Driving change

Driving change

MASERU – Jumping straight into the male-dominated world of football immediately after university is a daunting task for any youngster, let alone a woman, but it is a challenge Mamello Morienyane took head on and with the utmost determination after joining the Lesotho Football Association’s finance department on an internship programme last year.
The LeFA finance assistant took time out of her busy schedule to discuss how meeting FIFA’s first ever female secretary general, Fatma Samoura, in 2019 inspired her to stand tall in a male dominated world in a wide-ranging interview with LEFA Media.

Where did it all begin for you and football?
There is no romantic story about where it all began for me and football. When I came to work at LeFA, football wasn’t an alien area in my life, I grew up with three brothers and obviously I engaged a lot into their play time of which football was a part of. We played penalty shoot-outs, one touch, you name them. And then from there, I don’t know how and why, but I found myself as a fan of Kaizer Chiefs, watching almost every match. I went to watch Lioli occasionally and the national teams as well.

How would you describe your journey working in a male dominated profession?
It has been a very interesting journey, one of which I have come to learn so much more over and above the sport itself. Working with more men than women has taught me to be a bit tougher with my convictions, especially because men can influence either behaviour or thought. I, therefore, always make it a point that my opinion is heard, even if it is the only different opinion in the room, it deserves to be heard. Throughout my journey so far, I have realised the sexism that is in football and the entitlement of people who believe they have been around longer. Fatma Samoura said: “One thing I have learnt is that the men won’t do you a favour because you are a woman. Be resilient, innovative and have personal values.’’

Would you encourage for more female representation in the administration of football and sports in general?
I most definitely would encourage more women to work in sport of any kind. I am of the opinion that when it comes to the deep technicalities, what should happen during the game or what happens on the pitch, men have the upper hand there. But when it comes to administration, women can do better than men. I have come to realise that the fewer women present in football have let themselves be marginalised, they are not as vocal as their male counterparts. I would one day wish to see a woman as part of LeFA NEC, and not one who is going to be a decorative part of the committee, but one who is going to be as articulate to change people’s view and understanding on women in football. Every single woman who loves sport, any kind of sport should not for second underestimate themselves, because there’s so much potential within every person’s passion.

Who are your female role models working in sports/football?
Fatma Samoura, the first woman to assume the position as FIFA Secretary General and she is also African. When I first met her at the time, FIFA president Gianni Infantino had visited the Lesotho Football Association, I was immediately inspired. It was such an honour and inspiration because I realised that with great deal of determination and resilience, anything is possible. She made me believe that even if this is a male dominated profession, the ladder to the top is the same.

Did you ever see yourself working in football?
I never for a second pictured myself working in football. I could never imagine what it is that I could be doing, you know like I said earlier, I thought football only existed on the pitch, I honestly never thought there is so much that goes into the preparations of a game. I am quite sure there are still people who look at the secretariat of LeFA and wonder what are these people actually doing? Why is there so much of them, what could they possibly be doing that requires their daily presence. That is where my thoughts were at before I joined the team.

What do you make of women football in Lesotho?
I think there isn’t much women football in the country. One of the reasons I think it is lacking is because I believe there is still so much old stereotypical view of the sport. I would like to think that there are still so many people who believe that the sport belongs to men, that if you play the sport, you must be a tomboy. (They believe) that you cannot wear nice pair of heels and your nice dress with a 16-inch weave and the next minute you are putting on your soccer boots and running after a ball. That perspective needs to change, pretty girls out there need to know that the sport is for everyone, they need to know that sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with the sport. There’s need for more women teams, women coaches, women referees. I think it is upon all the women who are already part of the system to ensure that there’s more women in football. We need to teach young girls that they can be as good players as their male counterparts.

— LEFA

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