Football players, fans in Lesotho deserve better

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AS I SEE IT

STANDING in the bitter cold of a Teyayateneng winter evening last Sunday I might have been tempted to forgive the shambles that I was witnessing before my eyes.

This was supposed to have been the coronation of Lesotho’s football league champions — recognition of a nation’s football heroes — the finest of our national sport.

Instead here was a muddle — that was clearly unplanned — of what Basotho have come to expect from their football. Of course I did not expect any fireworks display.

This was the day that Lesotho’s best supported football team, Lioli, had been crowned champions after a 24-year wait.

Lioli’s big day was in fact turned into a disgrace.

Last Sunday, the ceremony to crown Lioli as Premier League champions was reduced to a farce as the ceremony was conducted in a small corner of the Teyateyaneng pitch.

There were no floodlights.

On the team’s brightest moment in decades vehicle headlights lit up the “stage”.

What we saw on Sunday was a microcosm of Lesotho football in a nutshell.

I think football players in the country deserve better. The fans deserve better.

Even in the day of multi-billion football deals around the world Lesotho’s premier league remains a part-time amateur league with scant sponsorship and no hope of television coverage.

Football players are not paid at all while the majority of the so-called pitches are a danger to players.

The state of football leaves a lot to be desired.

The Mohale Declaration, a roadmap to improve local football, was signed and sealed last April.

The declaration stated that Lesotho would introduce a club licensing system, appoint refereeing inspectors at all league matches and introduce a contract system for coaches and players.

It also pledged to require all football coaches to acquire coaching licences, implement stringent safety procedures at matches, establish programmes for the youth and set up a reserve league.

The declaration also said it would push for the reduction of premier league teams from the current 16 to 12.

It is important to ask: where are we regarding the implementation of these noble objectives?

Very little has been done in line with the Mohale Declaration. But every Premier League team was a signatory to the declaration.

My fear is that we will not implement most of the agreements.

In fact by the time that world showpiece next door is over sometime in July next year it is not inconceivable that we will still find ourselves in a similar position.

According to the Mohale Declaration all premiership clubs must produce audited financial statements which were to be submitted to the Lesotho Football Association.

The document also said that each league team is to have “consistent access to (or ownership of) developed training facilities that will by 2014 . . . include turf, dressing rooms and training lights”.

To achieve this clubs “within a year from now (April 2008) will have filed application for land with appropriate authorities.”

It also said clubs should have “access to/ownership of fully furnished office facilities by the start of the 2009/10 league season”.

I have nothing against these ambitious plans. But I think we need to take the small steps first. Those targets must be achievable and measurable.

For a start, I suggest that let us give our players contracts.

I do not think it is impossible to sign up to 20 players on proper contracts and pay them something.

The majority of our local football teams have no sponsors. But football teams need to get serious and show some initiative because “moketa ho tšosoa o ithusang”.

Of course there have been some positives about the past season; the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS’s) organisation, Lioli’s colourful supporters and the Lesotho Defence Force’s close co-operation with the media.

We also saw some brilliant goals during the past season — Lehlohonolo Mpopo’s wonder volley in December against Linare as well as Likhopo’s passion against all odds.

Unfortunately these achievements appear like a footnote because of the lack of progression in our football.

This has been clearly exposed on the international scene where our national football team have been reduced to the whipping boys of Africa.

We need to bring back the glory days when our national soccer team could represent the country with pride and stand up against the powerhouses on the African continent.

 

 

 

 

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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