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Double headers can boost local game

Teboho Molapo

MASERU — One thing players always desire on the field of play is a crowd — a gallery to play to and supporters that will lift them to greater heights when the chips are down.
That is what makes sport special.
Watching last Sunday’s Vodacom Premier League game between Matlama and Linare one could not help but be heartened by the turnout at Setsoto Stadium.
It made for a decent atmosphere and the players responded to it by delivering one of the best games this season.
Although Setsoto was not anywhere near full, the turnout was an improvement from the doldrums the league was in during the middle of the past decade, and a sign of what can be achieved.
With increased sponsorship, mainly through telecommunications giant Vodacom Lesotho and better media coverage, there has been an improvement in attendances at league grounds.
Often times the league has been blighted by poor crowds where the atmosphere is dull.
One solution to the problem is to have more double headers on weekends, especially if there are already two games in one district on the same day.
There are examples of the success of double headers.
One is last December when Likhopo hosted Bantu at Ratjomose and immediately afterwards LDF played Maduma.
It was the best attendance at Ratjomose this season.
On the field the players seemed to elevate their game as well and all round it was a fine Saturday afternoon for fans and neutrals alike.
That unfortunately is often lacking. Too often grounds are empty.
There are fears on the part of crowd-pulling teams that it is unfair for them to share gate takings when they would have contributed the largest number of fans.
But that is beside the point. A full ground is attractive.
There are many avenues that can be explored if the league is consistently seeing full stadiums.
Games can be packaged to television broadcasters such as SuperSport perhaps, something that would greatly improve our football in Lesotho.
It is a known fact that SuperSport’s coverage has made a huge difference to leagues around the continent, not just the PSL, but in Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria to name but a few.
Lesotho is still lagging behind in issues that, considering the development of the game, really shouldn’t be a problem.
This sets back any work that may be done by national teams.
The Lesotho Football Association’s communications officer, Mikia Kalati, offers an interesting idea — having double headers featuring A-Division and Premier League matches.
“I think it can help a lot if it is an A-Division and a premier league team. For example we have Qoaling Highlanders and Matlama, both of whom pull good crowds. It can bring excitement and it can also educate our supporters on the need to support their teams,” Kalati says.
It isn’t smooth sailing though, as Matlama communications and marketing manager Lesolle Phalatsi points out.
“Double headers would have a problem as some teams don’t have a crowd, so that poses a dilemma when it comes to gate takings.
“Secondly, teams that work hard gauge themselves on the attendance of the crowds at their games, and having double headers doesn’t necessarily allow you to do that,” Phalatsi says.
Phalatsi does admit that if there was a way, double headers would greatly boost the local game.
“It would be perfect, if there was a way. Teams playing (in double headers) raise their game,” Phalatsi says.
However, Phalatsi is against the notion that teams should compromise with a response that also shows the challenges that face the game in the country.
“Absolutely not, we don’t have anywhere to gain funds from. Our players have to take taxis home after the game, sometimes the catering has to be paid for and you can find that this comes from the gate takings. These teams are run from hand-to-mouth. Unless there is a clear workable way it is difficult to see (how this can be done),” Phalatsi says.
These concerns are understandable on the side of the teams.
On another note games which see Matlama, Lioli, Bantu and Linare going against each other don’t need to be part of double headers because the clubs are all crowd pullers on their own.
But there are ample opportunities where teams with smaller fan bases are involved.
For example, on the opening weekend of the season Joy hosted Maduma and Linare hosted Majantja.
That could have been a good double header.
The Premier League’s communications and marketing manager Lehlohonolo Matlosa says they have considered the option.
In September LMPS hosted Majantja and LCS hosted Lioli.
“We have looked at it. It comes down to the teams. The problem is the collection at the gates. If the teams can agree then it would be something that we would welcome,” Matlosa says.
Bringing double headers would be one of the things that can improve the game in Lesotho. Unfortunately these are things we do not think about.

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