The second round of the 2014/15 Vodacom Lesotho Premier League football season resumed with a bang last weekend following the festive season break.
Defending champions Bantu registered a hard-fought 2-0 win over Kick4Life, Matlama eased 2-1 past struggling Mphatlalatsane, while LCS and Linare prevailed with identical 1-0 score-lines over LMPS and Qoaling Highlanders, respectively.
To wrap-up the weekend matches, Lioli were held to a goalless draw by Sundawana, while there was a similar score in the Likhopo/Likila tie.
It was indeed a great weekend of football on the park, but unfortunately, it was a completely different story in the stands where the supporters’ turnout was extremely poor. This lack of fans was particularly glaring at Setsoto Stadium on Saturday, despite a double-header featuring Qoaling Highlanders versus Linare and Kick4Life against defending champions Bantu.
Football is the world’s favourite sport and this is confirmed by the large turnout of fans in all the professional leagues, and the record television viewership when tournaments such as the Fifa World Cup and European Championship are being played.
But back home, you hear people complaining about the “poor” standard of our football, and you wonder how they have reached such a consensus when there is hardly an audience worth writing home about almost each time there is a league match.
It appears many of these critics simply sit at home or in bars and watch overseas teams in action, and then decide to condemn our football without even bothering to see our boys in action. Or worse still, the same critics would want our teams to play like Barcelona, Arsenal or Bayern Munich because you can tell the condemnation of the “poor” standards is completely without basis and never put into context.
Back to the poor attendance by the fans, I could not believe that a double-header featuring Bantu—the league champions—could have such a paltry crowd last weekend.
Yet this was not the first double-header I have watched that has attracted such a poor audience, hence this had me thinking about the role our fans are playing, or not playing, in uplifting the standard of the game in this country.
A good turnout of fans encourages players to do better and the corporate sector to inject more funds into the game, thereby improving the quality of play, so fans are the worst culprits in pulling back the development of our football.
Merely criticising the players and administrators without the fans doing anything about it is not helpful to anyone.
And again, to add to my surprise, when Matlama and Bantu were hosting South African Premier League side Free State Stars in friendlies at Setsoto last Sunday, the ground was almost full. This really confirmed my earlier suspicion that the fans were simply not coming to the stadiums due to the fact that they look down upon their own teams because how could mere friendlies attract a full house when competitive league matches were failing to do so?
The same thing happened two years ago when Matlama were playing South Africa’s Orlando Pirates in a friendly at Setsoto. The stadium was fully-packed that day—a record crowd which had never been seen at Setsoto for a football match.
There was an equally record audience at Setsoto when the national team played South Africa’s Bafana Bafana that same year, which simply means fans are not interested in local football but suddenly come alive when there is a foreign element to it.
As the media, we can only do so much to push for the growth of sport in this country, and administrators are equally limited in what they can do to take it to the next level without the full backing of fans.
My point here is, supporters must start to rally behind our teams if they really want to see our football develop. Good attendances would mean healthy gate-takings that could then go a long way to turn our game professional. Again, higher fan turnout would encourage sponsors to inject more funding into the game, thereby helping take our football to that level we all want it to be.
Let us all take responsibility to see our football grow, instead of sitting back and pointing fingers whenever things go wrong.