MASERU — For the first time in Lesotho football history, four sides will be relegated from the Premier League at the end of this season.
With the usual two sides being promoted from the A-Division, it means the Vodacom Premier League will be a 14-side affair for the 2010/11 season.
The same process will be repeated the following season in order to reach the 2008 Mohale Declaration goal of having 12 teams in the league by 2012 — part of the overall target to make Lesotho’s elite division professional and a manageable league by 2014.
While differing schools of thought remain over the downsizing, it could be argued the measure will ensure a stronger and more competitive Premier League.
The evidence shown by recent Premier League campaigns is difficult to ignore.
The past two seasons, in particular, have witnessed teams seemingly there just to make-up the numbers in the 16-team league.
In the 2007/08 season, Qalo were relegated with only four wins and 18 points from their 30 league matches.
The side from Butha-Buthe had 71 goals against them and ended the season with eight consecutive losses.
Things got worse last season when Sekamaneng Young Stars infamously went for 29 games without a win after a 1-0 triumph in the first match of the season.
Young Stars ended the season with only eight points and having scored a measly 10 goals.
The situation seems to be repeating itself this season, with Butha-Buthe Roses at the bottom of the table and looking increasingly out-of-sorts.
Roses are currently on a six-match losing streak and have already conceded 37 goals this season.
Performances by Butha-Buthe Roses and fellow strugglers, Roma Rovers — and to a lesser extent Majantja — have shown the growing gap in quality and resources among premiership teams.
The lack of quality within the division is — as September’s 2012 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers approach — a major concern for Lesotho’s national team.
And normally the minimum requirement for a country to have a strong national side, is a competitive domestic league as is with Egypt — Africa’s shining example.
The North Africans — winners of the last two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations — have based their success on the strength of their domestic league widely regarded as the finest on the continent.
Egypt’s national soccer team is comprised — almost entirely — of players from local sides Al Ahly and Zamalek.
The two giants are the most successful clubs on the continent with Al Ahly having won the African Champions League title a record six times (1982, 1987, 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2008), while Zamalek have clinched the coveted trophy on no less than five occasions (1984, 1986, 1993, 1996 and 2002).
But with the uncompetitive nature of the Lesotho league — and the lack of quality players — it means Likuena’s future coach would have a limited pool of players to choose from.
Looking at the number of players — and the number of Premier League clubs — it can be argued the pool of talent is diluted.
“I think there are too many in the country. In Maseru alone, there are six Premier League clubs. And that’s not to mention the lower leagues. So on a Sunday, you can have six matches going on all over Maseru,” Lesotho Football Association technical director Seephephe Matete says.
Angola is probably a good example.
A country with a population almost 10 times that of Lesotho (Angola’s official population is 16.9 million people to Lesotho’s 1.8million) has had a 14-team topflight league since 1994.
That has allowed their top league to be very competitive and Angola is one of the top football nations in Africa and made it to the Fifa World Cup finals once — in Germany in 2006.
“In Luanda alone, there are eight million people but the country only has 14 teams in the topflight league. You find that on a Saturday, there are five games going on and the number of spectators at each of these matches is pathetic,” Matete says.
Reducing the number of teams in the league also seems to make commercial sense.
Resources of the topflight league are already stretched, as they are.
Referees are failing to get to matches on time and the league remains unattractive to sponsors because of its lack of a proper administration.
Yet there are always two sides to any story; reducing the number of teams in the topflight, would not automatically transform domestic football into one of the best in Africa.
But things have to begin somewhere for this transformation to happen and whittling down of teams in the league would be the best place to start.
Comments are closed.