MASERU — Lesotho has pulled out of next year’s CAF interclub competitions citing lack of a suitable venue for home matches.
The shock decision has been met with disbelief and anger by the affected parties, Premiership titleholders Lioli and 2008/9 champions LCS, who were supposed to take part in the Champions League and Confederations Cup tournaments.
The Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) on Thursday informed the Premier League Management Committee that the country would, for the second successive year, miss out on the two competitions, citing the ongoing renovations at Setsoto Stadium.
Lefa acting chief executive officer Mokhosi Mohapi broke the heartbreaking news in a letter dated November 19, of which the Sunday Express has managed to obtain a copy.
“I have been instructed by the National Executive Committee of the Lesotho Football Association to inform you that, in the light of the 2010 CAF interclub fixture hereto attached as annex 1, and in light of the letter written to my office by the Director of Sport & Recreation on 27 October 2009; received by my office on 18 November 2009; hereto attached as annex 2, the National Executive Committee of the Lesotho Football Association resolved as follows:
1. That on the basis of annex 2, it becomes evident that by the time the CAF interclub competitions begin, as it appears on annex 1, there will be no venue to host the home matches of the 2010 CAF interclub matches.
2. That on the basis of (the) above, the Lesotho Football Association will not register any team in any of the 2010 CAF interclub competitions.
3. The National Executive Committee further resolved that in view of the 2011 interclub competitions, the Lesotho Football Association WILL NOT defer any participation of any team to any future date.
4. The decision on an enrolment of any team in the 2011 competition shall be dealt with at the end of the 2009/10 football season, in consideration of recommendations to be presented by the Premier League Management Committee to the National Executive Committee then.”
But Lefa’s decision has been slammed by Lioli, who were embroiled in a bitter dispute with the soccer mother body over which competition they would participate in next year.
The matter had been pending in the High Court tomorrow.
Lioli believe Lefa is out to sabotage them.
Club president Lebohang Thotanyane told the Sunday Express yesterday that Lefa was just using Setsoto’s unavailability as an excuse.
“Lefa’s decision not to register Lioli in the CAF games is merely one of its strategies to sabotage Lioli,” Thotanyane said.
“Everyone, including Lefa, knew very well that the stadium was not going to be ready by February next year.”
Thotanyane added his team’s participation in the 2010 CAF interclub competitions had not been subject to the availability of Setsoto but their performance in the 2008/09 season.
“Our participation was never going to depend on the availability of Setsoto Stadium,” he said.
“We automatically qualified to represent the country in these competitions when we triumphed in the 2008/09 season.”
He, however, said the team’s lawyers had since advised them to withdraw their High Court case following Lefa’s decision.
Thotanyane also said they were not going to fight for a slot in the 2011 CAF interclub competitions as compensation.
“If we don’t retain the title, we will not fight for a slot in the CAF games,” he said.
“Our chance has passed.”
Lefa’s decision to withdraw ends a long dispute over which team was going to represent the country in the continental club competitions.
The soccer body had resolved that LCS would represent the country in the Champions League as compensation for failing to register the club in the 2009 edition of the competition.
Masheshena won the 2008/9 Premiership title.
Lefa had argued it would be too costly for LCS to host their home matches in South Africa because of the unavailability of Setsoto, where renovations had been scheduled to begin in May 2008.
Meanwhile, LCS public relations officer Moseme Moseme told the Sunday Express the issue of Setsoto’s unavailability was “Lefa’s way of fighting Lioli’s court case”.
“Lefa is just using the unavailability of Setsoto Stadium as one of its ways to fight Lioli’s court case,” Moseme said.
“If you look at the way things were, Lioli had a great opportunity to win this case, so Lefa is just fighting back indirectly.”
He, however, said they were not surprised with the way Lefa had handled the matter.
“It is not a surprise. LCS is used to this kind of disappointment, so we had already cushioned ourselves,” he said.
Moseme said they had realised Lefa did not care about Premier League teams “because they are just using us to build the national side”.