MASERU — Before the start of the Vodacom Premier League season Lerotholi coach Naleli Tšilo warned that the environment at the team was not conducive for serious football.
“Fokothi is a team of students but the kids don’t stay inside the campus any more. At the time Lihale was Lihale, they lived here and they had all they needed… water, showers and food,” Tšilo bemoaned.
“Now the players live far, they walk long distances to their homes at the end of the day, where they have to join long queues to get water.”
Because of this, Tšilo said, there was no way Lerotholi could hold their own in the league.
His words now ring true as Lerotholi stand on the brink of relegation.
But how can it be?
Lerotholi were famously Independence Cup champions in 1996 and participants in the Caf Cup Winners’ Cup in 1986 and 1997.
They still have quality players and depth.
In February captain Teboho ’Mota and Lebohang Molaoli were included in a Makoanyane XI squad to play in Botswana.
Indeed the term ‘too good to go down’ could be used to describe Lerotholi’s imminent fall from the league.
The beneficial rule that says once enrolled with the college a student has to play for Lerotholi allowed the college team to have some of the best talent in the country.
This season they snapped up the services of Makoanyane XI international Kopano Tseka from Mphatlalatsane.
But although Lerotholi beat Swallows 2-1 at the Central Prison on Saturday, because of other results, they are all but relegated, paying for the sins of a sloppy season.
They are 11th, occupying the last relegation place with 23 points after 24 games. It means Lihale can only reach 29 points at the end of the season if they win their remaining two games.
But if they fail to beat Likhopo this coming Sunday Lerotholi will be relegated from the top-flight alongside Swallows and Mabeoana.
The fourth side in the relegation boat are Mphatlalatsane who need all three points against Lioli on Saturday to keep their top flight status.
Lioli are also still not out of the woods.
Lioli require three points from their remaining four games to ensure survival.
The current situation for Lerotholi is perhaps the culmination of a downward spiral.
Last season the club finished just one point above relegation, with only eight wins from 30 league games.
This season where only 26 matches are to be played Lihale have won just six.
In all Lerotholi have failed to amass 40 points in any of the previous five league campaigns.
The highest the students finished is seventh in 2007/08, but even that was only eight points above the “drop zone”.
Lerotholi’s plight in many ways has demonstrated that it is harder than ever for school teams to compete.
Last season it was 1996 champions Rovers who went down.
With this fate more than likely to befall Lerotholi as well it probably calls for changes at the institutions’ teams.
Rovers problems came from spending most of their time squabbling and it was symptomatic of the chaotic running at the university in general.
It filtered down the team and it saw Rovers fail to show up for league matches and players complaining the club even lacked basic football equipment.
Although Lerotholi has been more stable they too have not been able to make use of the resources at their disposal.