Sello’s second coming

Sello’s second coming

MASERU – Ikarabele Sello is the new man in charge of the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC), an unenviable task for even the bravest man.
Sello was elected in August and the PLMC’s never-ending goal is to get Lesotho football on the road towards something resembling a semi-professional level at least.
Despite advancements around the region, Lesotho’s premier league is still played on an amateur level with scarce pay for players, poor facilities and no television coverage.
Many plans have gone by the wayside such as the Mohale Declaration which was signed in 2008 and aimed to have Lesotho’s top-flight football reach a professional status by 2014.
In 2010, meanwhile, the government introduced a sports tax rebate law offering tax reductions to companies which sponsor sport but progress has been slow.

There are positives; at the start of last season Econet launched a record three-year M6 million sponsorship of Lesotho’s premier league.
The sponsorship sees M2 million pumped into the top-flight each season but the reality is, more still needs to be done to improve Lesotho football, a fact painfully laid bare two weeks ago in Likuena’s back-to-back defeats to Uganda in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, two matches in which the senior side was completely outclassed.
That is the job facing Sello and his committee, and, as a former Matlama president, it is a task he is well aware of.

Two years ago, for instance, Sundawana owner Thato Nkone said he spent M20 000 per week on expenses while the Butha-Buthe side were still in the premier league and the fact is clubs routinely bleed money.

“It is very difficult to run a team and, even though the government has tried to help with the tax rebate laws, it doesn’t help that much,” Sello said.
“(The rebate law) still doesn’t give an opportunity to invest in sports in general, so it is really difficult to run a club because the support from the corporate community is not that good because of our amateurish stage and the way we run football teams. Teams are not run in good governance and companies are a bit reluctant to sponsor such teams,” he added.
The solution, Sello said, starts with getting the right people in football.

“When we go for club committee elections we elect a person because we love them, we don’t look at what that person has done or brings to the committee,” he said.
“It is difficult as long as we don’t run teams professionally; the corporate world will be very much reluctant to come into the picture.”
Sello is making his second turn as chairman of the PLMC and he said he returned to make a difference.

Sello, who is a civil engineer by profession, previously left to focus on his career but he said he returns willing to do “whatever is possible” to develop football in the country.
However, even with his ambition to Lesotho football, Sello admits without proper infrastructure it will be an uphill challenge.
He said clubs have to use what is available to them such as the government-owned Pitso Grounds in the districts.
“What prompted me to come to the league is governance; governance is a big factor, you don’t go against the rules that you have set and then be individualistic when you are in the committee and look at the interests of the team (you favour),” Sello said.

“We have been elected to look at football as a whole and look after 14 (premier league) clubs.”
“Another thing that made me come back is that we need to develop sports and there are lots of things that need to be done and, in terms of governance, you still see friction between (the Lesotho Football Association) and PLMC, and between the clubs and PLMC.”

“There has got to be cohesion because we are here for the interests of football. That’s another reason why I came back, to see if I can be successful in making sure that the infrastructure of the premier league becomes better, to see if the pitches are developed countrywide because we will not see progress as long as we still have these problems of infrastructure,” he said.
Sello said effecting change will require a long-term view.

“It is unfortunate that you only stay (in the PLMC committee) for two years because two years is nothing,” he said.
“One of the first things you have to look at is the strategic plan and vision. You need to try and implement the long-term strategic plan and short-term vision; within two years you need to say we have moved from that to this. We have to work with LEFA and the government to see if they can’t make it easy for the business community to come into football.”
Sello added: “The other issue is we have to collaborate because in the districts you will realise there are facilities like Pitso Grounds. How best can we adopt those grounds and share with the local government in terms of improving the infrastructure?

“We have this big problem, for example, you look at the Leshoboro Stadium (in Mafeteng), it is a facility that is there that Bantu cannot use purely because it is government owned and (club) is not able to invest in it.

“So those are some of the things we are going to work on and see how best we can find a way to work together. You cannot have a team like Bantu running around without a home ground when there is a facility there in Mafeteng.”

Matlama, of course, remains close to Sello’s attention as well. In August, Sello saw his four-year term as club president end when Paballo Makakole won the Matlama’s executive elections.
‘Tse Putsoa’ are Lesotho’s most successful club with ten league title wins but the last of those came in 2010. Since then Matlama have been forced to play second fiddle to Bantu and Lioli.
“We have been dinosaurs, we never changed. We remained where we were by virtue of having successes in the past and we kept to that model not realising that the game evolves. We had to change and that’s having a serious impact (on Matlama) now,” Sello said.

“There has also been a lot of infighting among so-called Matlama’s veterans,” he added.
“When you are look at Matlama and at how it can evolve and grow, you realise there is no cohesion. I think in recent years there has been progress in terms of cohesion but it still lacks somehow. There are people that believe if they are not in the club’s committee they cannot support the sitting committee and that becomes a problem because they now become a bad influence on the players and to turn those players around to focus is not easy. That is where Matlama’s success became problematic,” he continued.
Sello believes Matlama need to look at the bigger picture.

“We have tried but it is a big problem. However, I think as we go forward people will realise it is not about who is in the committee, it is about looking at Matlama as a team and being able to support whoever is there because generally it’s us who elected them,” Sello said.
“It should not be this of having divisions in the club which I am sure you realised when we went for the past elections (in August). There was a big rift but I think people will learn and grow into the right direction.”

Luciah Phahla

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