MASERU — Lesotho’s football is reeling after allegations that some referees were taking bribes to fix matches.
Officials from premier league and A Division teams who spoke to the Lesotho Times on the condition that they were not named said the practice had become widespread as teams battled for the title while others fought to escape relegation.
They said the fixing of matches is retarding the growth of the game as well as casting doubt on the integrity of league matches in the premier league and the lower division.
Although no referee had been caught with his hands in the cookie jar yet, some referees said the practice of match-fixing had now become common knowledge in football circles.
Speaking with the Lesotho Times on Monday, one senior referee admitted that some match officials had been offered money to sway results.
“The truth is that referees are fixing matches helped and aided by powerful individuals within the game,” he said.
“We have been experiencing this problem for some time now; unfortunately the authorities have not acted on it.”
The senior referee said even his colleagues were also aware of the practice.
He added that young referees had been thrown into the deep end when they should instead be given a helping hand for them to slowly find their feet.
The young referees were being easily tempted to take bribes especially at this crucial stage of the season, he said.
Majantja coach, Masupha Letsie, recently blamed his team’s recent 1-0 loss to Bantu on inept match officials.
Speaking in an interview with the Lesotho Times on Tuesday, Lesotho Defence Force coach, Motheo Mohapi, said the inconsistency shown by match officials was worrying.
“At the top of table teams are fighting for the league title, others for the top four while at the bottom it’s the fight for survival.
“The sooner football authorities act on the matter, the better for football,” said Mohapi.
The public relations officer of the referees’ executive committee, Retšelisitsoe Lebaka, said they were aware of the reports and allegations of match-fixing.
“It is a concern.
“This is not the first time that reports of match-fixing have been raised to the referee’s authorities,” Lebaka said.
He noted that it has not been easy to trace referees who have been offered money to sway results but promised that they will take serious action if any referee is caught on the wrong side of the law.