Lesotho Times
Thato Nkone aka Sandawana

Learn from Sandawana debacle

Mikia Kalati

LAST week’s decision by the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) to expel Sandawana from the Econet Premier League (EPL) marked a sad chapter in the evolution of our football along its path to professionalism.

The decision was perhaps not as surprising as it was sensible given the manner in which the club was fast bringing the league into disrepute through its failure to pitch up for matches.

Who knows how long this regrettable state of affairs would have continued as players dug in and continued to boycott games to protest the non-payment of their benefits by club owner and traditional healer, Thato ‘Sandawana’ Nkone.

Mr Nkone should be taken to task for turning our league into a joke.

But at the same time this is a wake-up call to the PLMC as well as the football mother body, the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA).

There was joy all round when Mr Nkone bought the franchise of the now defunct Mpharane Celtic and turned Sandawana into a very competitive side.

No one would have guessed that he would soon turn the club into an embarrassment through ill-advised decisions which have brought us to this episode.

Mr Nkone was never one to hide the fact that he was an illiterate man who was passionate about football and wanted to achieve big things.

And it initially seemed to go well with Sandawana achieving a top four finish which secured them participation in the Independence Top 4 cup in just their second year in the league.

I think the wheels began to come off when Sandawana lost the services of coach Bob Mafoso and Mr Nkone made the ill-conceived move of bringing in the unproven duo of Spaniard, Antonio Jesus Flores and his French assistant, Eric Sarno.

From that point on, things began to unravel on and off the field, with performances going down and disputes becoming the norm.

I am not against clubs bringing foreign expertise but one must first of all count the cost and also bring in people who know what they are doing.

In any event, Flores was never one to be loyal and he soon jumped ship and joined Lioli.


And before the cock crowed twice, he had also dumped Lioli and he is now in the unfashionable South African National First Division.

While there is nothing wrong with being ambitious, the entire episode leaves a sour taste in the mouth. In all likelihood Flores’s heart was never here and it is hard not to think that he was only in our country to use our league as a stepping stone to supposedly bigger things

Mr Nkone once confided to me that bringing Flores required a huge financial outlay and I am sure that he has learnt his lesson.

I also hope the authorities have also learnt about the need to effectively screen prospective owners of football clubs and their committees to ensure they have the resources and expertise to avoid a repeat of the Sandawana debacle.

The buying and selling of teams should be carefully monitored because Sandawana is not alone in this predicament.

There is also the case of Sky Battalion which was previously owned by a Chinese national, Hua Gao.

Gao who was popularly known as ‘Messi’ left the project and this led to its sale at the start of this season.

The team has been in turmoil ever since and they were docked six points at the start of the season. They are still winless after 10 games.

The situation at Sky Battalion is also worrying and I hope they get their house in order before it is too late.








Lesotho Times

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

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