MASERU — The Council of Southern African Football Association (Cosafa) under-20 tournament may elude Lesotho because of allegations of government interference in football administration. Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) president, Salemane Phafane, told a media briefing last Wednesday that government interference through the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation (MGYSR) could cost Lesotho the hosting of the upcoming regional youth tournament set to start on November 3 to 14.
“Government is meddling into issues it has no legal stance in, they have no business overriding us (Lefa) and attempting to deal directly with Fifa,” Phafane said. According to Phafane, the sports minister Thesele ‘Maseribane wrote to Fifa “in an attempted image tainting scheme of the national soccer governing body telling them of our alleged incompetence”. He said in the lengthy letter, ‘Maseribane had questioned Lefa’s operational statutes which he termed illegitimate since they had not been duly approved by cabinet.
“We are worried that the country is playing with fire, since this kind of behaviour could render us prone to suspension by Fifa” he said. The two weeks long tournament is expected to roar into life from December 3rd to 14th in two districts of Maseru and Mafeteng. 13 countries are expected in the country for the region’s youth competition with Lesotho been the 14th as the host country. Suspension of Lefa from Fifa would mean that the country will not be able to compete with any country at any stage.
This further means that the Cosafa competition would have to find another home. Phafane who has just been re-elected as the president of Lefa, has been marred by lots of controversies the latest of which was the vote-buying scandal in the recent presidential elections. Having been at the helm of the country’s supreme body for some time, he has been involved in a recurrent tag-of-war with the different office bearers of the sports ministry.
Numerous are the times on which the ministry has had to write to Fifa against its operational orders of dealing not with governments but member associations-for intervention as the ministry felt the sport was being run down under the leadership of Phafane. In his tenure, Lefa has been wrought with such controversies as allegations of match fixing, age cheating and misappropriation of funds.
However the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Majara Molapo, denied the allegations that the ministry had on several instances written letters to Fifa asking for their intervention. “We have never written any letters to Fifa asking for their intervention in what is happening in our football administration,” Molapo said. He told the Sunday Express that the ministry has not interfered with football administration but it has warned Lefa to stop misusing government funds and age cheating in junior national teams.
Molapo continued to say that as the ministry they will do all what they can to see the country hosting the prestigious tournament. Meanwhile a Cosafa delegation is expected to jet in on Tuesday to inspect the country’s readiness and stability to host the regional youth tournament.