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Setoko aims for the top

Pascalinah Kabi MASERU — For 27-year-old Nteboheleng Setoko refereeing has been a calling.

Ever since she broke into the limelight as a young, petite referee in 2009, Setoko has been a revelation. She has attracted both intrigue and awe in equal measure.

Setoko holds the unique distinction of being Lesotho’s only female referee who officiates in the premier league. But Setoko says she is not done yet. She wants to add a few more achievements in the next few years. She says her immediate goal right now is to acquire a spot in the Fifa refereeing panel this league season. “I want to make history by becoming the first Mosotho female referee to be in the Fifa refereeing panel in the 2012/13 season,” Setoko told the Sunday Express on Wednesday.

That should not be difficult for a woman who was named the best performer in the Fifa Women’s Football Referee’s course last month. She was also the only referee, out of 17 participants, to pass the Fifa fitness test. “I have come to realise that with Fifa the most important aspect is passing fitness tests,” she said.

“And I know I can do it by passing these fitness tests and working hard to improve my performance in the local games.”

Setoko has never failed a fitness test since she broke into the limelight in 2009. She is however not new in the football fraternity. She broke into the limelight in 2004 when she received her first national call-up for the Under-20 national women’s football team.

“Since my first call-up, I never looked back and instead worked hard to book myself a place in the female senior national team as well,” she said.

The Mehalalitoe captain has also played in the Swaziland Ladies League turning up for Mbabane Swallows in 2008. “I first started playing football in 2000 and I have always wanted to make sure that I become an outstanding person in everything I do,” she said.

She began officiating in the B Division in 2009/10 and just three seasons into her career, she has already made a name for herself. “I have achieved all these in a short time because of my hard work. I am always training to improve my speed as it is needed for both the fitness test and officiating in the league,” she said.

She credits her achievements to family, late coach Thabo Feke and Women’s Football Development president Maleshoane Mokhathi. “I have a solid support system and whenever there are challenges, I seek guidance from my family and ’m’e Maleshoane,” Setoko said.

The road has however not always been smooth. “When I first started out as a referee, it was challenging and difficult as most men didn’t want to be given directives by a woman,” Setoko said.

“They didn’t understand why a ‘small girl’ like me would be officiating but as time went on, they realised that I had what it takes to be a referee,” she said. Seeking male referees’ company has also worked to her advantage, she said.

“I have learnt how to deal with male players, and I always tell them in life every one of us is faced with challenges and the only difference is how we deal with those challenges,” she said.

She said her outstanding performance during games has also made her popular among football lovers.

“People, even those who don’t know me, are always talking about the difference I am making in the male-dominated field and that feels good,” she said

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