Matlama lift Vodacom trophy

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Matlama FC winners of 2009 Vodacom Soccer SpectacularROMA — Matlama are back in the big time and back where they belong ― that is according to club president Ikhetheleng Matabane.
On Sunday, Matlama became the richest club in Lesotho football history after winning M360 000 for conquering LCS 1-0 in the final of the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular in Roma.
It was a win that left Matabane in poetic form.
“Let’s be thankful to the gods. Let’s be thankful to our ancestors,” a delighted Matabane proclaimed after Tse Putsoa’s success.
“We went to Matsieng before the tournament asking the King to protect us. Matlama has a long, proud history and most of the time when the club is experiencing problems, that is when it does even better,” he said.
Matlama indeed, are the oldest and most successful club in Lesotho, boasting eight national league titles.
And after Sunday’s win, Tse Putsoa are now M360 000 richer.
“We already have ideas of what we are going to do with the money. We all know that our field (Pitso Ground) needs a wall around it (and) it needs grass, we are going to start with that,” Matabane said.
“We are also going to start small business ventures like selling airtime, so that the boys can get something. By next year, we should have started. It will help Matlama so that we wouldn’t always be dipping into our pockets.”
“We are doing this in accordance with the Mohale Declaration,” Matabane said.
“By 2014, we should have turned professional and by 2012, Matlama should be semi-professional. To the people, I would like to say that we are only starting. We have two under-20 teams and we have many good players,” Matabane said.
Matlama have been beset by internal strife over the past 12 months and in August, the side elected a new interim board — the third in less than a year — after the previous leadership was forced out of office.
As per Matlama’s constitution, the committee will have to hold elections after six months.
The Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) has since refused to recognise the new administration and at the start of the season, it was even unclear if Matlama would take part in the league after failing to register with the Premiership before the deadline.
“It is clear that we had challenges within the team and we needed to be given time and space to fix those problems,” Matabane said.
“We have seen the people who came here to support the team. Would they have been here if they did not support the committee? We only have one individual who is trying to separate Matlama,” he said.
“We are continuing with the mandate that we have been given by the people. In February we are going to have elections,” Matabane insisted.
“We are not here to stay (unlawfully). The people asked us to fix Matlama because it was slipping.”
So given what has gone before, was the win unexpected?
“We were not expecting to win. It is a good surprise but it also a planned surprise,” Matabane said.
“You have to listen; when you don’t listen, you won’t go anywhere. We are Matlama and we have to work together.”
Matabane denied that it was a personal victory.
“It doesn’t mean that much to me. For me, the message is if we work together, we can win. It gives us a challenge to keep working together,” he said.
The win comes as a boost for Matlama, who had endured a period in the shadows of Lioli.
“Lioli have always been a team that is behind us if you look at the histories of the two clubs and compare them. We like it when the other does well,” Matabane said.
“We are the pacesetters and when Matlama are not doing well, the country’s football goes backwards,” he said.
“We are happy for the fans that came here to support the team and the players,” he added.
Attention now turns to the second part of the coveted double ― winning the Vodacom Premier League.
Matlama are top of the Premier League as they seek to win a record-breaking ninth national championship.
“Of course, it is our goal,” Matabane said.
“In the next two seasons, we want to see ourselves consistently in the African Champions League and the only way to do that is by winning the league.”
It is part of the plan to firmly establish Matlama as Lesotho’s premier club.
Matlama packed Roma with support that has never been seen in many moons.
The support base is also growing with Pitso ground seeing high-attendances this season.
But Matlama will have to look to the issue of their supporter’s discipline.
In both of the weekend’s semi-finals, Matlama fans ran onto the pitch after their side scored the winning goals.
Similar scenes were seen when the side lost to LDF in a league match at Pitso Ground early last month.
“Firstly, the touchline is not even a metre away from where the fans were seated,” Matabane said.
“It is a calling for us to fix our stadiums. This would have never happened if we were at the Setsoto Stadium. We should look at the facilities we have been provided. Let’s not blame Matlama supporters, who were overcome with joy,” Matabane said.
“We don’t condone those actions at all; we were there when it was announced that fans should not go onto the pitch. We should blame the ground. We are not expecting any disciplinary action,” Matabane said.
When all is said and done, Matlama’s victory will further spur other clubs in the landscape of Lesotho football.
Matabane said Lesotho football has endured a few barren years but there are now signs of an upturn.
“Linare are coming-up; Bantu, Majantja, Lioli are coming-up. Moshoeshoe’s troops in the districts ― when they see another doing well ― they are motivated to improve,” Matabane said.

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