Lioli fans attack ref

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MASERU — After watching their dream to retain the Premier League title receive a sucker punch, Lioli fans on Sunday vented their ire on match officials in the latest violent episode to rock local football.

Lioli were stunned 3-1 at their Teyateyaneng fortress by LMPS, a result that might have put paid to Tse Nala’s hopes of winning their second consecutive championship.

The result has left Lioli trailing leaders Matlama by seven points with eight matches to go.

After the final whistle, Lioli fans attacked referee Paul Phomane and his two assistants.

Tough punishment — which may include a possible stadium ban — now awaits Lioli whose fans were also involved in violent exchanges against Matlama supporters in January. 

Premier League chairman Tlholo Letete yesterday was non-committal on the punishment likely to be slapped on Lioli but said a harsh sentence was possible.

“We have a whole menu of functions that we can apply,” he told the Lesotho Times. “We can ban a club’s ground or ban their supporters.”

Letete would not say whether or not Lioli’s indiscipline record would influence the league’s decision on the latest incident.

“We deal with each case on its merits. We will write to Lioli,” he said.

On Tuesday Lioli expressed regret about Sunday’s incident and promised to take action against the culprits.

“Lioli regrets the incident and will be taking harsh measures against those that participated or caused this incident,” the club said in a statement.

“It must be noted that this is the first incident with Lioli FC in which a match official suffered hostility and as such it is a big shock for all of us.

“It was immediately not possible to contain the situation but we eventually managed to control it and we drove the referee and his assistants out of the stadium to a safe place.

“We report that there were no injuries.”

Lioli said they had provided adequate security for the match.

“We wish to record that Lioli FC management had taken all endeavours to ensure safety including of the crowd itself,” the statement said.

Also on Sunday a referee was attacked by Manamela Young Stars players in the Vodacom A-Division after he told them before the start of their match against Lifefo that three of their players did not have valid playing licences.

The match was eventually not played.

Another match in the first division between Mokhotlong LMPS and Butha-Buthe Fast XI was not completed.

Meanwhile, Lioli are desperate to have the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) overturn its decision to award Tse Nala’s abandoned match against Matlama to the latter.

Lefa overturned an earlier decision by the Premier League to have the abandoned match replayed by awarding Matlama the maximum points as well as three goals.

The January 24 match was called off after violence erupted soon after Matlama took a 3-1 lead against Lioli with 13 minutes to go at Pitso Gound in Maseru.

Lioli have written to Lefa seeking an urgent meeting to address their concerns.

The Teyateyaneng side claim the expert who recommended the decision made by Lefa erred in that he allegedly used “common sense” instead of given evidence.

Lefa had hired Sekake Malebanye, a local practising lawyer, to probe the incident and make recommendations.

The Premier League had failed to establish the initiators of the violence, but Malebanye concluded that “dictates of common sense also lead one to a reasonable conclusion that Matlama FC had no logical reason to cause abandonment of the game”.

“(Matlama) had just scored their third goal with only 13 minutes left. They seem to have been doing well on their way to victory,” Malebanye said in his two-page report.

“If ever there was a party that would benefit from the abandonment it was Lioli FC.”

Lioli public relations officer Moeketsi Pitso confirmed they had asked for an urgent meeting with Lefa over the abandoned match issue.

“We’ve been asking for an urgent meeting with the association but they have not responded to our request,” he said.

“They must agree to meet and have a discussion with us about their decision to give Matlama three points.”

Pitso said he was worried Lioli supporters could take the law into their own hands because they had developed a negative attitude against Lefa.

He said their angry supporters were threatening to beat referees in order to try and force Lefa into meeting with them.

“Supporters wanted to beat referees (on Sunday) because they alleged that they were Lefa people,” Pitso said.

“Lefa must agree to an urgent meeting to end all this because our supporters are threatening to beat referees in order to make Lefa talk.”

He said that it was unacceptable that Malebanye had used “common sense” to recommend that the abandoned match ought to be awarded to Matlama.

“How does anyone expect us to accept this decision yet the expert said in his report that he had failed to find the source of the violence?” Pitso said.

“He clearly states that he used his common sense to draw his conclusion on the Matlama-Lioli match.”

Lefa public relations officer Baba Malephane confirmed the association had received a letter from Lioli asking for an urgent meeting.

He said Lefa had responded to the club’s request in a letter sent last week.

“There is a letter from Lioli in our office which is asking for an urgent meeting,” Malephane said.

“That letter was answered and the response was sent to them last week.”

He however said he could not disclose the contents of the letter.

“I can’t disclose the contents but Lioli can as well give you that letter because they always give you copies of their letters,” Malephane said.

Pitso denied any knowledge of the letter Malephane was referring to.

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