The Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) National executive committee issued a statement last Friday expressing concerns over a story published two weeks ago in our sister paper Lesotho Times under the headline “Lefa vote buying revealed”. It is very strange that the Lefa NEC is picking on journalists when they should explain to the football fraternity why a delegation of 25 representatives from different Districts Football Association were being entertained at Golden Hotel in Mafeteng on the eve of the presidential elections.
The fact that Difa Leribe vice president, Dan Matasane, when first contacted denied being at the hotel on the eve of the election before finally admitting their stay in Mafeteng tells a story of a man admitting that it was wrong to be in Mafeteng on that night and just hours leading to the day of the Lefa presidential elections.
I feel that our colleagues from the country’s football headquarters should help us understand their statement that says the article was “not only false in its entirety but also malicious in extreme”. Journalists do not claim to be infallible. No one is. But if Lefa can factually demonstrate that the story is entirely “false” and “malicious in extreme”, they would duly be given space in that newspaper to show the reading public how they were wronged.
The media will always perform the same function of being the whistle blowing back-bencher that assists policy makers in mapping the way forward; whether in politics, economics or football. This is the way it is and nobody can change this. Shouting or claiming the media lied without duly exposing the lies will certainly not wash.
Shockingly, Lefa have ignored many calls and protests to answer to allegations of match fixing and many football related issues. Among them, a report submitted by Fifa in December 2012, advising the association to set criteria and advertise the post of the most suitable candidate for the position of a technical director with Seephephe “Mochine” Matete having been deemed unfit to continue in that position.
As for how the association has continued to trust this man with such a crucial role in the structure of our football when Fifa had clearly indicated that he is useless to the development of football, really leaves a lot to be desired about our football leadership. Just a little over a year ago Likuena were hammered 7-0 by Ghana after arriving in the West African country just hours before the match following shambolic travelling arrangements that saw Likuena stuck at OR Tambo Airport for days.
And of course to this day no one really knows why the team had such a painful trip to Ghana. The media’s challenge is never to get tired of talking and writing until they are heard. We must join any project that sets out to convert the people’s love of the game into a very serious platform for democratic practice, talent engagement, discovery, development and empowerment.
In singling out the journalist Mikia Kalati at a press conference on Wednesday and trying to vilify him, Lefa officials missed the point. The point is they should demonstrate to the legions of football lovers in the country that the meeting at a hotel in Mafeteng, on the eve of the crucial election, had nothing to do with trying to secure votes for any of the candidates.
Lefa, please don’t shoot the messenger. Instead, take the opportunity to put the facts down and only such facts will absolve you. Subtle threats or any form of intimidation will simply confirm people’s worst fears about how the country’s premier football body is run. The easiest way out for Lefa would simply be to categorically explain that the gathering in Mafeteng was say, a private meeting which has nothing to do with football, let alone the election that took place the following day.
The president of the football governing body, by virtue of the office he occupies, not as an individual, is a towering public figure whose conduct both in and out of office is of interest to hoards of football lovers, including journalists. Lefa, please demonstrate why this incident should not raise eyebrows. The irony is any attempt to intimidate journalists by making unsupported claims that the story is “false” will only make the story bigger. It will likely worsen any negative perceptions about local football administrators.
Only the truth can set Lefa free.