MASERU — Has the curse of the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular struck again?
Cracks are beginning to show within Matlama — just two weeks after Tse Putsoa won the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular to pocket M360 000 for their efforts, the largest prize money ever won in domestic football.
Matlama’s win — their first since winning the Buddie Top 4 in 2007 — was celebrated and hailed as the “return” of Lesotho’s most famous and successful club by the Tse Putsoa faithful.
However, just two weeks after that watershed moment at Roma, Matlama seem to have fallen into their customary turmoil with the resignation of two members of the club’s executive board on Tuesday last week.
Last year’s Soccer Spectacular winners LCS have failed to win another trophy since that triumph after seasons of success, and have uncharacteristically been embroiled in troubles of their own.
For Matlama, turmoil is nothing new.
Tse Putsoa have been dogged by internal problems over the past two years, culminating in the election of another new committee in August — Matlama’s third in 12 months.
In December last year, Matlama were rocked by the formation of factions within the club — one in Sea Point and another at Ha Thamae — culminating in elections, which club patron Judge Tšeliso Monapathi called the “the peak of corrupt practices”.
In the December elections, a committee led by Thamae Phooko was elected, only to serve for six months.
Not only was there no consensus within the committee, it had no support of Matlama’s aficionados and in August this year, an extraordinary meeting was called by the club’s official members where an interim committee was elected.
Now, after their Soccer Spectacular victory, Matlama have been hit by the resignation of their public relations officer Tšiu Monne and team manager Limpho Tsepe, reportedly after disagreements over the disbursement of their windfall.
According to reports, Matlama players were demanding M5000 for their efforts instead of the M3000 they were being offered.
On Sunday, Matlama members held a meeting where disbursement of the prize money — including players’ bonuses — was discussed.
But Monne denied the alleged fallout had prompted his sudden departure from the club, dismissing suggestions the two resignations are signs of instability caused by the Soccer Spectacular victory.
“I have stepped down for many reasons but I would not want to go into them further, right now,” Monne told the Sunday Express on Thursday.
“Even before (the Soccer Spectacular) I felt I needed to leave. The players must be assured that everything is still in place.
The team is still strong; the problem is with the committee and not the club. I’m still a Letlama,” Monne said.
Monne refused to talk about figures, but admitted the players were probably right to complain.
“I don’t want to talk about figures; I was not part of that (the players’ discussions) but I’m sure the players should be disappointed because what they received was not what was agreed (on Sunday),” Monne said.
Monne, has meanwhile, said he would stand in the Matlama elections, which are scheduled for early next year.
“I will stand in the elections. I’m not leaving Matlama but I’m excusing myself from the team for a while,” Monne said.
“Everything that happens within the team reflects on me as an individual yet I’m just a spokesperson. Because this is just an interim committee, it is better to withdraw (from the executive) for the sake of preserving one’s reputation,” Monne added.
But the move could be seen as money threatening to divide Matlama after club president Ikhetheleng Matabane assured Tse Putsoa were a stable entity.
“It is clear that we had challenges within the team and we needed time to fix those problems,” Matabane said after his side’s win, assuring the public Matlama would not be derailed by their new riches.
Rumours of discontent within Matlama, have, however, been strongly denied by Lebenya Makakole, a member of the club’s interim executive.
“Two people have resigned but news that the players are unhappy with their pay is new to me,” he said.
“I’m only going to deal with facts — there are two letters of resignation. Tšiu said it was due to family reasons while Tsepe didn’t give reasons for his resignation.
“On Monday, we left as a happy committee. I’m surprised that on Tuesday the two handed in the resignations,” Makakole said, adding there were no prospects of turmoil at Matlama.
“I don’t foresee that happening. We are going to have elections on the 21st of February,” Makakole said, also denying reports of player discontent because of bonuses.
“It is still under discussion but I can categorically say there has never been a single player, who has come to management and said they are unhappy with anything. People who are not happy with the administration at Matlama shouldn’t bring the players into it. Right now, the focus of the players is on the league and winning the M100 000,” Makakole said.
Makakole said plans to erect a wall around Pitso Ground ? their home base ? would continue.
“There is a lot of work to be done and we will have to find replacements for the two who resigned,” Makakole said.
Approached for comment, senior player Matlama Lehlohonolo Mokhele denied any disaffection in camp.
“It was just a discussion about the money (and not that players were unhappy with the pay). As long as we have what we need on the field, we are satisfied. We are not worried about what happens in the management structures. Our focus is winning the league,” Mokhele said.