: In conclusion, your team has been drawn against Cote d’voire, Comoros and Zambia in the qualifiers for the 2023 Africa Cup of nations. What do you make of Group H?
VJ: Our focus for the qualifiers will be on our preparations, but we knew anyway that in our group, we will get the top ranked teams. Regardless of the teams we are going to play, our approach will be the same, to prepare as better as we can and to respect all our opponents while at the same time, we do everything possible to get the best possible results.
Of course, Cote d’Ivoire’ are the hosts for the next year’s final and will treat the qualifiers very seriously because they have already started with their preparations to make it a successful tournament. They are a powerhouse with top professional players
We know that Zambia are a very team with some players playing in some of the best leagues in Europe like the English Premier League.
Comoros are also a team made of professionals playing for European clubs in countries such as France, Belgium and so on