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A year full of surprises

Pascalinah Kabi

MASERU — The year 2011 was full of surprises in the sporting fraternity. There were good and bad things. There were moments that sent the nation into a frenzy of excitement and some that left it gutted.

Football, the country’s most popular sport, had its fair share of failures and successes. Some things just didn’t change. For instance, some of our football pitches continue to resemble potato fields.

Hooliganism continues to blight our football. Our league teams remain under-resourced and companies are still reluctant to sponsor football. Yet despite these perennial problems our football has improved significantly. That might be because we are coming from a very low level, but its development all the same. Our league teams have tried hard to turn professional despite their financial problems.

The Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) seems to have learnt from the terrible mistakes of the past. The Positives Matlama became the first team to compete in the Caf Club Championship since 2008 when they took on South Africa’s Supersport United. Tse Putsoa however lost on a 3-2 aggregate despite putting an impressive performance when they defeated Supersport United by 2-1 in the second leg at Setsoto Stadium.

There were local stars who clinched international transfer with Lioli winger ‘Montoeli Sonopo being the biggest transfer scoop. Sonopo signed a three-year contract with Spanish’s Atlético Madrid.

He will leave for Spain before the end of this month. Former Linare goalkeeper, Dyke Ts’iu joined Botswana’s Township Rollers. Matlama’s Lit?epe Marabe also moved Santos Flamingos in Botswana.

The twelve premier league teams welcomed the new decision by Caf to standardise football in Africa by introducing a new club licensing system. Although there was some resistance in the beginning, the teams eventually warmed up to Lefa’s directive that they hire general managers, contract players and produce financials. This was a significant move towards the development of our football. Makoanyane XI, Lesotho Under-20 national team, played in an eight-team tournament in South Africa. Despite failing to progress to the next stage of the tournament, the mere fact that they were part of the Caf Youth Under-20 Championship was a remarkable feat. Likuena, the national team, came back with a bang after eighteen months of self-imposed exile. The national senior team has just qualified for the Brazilian 2014 World Cup qualifiers after an impressive 3-2 win over Burundi on aggregate. Athletics has been rocked by fights since 2008 but this year they decided to bury the hatchet for the sake of developing sports in the country.

So far, athletics is the best performing sport in the country and it has in the past years raised Lesotho’s flag high. This came through the sterling performances of the likes of ‘Mamoroallo Tjoka, Teboho Sello, Mabuthile and Warinyane Lebopo, Lebenya Nkoka, Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, just to mention the few. The Negatives There is still hooliganism in our local football and that might actually be the main reason why most sponsors are shunning the beautiful game. Just last week, Matlama were fined M70 000 after their supporters threw missiles into the field of play during their Vodacom Soccer Spectacular final against Bantu a fortnight ago. Linare were fined M50 000 after their supporters allegedly insulted a match official during their game against Maduma. While it is understandable that league teams have to be made to pay if their supporters misbehave at football matches we cannot help but point out that the fines for Matlama and Linare were a bit harsh. These are teams so cash strapped that they struggle to remain afloat. There is a danger that those fines might actually sink the two teams deeper into financial crises. Nkunyane Rapotso, Mabea Tabi, Sepono Seretse, Poone Ntsie and Makonosoang Ntsie were arrested for defrauding Lefa M150 000 after they were caught selling fake tickets during Matlama’s Caf Champions League match against Supersport United at Setsoto Stadium. As if these were not enough, Setsoto Stadium, Lesotho’s only arena that meets international standards, cracked just twelve months after its completion with the construction company claiming that the cracks were in fact expansion joints.

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