Covid-19 hits foreign stars

Covid-19 hits foreign stars

MASERU-The Covid-19 enforced suspension of the Econet Premier League has hit foreign players hard.

All local leagues were postponed in March because of the pandemic and there remains no word as to when the season will resume.
In the meantime many clubs around the country have gone penniless because they rely heavily on money collected from gate-takings to survive.
Clubs are struggling to keep their heads above the water and have resorted to cutting player salaries while others have done away with payments completely over the past two months.

Leribe top-flight giants Linare are one of the clubs that have stopped paying their players which has left many scrambling for help.
While local players can rely on family members for some assistance, foreign players don’t have the same luxury.

According to the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) there are 20 players plying their trade in the premier league.
Many are struggling to make ends meet, especially those that have been in the country for a short period of time.
Linare’s Cameroonian striker Maba Junior told thepost that the impact has been devastating.
Junior is one of the longest serving foreign players in Lesotho having arrived in the country seven years ago but he too is feeling the effects of living without a salary.

“It is tough, I am not enjoying the situation at all, but all clubs have problems. I think we will get through and come back to playing football and we will get better then,” Junior said.
Junior arrived from Cameroon’s Tonnerre Kalara Club de Yaoundé in January 2013 to join Lioli.
The Douala native enjoyed a fruitful five-year spell with the Teyateyaneng club including three league titles before moving to Linare in January 2018.
Junior said although Linare are helping players with money for food and rent, he relies on his monthly salary to sustain himself.
It is different to local players who have side jobs to go with their football careers.

Foreign players rely solely on the income they receive from their clubs and it is worse for those players that have been in the country for less than a year and have not yet settled in.
“I cannot survive without a salary even for a month,” Junior said.
“We are getting money for rent and transport but it is different to some of the local boys. Some do have jobs and they are still getting income on the other side but for us we rely on the club,” he added.
Due to its amateur status, uneven sponsorship deals and flimsy corporate investment, the fragility of local football has been exposed by the current pandemic.

For now there is no word on when the season will resume and clubs are anxiously pondering their futures.
Last week the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) extended the current season until July 31 and insisted it is committed to finding ways to resume football, “as soon as it safe to do so.”

Like many, Junior and other foreign players are waiting with baited breath to hear what the government and LEFA decide.
“They are telling us we might get back playing soon so we are treating these three months as a sacrifice,” Junior said.

“I have been here for a long time and it is difficult,” he added.
Junior said foreign players have had to help each other survive.
“You can imagine how it is for some of my brothers who just arrived (in Lesotho) and are experiencing this,” he said.

“Some have had to rely on their parents back home. Where I stay we are closer to one another and we have had to share the little we have, you know. If I have something we share, I just hope we can get back to playing again.”

Tlalane Phahla

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