Maseru – The start to the 2016/17 Vodacom Premier League season has been marred by violence.
It all began in September when Bantu fans assaulted match assessor Moeketsi Moholobela following a 1-0 defeat to Kick4Life.
Bantu were subsequently fined M20 000, half of which was suspended for the rest of the season, and ordered to play one match behind closed doors.
But Bantu’s punishment did little to serve as a deterrent.
Two weekends ago an even worse incident occurred when a Matlama supporter was fatally shot during clashes with Lioli fans after a league tie at Setsoto Stadium.
The altercation was sparked after Matlama supporters invaded the pitch with Lioli leading 2-1. ‘Tse Putsoa’ fans attempted to attack the referee causing the match to be abandoned in what was another disturbing illustration of the disregard and lack of safety at league games.
If that were not enough, this past weekend players joined in the chaos as a match between Lesotho Defence Force and Bantu at Ratjomose was called off after fighting between players.
Needless to say, the image of the league and Lesotho football has been tarnished.
On Tuesday thepost sat down with Premier League general manager Baitsi Motsamai to discuss an apparent and worrying violence pandemic in Lesotho’s top-flight of football.
We have seen disturbing violence this season, what’s the Premier League’s response to these incidents?
We totally condemn it; we do not want to see violence at our playgrounds at all costs. We have been trying hard to bring back a favourable image of football, this thing of fighting at playgrounds and games not finishing is taking us back to where we don’t want to go. So, yes, the league is not happy at all with this.
Why are we still seeing this violence? Who is responsible for ensuring security at the grounds, the league or clubs?
For league games, the host team is the one responsible for making sure everything is in order, that police are there, that there is security and, most importantly, that there are marshals. It seems that our teams have been taking this for granted; their attitude is ‘we know nothing will happen’. And if you look right now, our league is very tight. For example, there is a six point difference from number two to number 10 (in the league standings).
If all the top teams lose and you win as the team in 10th place, you go straight to the top.
So it’s a lot of pressure for our teams to win (and) that is why we see a lot of this violence. When they lose they will blame all sorts of things and it starts all these things (of violence).
Do you invite police to every Premier League match? If not, is it possible that not seeing uniformed police officers at the ground may give fans freedom to cause violence?
It is possible. In fact, as we speak we are from a meeting with (Lesotho Mounted Police Service) Senior Superintendent Motlatsi Mapola regarding this issue.
We need police visibility at our playgrounds. What we have realised is that some of the teams have not been writing to the police to alert them about the games they are playing.
Remember we have categorised our games into two. We have the A category and B category. The A category is your Matlamas, your Bantus, your Liolis.
When those three teams play each other we have a resolution that the games should only be played at Setsoto Stadium for the sole reason of security concerns.
There must be a space demarcated to each team. So it seems as if our teams are taking this for granted, but right now we are taking steps to curb these instances of violence.
Are you concerned that these incidents will drive current and potential sponsors away?
Indeed, there is a huge concern. Our main concern is our sponsors. The violence has brought us into disrepute and exposed our sponsors very badly. And it is not going to be easy to calm sponsors down and assure them that we are taking steps to stop violence at our grounds.
Would it be correct to say the fine given to Bantu was inadequate? Is it fair to say teams don’t fear the consequences of their actions as a result?
There is a feeling, yes. We have heard that when talking with people. For me personally, I have heard from people saying that maybe the league was lenient in terms of punishment.
If the team is going to be fined M20 000 and half will be suspended, it makes others have an attitude that ‘we know are going to be given the same punishment’. So we would like to be strict right now. We have taken some big steps to give heavy punishment (in future).
We engaged our teams on that security issue and conveyed to them that as the league we are not happy with their organisation of security.
Teams are complaining about the intimidation tactics, such as rough and physical play, used by Lesotho Defence Force which contributed to the abandonment of LDF’s match against Bantu on Sunday. What is the league’s view on this?
This one of LDF players intimidating others, if it’s teams talking out there that LDF intimidates opposition players at Ha Ratjomose, it’s something we cannot take up.
If teams have a problem, they should write to the Premier League and state we are not satisfied with this and that and we will look at it and see what is really going on.
But if they are just talking, it could be something being discussed at the playgrounds.
For games involving teams like LMPS, Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) and LDF where they are supposed to provide security, won’t there be a conflict of interest in a match where their teams are playing?
That situation is very difficult, let me give you an example on the regulation we have for these security teams, your LDF, your LCS and your LMPS.
We said because they already have or provide that kind of security we want, they should provide security at their games.
But you know we still have that tension between police and soldiers in the country so it is not possible for police to go to Ratjomose to provide security.
What we actually did say is that these three teams should provide security on their own. Let’s say soldiers, for example; we want to see a certain amount of soldiers in uniform and that will report themselves as providing security for the league game in question.
We did that for LCS, we did that for LMPS as well. All other games that do not have a conflict of interest. In this case teams can use the police.
How will the Premier League deal with the growing number of outstanding games? Will the first round finish on time? How is the league going to ensure it does?
We are actually trying to work on that to make sure that teams are level on games played and that is why we have midweek games now. We are going to try and have all the games that are behind played during the week.
You would remember that the national Under-20 team is going to the COSAFA Under-20 Championships (December 7 to 16), so we want to finish our games by December.
Every team has to have played its 13 (first round) matches, so that when we start the second round next year no team is behind. So we are trying to catch-up by playing outstanding matches in midweek, starting this week.
Dicing with death
MASERU – spinning is a motorsport that originates in South Africa.
The pastime started in the 1980s in the country’s townships and was used mainly by gangsters as a way to show-off their stolen cars.
In the subsequent years, the sport has grown in popularity in South Africa’s neighbouring country and it has made its way to Lesotho.
Although spinning competitions are not held regularly in Lesotho, they always come with a huge fanfare and hundreds of supporters normally flock to its venues to watch drivers spinning, drifting and doing stunts.
It is a loud and mostly dangerous sport that has been labelled as the world’s most reckless sport.
It’s not just any car that is used in spinning, there are special cars that favourties for entertaining crowds.
The BMW 3-series famously known as Gusheshe owing to the brusque sound its engine makes are designed for the spin. Spinning enthusiasts say that BMW 3-series cars can be manipulated and their engines maintained easily.
Lately other people have started to opt for the V8 Toyota which they sport with BMW wheels.
In Lesotho, the shows are held at various places, including the Masianokeng filling station in Maseru. In 2021, Seisa Mohapi left the crowd yearning for more thrills, stunts and spins at Makoanyane Barracks and he emerged as a local favourite.
He has since gone on to make a career out of car spinning and because of the lack of competitions in Lesotho, Mohapi has to travel outside very often to compete.
Today, Mohapi, who is one the most famous spinners in Lesotho, is preparing for the Battle of the Nations competition to be held in Pretoria, South Africa, on April 29.
He is not a newbie to the competition. Last year he was the only Mosotho competing against drivers from the host country, Eswatini and Botswana.
One fascinating fact about Mohapi is that he was not into spinning cars until a friend urged him to join the sport because of his fast driving. Mohapi insists, however, that when he is driving on the road he is not as fast as he is on the track.
He may now be a well-recognised spinner, but it was a difficult road. Getting invitations to South African competitions was mission impossible in the beginning because the sport was not recognised in Lesotho.
The best Mohapi managed was competitions in Bloemfontein and Thaba-Nchu, before he eventually started getting invites to big events.
In 2018, he received his first invitation to attend big spinning events in Villiersdorp, Western Cape, and now the rest is history. He has travelled to several countries including Eswatini and Botswana.
Mohapi remembers: “(My friend) gave me an idea that you already have speed, if you can spin, you can do it well. From there I started spinning on the streets until we started taking it seriously, (we are) hosting events and joining spinning groups.”
When Mohapi is not throttling cars on weekends, during the week he has an office job at the Ministry of Social Development. He says his routine is between his job and spinning.
It is a costly passion.
Motorsport is one of the most expensive sports in the world because it requires fully operational engines and such are costly. Mohapi has no sponsor, he bears all the costs when it comes to his car. Luckily for Mohapi, he can repair cars which means the costs of fixing have not weighed as heavily on him as they otherwise would have.
“Even though spinning is a very expensive sport, I am still fully self-sponsored and it does not cost much on my pocket because I know how to repair cars. So, this is different to someone who waits on engineers when their cars crash,” Mohapi says.
“Because these cars are being used heavily, they kill engines a lot. The cheapest engines range from M3 000 to M4 000 so if you are buying them regularly it becomes expensive. The (engine) I am using is about M18 000 to M20 000 – I am hoping spinning will be recognised as a growing sport,” he continues.
In spinning contests, it is the host’s responsibility to provide participants with tyres, while the participants should make sure that their rims are fit for the performance. Many drivers have earned themselves a reputation with drifting, but that is not the case with Mohapi.
He enjoys spinning and doing stunts most and that has become his trademark.
“For the spin to be performed best, it requires skills,” Mohapi says.
“Some can draw the interest of the audience and some just drift and confuse the audience. When the audience cannot capture what you are doing, they keep themselves busy by buying refreshments,” he adds.
There is a difference between spinning and drifting. Spinning which is more popular is when drivers lock their cars into a spin and screech tyres and make clouds of smoke. They then climb out of the car to perform stunts while spinning.
Meanwhile, the internet defines drifting as a driving technique where the driver intentionally over-steers, with loss of traction, while maintaining control and driving the car through the entirety of a corner.
The technique causes the rear slip angle to exceed the front slip angle to such an extent that often the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn. For example, if the car is turning left, the wheels are pointed right or vice versa.
Mohapi says spinning is all about entertainment, no one can be considered a winner, the only way to know if you did well is by the crowd’s reaction to your performance. South Africa is now preparing to host bigger spinning events in which there will be prize money given to participants who impress, and he says he is looking forward to it.
“All I can say is Basotho should support spin because their kids love it,” Mohapi enthuses.
“Their kids must know there is someone in Lesotho who spins and his name is Seisa. At these events there are really a lot of kids, it brings happiness to them.”
Bereng raring to go
MASERU – Likuena star midfielder Tshwarelo Bereng says it’s good for Likuena to go in the match against star-studded Zambia as underdogs despite winning the last encounter between the two countries.
The two southern African countries will face-off in back-to-back matches of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium and Dobsonville Stadium on March 23 and 26 respectively.
Motebang Sera was the hero in the last match at the COSAFA Cup beating Kennedy Mweene twice to become Likuena’s all time leading goal-scorer in the regional tournament with six goals.
Bereng, who now plays his football for Eswatini giants, Mbabane Highlanders, makes a return to the Likuena squad since last year’s goalless draw against Ivory Coast, where he was an unused substitute.
“Look, it will be a totally different ball game to the one when we last played at the COSAFA Cup and they also know that it’s not going to be a walk in the park for them,” the midfielder said.
“We just have to approach the game with the same mindset we had against them two years ago in Port Elizabeth, which was self-belief and playing to our strength.”
Bereng, who had a long career playing in South Africa for the likes of Moroka Swallows, Chippa United and Black Leopards, admitted that Zambia are favourite on paper going into the two matches, but is adamant they can cause an upset like they did in holding star-studded Ivory Coast to a goalless draw.
“Of course, on paper they are favourites because they have a lot of players playing abroad such as Patson Daka of Leicester City, but like I said, self-belief is very important at this level of football,” Bereng said.
“I think for me it’s very good to be labelled underdogs, it takes the pressure away from us and gives us room to surprise them.
“They are going to be to tough games, but we have been there before and we know what we have to do to improve our position if we are to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations,” he said.
Likuena will host Eswatini in a training match this Thursday as both countries fine-tune their preparations for the upcoming 2023 Afcon matches.
Free show for football fans
MASERU – The Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) has opened its gates to Basotho who want to watch the national team Likuena today. Lesotho hosts Eswatini this afternoon at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena in their last friendly match before they fly to Zambia.
This training match is part of Likuena’s preparation for the back-to-back 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Zambia in two weeks’ time.
Three weeks ago, Lesotho coach Veselin Jelusic and his charges travelled to Malawi for a friendly match which ended with a 1-1. At the time the Serbian coach said he wished for more games and today’s match will surely come in handy as it will help him to fine-tune mistakes Likuena made against Malawi.
The first leg match of the AFCON qualifier against Zambia will be played at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium on March 23, with the return leg set for Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on March 26th. Lesotho needs to win at least one of the two games to stand any chance of qualifying.
After two AFCON qualifying games, Likuena are bottom of Group H which also includes Comoros and Ivory Coast.
Like Likuena, Eswatini is also preparing to take on Cape Verde in their AFCON qualifying campaigns on March 24 and 28 respectively.
LEFA has invited Basotho to come and watch their team free of charge as this could be their last chance to watch Likuena on their home soil until Setsoto Stadium is upgraded to meet international standards.
Because of the unavailability of the national stadium Likuena have been forced to play their home matches in South Africa.
Likuena lost 2-0 away to Comoros in their opener but played to a spirited 0-0 draw with giants Ivory Coast at ‘home’. Both games were played last June.
Two of Likuena’s foreign based players have already joined up with the team. Lead striker Motebang Sera, who is still recovering from a minor injury that side-lined him for his South African premiership club Royal AM, is with the team. He missed his team’s 5-1 clobbering by Mamelodi Sundowns on Tuesday. Tšoarelo Bereng, who is also based across the border, is another one that is now in camp with Likuena.
Richards Bay striker Katleho Makateng is yet to link up with the team, he is expected to be part of the Richards Bay squad that will take on TS Galaxy in the DSTV Premiership in Mpumalanga on Sunday. He will be allowed to join Likuena after and is expected to be a key figure against Zambia.
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