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Wake-up call for Lesotho football

By Teboho Molapo

MASERU – The scene at Setsoto Stadium last Sunday was one that has rarely been witnessed before in Lesotho.

The noise was deafening, a capacity crowd baying for SuperSport blood and gladiators fighting tooth and nail for victory.

Only on two occasions before, when Orlando Pirates visited Rovers in the 1997 Caf Champions League and the 2000 Cosafa Cup final between Likuena and Zimbabwe, has the national stadium been filled to such capacity for a football match.

This time an estimated crowd of 15 000 packed the revamped Setsoto Stadium to watch Matlama entertain SuperSport United in a Caf Champions League preliminary round tie.

The message was clear – Basotho are hungry for sport, recreation of any kind, something the government remains obliviously blind to.

Sunday was also another wake-up call for Lesotho’s sleeping football administrators both at club and national level.

The argument goes something like this: Lesotho football will never amount to anything unless it improves its national league.

For too long the same tune has been sung.

Last Saturday, at a presentation at the Victoria Hotel, the director of Pula Sports Management Bennet Mamelodi talked about the simple things still lacking in Lesotho such as a culture of financial responsibility.

As it is, the local football industry is not doing itself any favours with its lack of forward thinking.

Lioli still remain the only club to have released a financial report. It is such things that mean people still don’t take local football seriously.

The same goes for the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa).

Mamelodi spoke about getting everyone, from government to fans, to “buy into the idea” of the massive potential of a successful national league, and this is the responsibility of clubs.

The Botswana Premier League is now sponsored by national mobile phone operator Be-Mobile to the tune of 15 million pula, (around M16 million).

The league also has a television deal with the national broadcaster worth 4.5 million pula.

But in Lesotho little is still being done to improve facilities.

Last weekend a Vodacom Premier League match between Bantu and Lioli was almost tarnished when fans were involved in an altercation with Lioli players.

The local game has to be judged on higher standards as a whole.

The question is: How can little-known first division side Butha-Buthe Fast XI garner 152 287 votes, costing M1 over two months of Vodacom Soccer Spectacular voting, but Lesotho’s players still play on potato fields?

At the end of last Saturday Lesotho’s champions Matlama had beaten their South African counterparts SuperSport United 2-1, thanks to goals from Litšepe Marabe and Motlalepula Chabeli, but crashed out 3-2 on aggregate.

It was a chance missed and it probably means another year’s wait on the periphery.

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