Matlama fate hangs by a thread

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MASERU — Matlama were last night locked in a fight to remain in the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular following the circus that marred their quarterfinal match at home to Mokhotlong LMPS.

The match, at Central Prison on Saturday, was called off at halftime after Matlama and tournament sponsor Vodacom Lesotho failed to agree on who was entitled to the day’s gate-takings.

The draw for the semi-finals was made on Tuesday and it was not clear who between Matlama and Mokhotlong LMPS would face Linare on Saturday.

Last night the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa)’s disciplinary committee was expected to make a ruling on the abandoned match.

When the match was called off, Tse Putsoa were cruising thanks to Litšepe Marabe and Thabo Moleko’s first-half strikes which had given them a comfortable 4-0 aggregate lead over the first division side.

But officials have since the ill-fated match been saying Matlama were likely to be booted out of Lesotho’s richest club competition.

Match commissioner Maswatzi Nkome, after calling off the match, appeared to suggest Matlama were to blame for the farce.

Tse Putsoa team manager Lebenya Makakole however insisted the club felt they were entitled to the gate-takings because, as the home team, they had hired the venue.

Since the tournament started in 2008 matches were played at neutral venues and Vodacom Lesotho pocketed the gate-takings.

But this year tournament matches are being played on a home-and-away basis.

This appears to have caused the chaos.

The gate-takings issue first cropped up during an earlier Vodacom Soccer Spectacular match pitting Likhopo and Bantu.

Likhopo however later agreed to hand over the collections to Vodacom.

Lefa public relations officer Baba Malephane earlier yesterday told the Lesotho Times that according to the contract they signed with Vodacom in 2008 the gate-takings would go to the sponsor.

He said that arrangement still stood even though the playing format had changed this year.

“There were no changes,” Malephane said.

“We would only communicate in writing if there were any changes.

“This is the third year that the competition is being played.

“In Mafeteng why didn’t it happen?

“At LDF why didn’t it happen?

“Why didn’t it happen at Maqalika?”

Speaking after Tuesday’s draw, Vodacom marketing officer Tsotetsi Seema said the company would pay clubs back for hiring stadiums.

“We are the ones who pay for the grounds,” he said.

“The teams give us a quote and we reimburse them. In this case we were going to reimburse them (Matlama) afterwards.”

Seema said he suspected there was a communication breakdown between Lefa and the clubs.

“Maybe there was a communication breakdown,” he said.

“In the Premier League the gate-takings go to the clubs but in the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular the gate-takings go to the sponsor.”

Matlama public relations officer Lesolle Phalatsi said they had tried to get the issue clarified days before the match but Lefa did not respond on time.

“We communicated to Lefa but there was no feedback,” he said.

“Therefore we assumed that the procedure (with the gate-takings) was the same as with the Premier League.”

Phalatsi said they only received Lefa’s response on match day at “1430 hours and by that time the crowd was already in the ground”.

At the time of going to print last night, Lefa’s disciplinary committee was still deliberating the Matlama issue.

Meanwhile, LDF will face Likhopo in the other semi-final at Bambatha Tsita on Saturday.

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