MASERU — The team to join the Premier League from the first division’s Northern Stream will only be known next Thursday after promotion rivals Maduma and Mpharane Celtics replay their last matches of the season.
The promotion dispute in the stream took a new twist on Tuesday when the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa)’s independent arbitration committee ordered replays between Maduma and Butha-Buthe Fast XI as well as Mpharane Celtics and Lifefo.
Tuesday’s decision overturned the Lefa appeals board’s earlier ruling to have only Maduma replaying against Butha-Buthe Fast XI while Mpharane Celtics’ result against Lifefo stood.
The Lefa appeals board’s determination had also invalidated the A-Division disputes and protests committee’s earlier decision to dock Maduma three points and ultimately hand Mpharane Celtics promotion to the Premier League.
The two teams had finished the campaign equal on points with Maduma topping the league on goal difference after thumping Butha-Buthe Fast XI 7-1 while Mpharane Celtics could only beat Lifefo 5-1 on the last day of the season.
Mpharane Celtics however lodged a complaint with the A-Division disputes and protests committee saying Maduma had had an unfair advantage because their match against Butha-Buthe Fast XI had started late.
Maduma’s match against Butha-Buthe Fast XI was delayed by over half-an-hour, which means by the time it started the Mpharane Celtics-Lifefo match was nearing halftime.
The disputes and protests committee then docked Maduma points for delaying the match after travelling with a kit that clashed with the home side’s.
This ruling could have seen Mpharane Celtics in the Premier League next season, but Maduma took the matter to Lefa’s appeals board.
The appeals board then ordered only a replay of Maduma’s match against Butha-Buthe Fast XI, meaning Maduma’s 5-1 win over Lifefo would stand.
However, Mpharane Celtics immediately took the matter to arbitration arguing it would be unfair for their promotion rivals to replay their match knowing how many goals they would need to pip them.
Maduma currently enjoy a two-goal advantage over Celtics.
Thus the first division circus took another twist with Lefa now ordering both Maduma and Mpharane Celtics to replay their last matches on the same day, starting at the same time.
“It is an unfair judgment,” Celtics manager Freeze Ntene told the Lesotho Times yesterday.
Ntene wanted Lefa’s appeals board to uphold the A-Division disputes and protests committee’s decision to dock Maduma points.
“We are not satisfied but there is nothing we can do about it because (arbitration) is the final step we could take.
“We have to play. But if someone is wrong they should be punished.”
Last Friday the A-Division management committee’s spokesman, Mosebo Motsoasele, had expressed disagreement with the Lefa appeals board’s original decision.
“How can you make one of the teams replay when both results affect the outcome of the league?” Motsoasele said.
“It’s a decision that doesn’t seem to have sense in it. In the history of football I don’t think this has happened.”
In a chaotic end to the season, there is also a pending case involving Southern Stream sides Melele and Little Flowers.
Melele have appealed against their 2-1 loss to Little Flowers on April 4 claiming their opponents had used an unregistered player.
The loss meant Melele would have been relegated to the B-Division.
The developments overshadowed the A-Division Top 4 Finals which were held in Quthing over the weekend.
The tournament was won by Arsenal who beat Maseru Naughty Boys 1-0 in the final while Premier League-bound Mabeoana claimed third spot after beating Mpharane Celtics.
Mabeoana were promoted to the top-flight league after winning the A-Division’s Southern Stream.