MASERU — Lioli were the biggest losers when the finalists for this year’s Vodacom Soccer Spectacular tournament were announced yesterday.
The Teyateyaneng giants — who command a large, colourful following — were not among the eight teams that garnered the most SMS votes to qualify for the richest tournament in domestic football.
LCS, winners of the inaugural tournament in 2008, were also conspicuous by their absence from this year’s edition.
Instead they will watch enviously as unfashionable first-division sides Butha-Buthe Fast XI and Mokhotlong LMPS vie for the M360 000 jackpot.
Maseru Naughty Boys, another first-division team, are also in the running for the fat cheque.
Although the figures released by Vodacom Lesotho every week since voting started in July showed Lioli far from the top, many observers thought Tse Nala would still sneak into the top eight.
But that was not to be.
This leaves the spotlight on defending champions Matlama and fellow Premier League sides Bantu, LDF, Likhopo and Linare.
All Premier League and first division teams were eligible for the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular competition whose eight finalists are decided by SMS votes.
Butha-Buthe Fast XI came out tops with a staggering 152 287 votes, with Bantu a distant second with 87 843 votes.
Maseru Naughty Boys were third after garnering 81 868 votes, while Linare had to settle for fourth on 73 717.
“In short, we thank God that we are here among these teams, and that we will have the chance to compete in this tournament,” Maseru Naughty Boys boss Teboho Maqalika said.
Vodacom Premier League champions Matlama could only muster 68 297, just 20 votes more than LDF’s tally.
Matlama public relations officer Lesolle Phalatsi said it was a relief that Tse Putsoa would have the chance to defend their crown.
“Most people thought we would make it automatically since we won (the tournament) last year,” Phalatsi said.
Likhopo were not far off in seventh place with 66 893 votes and Mokhotlong LMPS had to sneak into the finals with 58 893.
“We are satisfied that we are in the tournament we have to thank everyone that got us in,” Linare secretary-general Thato Molapo said.
“If you compare the economic muscle of Likhopo to the rest of the sides I’m sure we are the bottom, so it’s a big compliment to the management of Likhopo that we have made it,” Likhopo manager Qamako Mahao said.
With action starting next Saturday, Mokhotlong LMPS will be eager to make most of their surprise appearance in the tournament when they face giants Matlama.
In another David-versus-Goliath affair, Maseru Naughty Boys will play LDF.
Butha-Buthe Fast XI will face Linare, while Likhopo will take on Bantu.