MASERU — Lesotho has missed out on a rare opportunity to take charge of an official international match after the country’s top referee failed a fitness test two weeks ago.
Paul Phomane had been named the match official for a 2012 Olympic Games preliminary qualifier between Namibia and Botswana later this month.
The world football body Fifa had asked Lesotho to release Phomane, assistant referees Tsepo Mokhemisa and Seeiso Seeiso as well as reserve match official Mohau Sentso to take charge of the match in Namibia.
But Fifa had to look for alternative match officials after Phomane, regarded as Lesotho’s best referee, failed a fitness test in Maseru a fortnight ago.
Phomane and Sentso are the only local match officials accredited by Fifa as central referees.
Mokhemisa and Seeiso are on Fifa’s panel for assistant match officials.
Fifa two weeks ago held a clinic for local referees at which half of the 40 participants failed a mandatory fitness test.
Phomane was among them.
Earlier this year he quit officiating domestic football matches citing violence against referees which peaked last season.
Lesotho Football Association administrator Mokhosi Mohapi confirmed Phomane’s lack of fitness had cost the country an international assignment.
“They are no longer going because we needed to send two central referees and because Phomane failed we cannot officiate,” Mohapi told the Lesotho Times.
“They were going to officiate a game between Namibia and Botswana which is one of the 2012 Olympic Games preliminary matches.”
He said Lesotho could not replace Phomane because the country only had two central referees accredited by Fifa.
“We needed to send two central referees and when Phomane failed the test we were forced to pull out,” Mohapi said.
“We’ve got only two central referees on the Fifa panel hence Sentso could not go alone.”
Phomane last week, however, told the Lesotho Times that he was not aware of the Fifa assignment.
“I do not know anything about that match but it is still my expectation to officiate international matches,” he said.
“I believe when such papers arrive in the office they will be given to me.”