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Referees call for drastic changes in game

Teboho Molapo

MASERU — Local referees are an unhappy lot.

Their list of grievances is quite long.

For a start they earn a paltry M100 per every league match they officiate.

Security at match venues has been poor, resulting in match officials being attacked by irate fans.

Unless something is done, quickly, Lesotho’s efforts to change this state of affairs and professionalise the game of football by 2014 could fail, the referees say.

According to the Mohale Declaration, a roadmap designed to turn domestic football professional, Lesotho should have a professional league by 2014.

But that goal appears too lofty and unachievable given the pace at which things are moving in Lesotho.

Lesotho Referees Association (LRA) public relations officer, Rethusitsoe Lebaka, told the Sunday Express that unless something drastic is done now, efforts to professionalise the game could be doomed.

The lack of security for officials during matches remains a crisis in the local game, Lebaka said.

“Security for match officials is not enough at all,” Lebaka said.

The Premier League authorities only sprung into action after match officials were attacked by an angry mob in a league encounter between Majantja and Linare in Mohale’s Hoek in December 2009.

The premier league then promised to step up security at league matches.

But that promise now appears to have been a hollow one after more incidents of violence against match officials were reported.

Only this month another referee was confronted by a gun-wielding supporter during a lower division play-off match.

The supporter had been incensed by the referee’s decision.

The incident graphically illustrated the challenges facing local referees.

In yet another incident sometime towards the end of last season, Lesotho’s top referee, Paul Phomane, threw in the towel after he was attacked by angry fans.

Phomane said he was retiring because he felt unsafe after he was attacked by fans twice during the season.

Referees have also come under attack from teams for alleged bias.

Last month Premier League side Bantu bitterly complained of bias after their one-all draw against police side LCS.

Their gripe? The assistant referee had incorrectly awarded a goal because he was employed by the Lesotho Correctional Services.

“Television replays backed our claims that the ball had not crossed the line,” a Bantu official said. But Baba Malephane, the chairman of the referees’ executive committee, said once a referee has been assigned to a game he has no allegiance.

“A match official is a match official.

“We take action when a referee has performed below par but we don’t have to publicise this,” Malephane said.

Bantu spokesman Molefi Lengosane said poor decisions by match officials were not good for the game.

“Our supporters were crying over the linesman’s decision to unfairly award a goal to LCS,” Lengosane said shortly after the game.

“At the end of the day he is an employee and takes instructions from there (Lesotho Correctional Services),” he added.

But in the end it is Lesotho’s football which is suffering most as top referees quit the game in disgust.

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