THE Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi, has defended his organisation’s failure to charter a plane for the senior national men’s soccer team, Likuena when they played Uganda in Kampala on the 13th of this month.
Likuena travelled to Uganda for the first leg of their 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier which they lost 3-0 before falling 0-2 at home on Tuesday.
However, the boys endured difficult traveling conditions as they had to drive from Johannesburg to Maseru after they landed in South Africa on Sunday evening and only arrived in the country in the wee hours of Monday.
On the other hand, their visiting opponents had long landed in Lesotho on Sunday afternoon aboard a chartered plane and had enough time to settle before the game on Tuesday. Apart from the favourable travelling conditions, the Cranes received a boost when the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni gave the squad US$5000 (about M72 000) each for each of the matches as compared to the paltry M800 Likuena players received from the association.
LeFA has suffered immense criticism from football supporters owing to the manner in which they handled the affairs relating to the match and Mohapi told the Sunday Express on Friday that there was nothing they could have done because they did not have the money to charter a plane for the team.
“People need to understand that chartering a plane is not cheap,” Mohapi said.
“We had two quotations, the first was for M900 000 while the second was for M1, 4 million.
“I don’t think as a country we could have afforded that because the government is responsible for the matches. It doesn’t happen because even our Prime Minister doesn’t charter a plane.
“Before we paid for this trip, we looked for possible options because we understood that anything above five hours in traveling was going to be a disaster for our players in terms of fatigue especially because these were back-to-back matches.
“Going with the Ugandans flight and using a bus from OR Tambo to Maseru was the only viable option for us as some required us to connect via other countries such as Ethiopia so our players would still be jet lagged. I communicated with the Ugandan association and we initially agreed that we would use the same flight to OR Tambo from Kampala but that changed when they chartered a plane.
“This proves how committed other countries are in sports. Unfortunately, the money that we requested from the government had to go through the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission’s (LSRC) account first and until today (Friday) that money is not yet in our account. We only received the letter from the ministry of Sports which said they gave us M2 million.”
LSRC chief executive officer Mofihli Makoele said it is the standard procedure that the money is transferred to their account first but said the associations could still access the funds before it could be deposited into their own accounts.
“There is nothing new about money coming late from the government. Even now we have a team that is preparing to go to Botswana this December but we still haven’t received the money despite submitting our budget last year.
“It is also the procedure that LeFA’s money is deposited into our account. All these associations’ funds from the government are transferred into our account and the associations tell us what they want to do with the money and we give them the go ahead. Of course, LeFA’s money is in the LSRC account but that is the same money they have been using for all the AFCON qualifiers starting with the Cape Verde match,” Makoele said.
Makoele, who is the former LeFA chief executive officer, said he attempted to charter a plane for Likuena during his tenure but to no avail.
“I once tried that when I was still at LeFA, I think Likuena were supposed to play Comoros in the AFCON qualifiers and it was so expensive and I realised it was not possible. Of course, it is not healthy for players to travel for such long distances without getting enough time to recover but that is what we can afford as a country,” Makoele said.