Matlama cry foul

Moorosi Tsiane

REIGNING Econet Premier League champions Matlama are up in arms with the Lesotho Football Association’s (LeFA) over the latter’s refusal to release their players who are currently with the national team for the African Nations Championship (Chan) qualifiers.

Matlama recently requested for their players to prepare for the first leg of their Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions’ League campaign next Sunday. Tse Putsoa play Atletico Petroleos De Luanda of Angola at Setsoto Stadium with the return leg set for the weekend of 23 to 25 August in Luanda.

The Matlama management wrote to LeFA requesting the release of Jane Thabantso, Rethabile Mokokoane, Lisema Lebokollane, Monaheng Ramalefane, and John Mohai. The players have been in the Likuena camp preparing for the CHAN qualifiers.

Likuena beat South Africa 3-2 last weekend at home and will play the return leg this afternoon in Soweto.

Matlama team manager Limpho Tshepe said LeFA refused to release the players due to the “importance of the CHAN qualifiers”.

This is despite that CHAN qualifiers are played outside the FIFA calendar and teams are not bound to release their players for such tournaments. He said the unavailability of the players may negatively affect their preparations.

“We asked the association for our players, but we failed to get them because they also have a crucial match on Sunday (today),” Tshepe said.

“We have a new coach and surely, he would need all his players to prepare for this match so that he can try his own combinations.”

He said the only solution was that the two technical teams would work closely so that none of the two teams suffers.

“There is no choice but for the two technical teams to work together. However, the positive thing is that the players who are with the national team are all fit, and we only must work with those who have not been in camp.

“We are working with what we have, and the team’s preparations are promising.”

On his part, LeFA secretary general Mokhosi Mohapi said they engaged Matlama and explained why they would not release the players.

“Firstly, it is not true that FIFA doesn’t recognise the CHAN games. If they didn’t, then they would not have given CAF the money to fund the games.

“We called them (Matlama) for a meeting and explained that their players will also benefit from being in the national team. The level of training here is far better than what they get at club level.

“Secondly, these players will surely want to prove themselves and maybe catch attention of scouts before the transfer window period closes,” Mohapi said.

Mohapi instead said Matlama had planned poorly by failing to tie down their players and their coach and LeFA would not be blamed. Notably, Matlama lost their top goal-scorer with 18 goals Motebang Sera to Bloemfontein Celtic last month. Sera’s contract with the champions had lapsed.

On the other hand, coach Thabile Secker also left to join rivals Lioli.

“Their planning was bad, they failed to keep their players, and they failed to keep their coach so they are in tatters and it is not our fault,” Mohapi said.

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