We don’t need controversy in football
CONTROVERSY is never far off from local football and seems to stalk it like a constant companion.
I assume by now that we are all familiar with whispers that champions Bantu paid the stadium fees for their away match against Sky Battalion to be played at Setsoto Stadium.
The rumour mongers say that the match should have been played at LCS Ground where it would have been the first in a double header that would later see LCS take on Matlama. But according to the grapevine, the Mafeteng club forked out M7000 to have it moved to the national stadium, still in Maseru.
Sky Battalion had a deal with LCS to use the latter’s ground for their home matches but last week they were told that while they could use the ground for free, they would however, not receive a cent from the gate takings after the double header.
This, according to the rumours, led to Bantu offering to pay the costs of moving the match to Setsoto where they said Sky Battalion would profit from the anticipated huge crowd given the champions’ huge fan base. The deal was that the teams would then share the gate takings.
Admittedly both match venues are in Maseru and not that far from each other. It is difficult to see how this could have been to Bantu’s advantage to have the match moved to a ground that is just a stone’s throw away from the ‘original’ venue. But then again Bantu’s aversion to grounds other than Setsoto is an open secret as their technical team says the uneven surfaces prevent them from playing their fluent passing game.
Moving to Setsoto, the critics feel, thus gave Bantu a good opportunity to win the game. Of course there are no guarantees if this actually happened.
These detractors suggest that this was tantamount to match-fixing but then again match-fixing like other offences is defined by the regulations as contained in the FIFA statute books and this is not defined as such in those regulations.
While this may be the case, there would be something that would be untoward if such a transaction actually happened between the two teams. There is something that just seems ethically wrong. Fortunately, Bantu boss, Leuta Leuta, has since come out to deny the claims in an interview that was carried in our sister paper, the Lesotho Times last week.
“I have heard about those reports which are very baseless and hurting the image of the game,” Leuta said, adding the allegations had been concocted by people who were jealous of the success Bantu has enjoyed over the last two years on and off the field.
“I have heard about those reports which are very baseless and hurting the image of the game,” Leuta said.
“We all know who the stadium manager is. He handles the payments for Setsoto and he has said that the payment was made by Sky Battalion.
“Those are cheap lies and I know where they are coming from.”
I can only hope for the sake of football that the reality is what Leuta says it is. There are those who would say that there is no smoke without fire but in this case it would be hoped that there is not even a molecule of truth to the allegations.
I can also hope that the rumour mill should not raise its head purely for the sake of malice because our game is in a transitional phase where the premier league which incidentally is headed by Leuta, is pulling out the stops to bring in as many corporate sponsors as possible as it embarks on the arduous journey to professionalism.
Only recently, at the beginning of this season in fact, we saw Econet Telecom Lesotho return with a much bigger sponsorship for the league.
Standard Bank Lesotho and Metropolitan Lesotho also upped the stakes in their sponsorship of the Independence Cup. These are all welcome developments and a testimony to the sterling efforts of the entire premier league management.
These are the kind of efforts we would like to report on week in, week out.
I therefore call upon all clubs to conduct their affairs in as transparent a manner as possible to ensure that nothing is left to harmful speculation.
We must not leave anything to chance in our quest to attain professionalism and consequently ensuring that even our national team will profit and turn into continental and world beaters.