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.
Mohlolo rescues point for LDF Ladies
A last-gasp strike by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies striker ‘Maseriti Mohlolo rescued a point for the Women’s Super League (WSL) champions against Malawi’s Ntopwa in the opener of their CAF Women’s Champions League COSAFA Qualifiers yesterday.
Mohlolo’s goal keeps LDF Ladies in contention to progress to the next round with two teams from the four-team group set to qualify for the semi-finals.
Although LDF Ladies were not outplayed in the game, they missed many chances and their set-pieces left a lot to be desired.
Maybe that can be attributed to a last minute coaching change that saw Pule Khojane replace Lengana Nkhethoa as head coach of a side that won the WSL unbeaten last season.
Speaking after the game, Khojane said even though he realised early on that the Malawian team were tough physically, he still wanted LDF Ladies to play their normal passing game.
In the end, Khojane was left to lament the number of chances his side created but couldn’t convert.
Khojane said that will be a point of emphasis before LDF Ladies step onto the field again tomorrow against Botswana’s Double Action.
Tomorrow’s tie is probably a must-win with the group’s other team being defending champions Green Buffaloes of Zambia and LDF Ladies will need to convert their chances.
“We play with four at the back but with two attacking full backs, most of the time if a team plays long balls like (Ntopwa) we struggle a lot but we don’t change our game. We want to play; we want to go forward.
“That’s why sometimes we made a lot of mistakes when the ball was played high behind our backs but we still wanted to play our game and win. We were just unfortunate not to score more goals but we were playing (well),” Khojane said.
LDF conceded a late goal in the first half and were perhaps lucky to go into the half time break just a goal down.
Before Ntopwa took the lead they were awarded a penalty for a reckless foul in the box but they missed the chance to open the scoring.
LDF recovered in the second that but could not find a way into the goals.
It looked as if Lesotho’s representatives at the regional showpiece would begin their campaign with a defeat. However, Mohlolo rescued the Lesotho champions when she latched onto a poor back pass from a defender. She stole the ball and levelled matters with less than three minutes to go.
There was no time for the LDF to get a winner and they had to settle for a point in their opening group game.
They will now be looking to improve and sharpen their scoring boots for tomorrow’s showdown against Double Action of Botswana.
LDF Ladies fixtures:
LDF Ladies 1-1 Ntopwa
Double Action vs. LDF Ladies
Green Buffaloes vs. LDF Ladies
Makepe quits Likuena duty
Likuena captain Basia Makepe has retired from international football after leading the senior national team to silver at the recent COSAFA Cup tournament held in Durban, South Africa.
This was the first time since 2000 that Likuena had reached the final of the regional tournament where they lost 1-0 to Zambia.
The Leribe born defender will go down as one of the most decorated defenders in the country having represented his country 87 times and winning several accolades in the process.
Makepe’s leadership skills were spotted from a young age, where he was appointed captain of the national U-20 team, Makoanyane XI by Leslie Notši.
He led by example as Makoanyane XI qualified for the CAF Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in 2011, which in those days was knowns as the African Youth Championship, where the side eliminated countries like Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya to qualify for the tournament.
Makepe won his first Likuena cap in a 2-1 victory over Eswatini during an international friendly match played at Setsoto Stadium in October 2012 and went on to make the squad for the 2013 COSAFA Cup in Zambia.
However, Makepe was an unused substitute at the tournament as Notši went for the tried and tested defenders such as Moitheri Ntobo, Tlali Maile and Thabo Masualle as Likuena reached the semi-finals.
He would later be appointed the Likuena captain as coach Moses Maliehe went for a younger generation at the 2016 COSAFA Cup in Namibia, where Likuena won all their group stage matches but were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Shakes Mashaba-coached Bafana Bafana.
Makepe has not only enjoyed success with the national team but won several domestic trophies at Lioli, where he was also handed the captaincy after joining from boyhood club and now defunct Joy FC.
After leaving Lioli, he joined the police outfit, LMPS FC, where he is employed as a police officer and believes he still has a few years left in his tank playing for Simunye, as the police outfit is affectionately known.
“I think I have had a career that you can say was decent and can be accepted as satisfying to the football fraternity,” Makepe said.
“For me I can say it was a good career that has had challenges here and there as well as successes here and there, which started way back with the Under-20 team.
“With Makoanyane XI, we became the second team to qualify for the Africa Youth Championship and fortunately I had the honour of being the captain of that team.”
The 32-year-old, who has come up against the best forwards on the continent from the young Mohamed Salah during the 2011 Under-20 Africa Youth Championship to the likes of Victor Osimhen, Riyad Mahrez, has singled out former Burkina Faso striker Jonathan Pitroipa as the most troublesome opponent he has faced.
“I have come up against the best from this continent from the likes of Salah and others, but I think Pitroipa of Burkina Faso was the most troublesome forward I have come up against,” he said.
“I think the successes with the senior team especially as the captain are many having reached the COSAFA semi-finals a number of times with Likuena and twice going unbeaten in the group stage in Zambia 2013 and Namibia 2016 respectively.
“Being the captain of the team was the cherry on top and getting bronze medal in 2018. I end my chapter with Likuena having played a role in helping the team get to the final for the first time in 23 years,” he said.
Makepe admitted that the 2016 edition of the COSAFA tournament was very special for him as it was the first he captained the side and they won all their group stage matches.
“The COSAFA tournament in Namibia in 2016 stands out for me especially that game against South Africa, which unfortunately we lost on penalties, but it was a good tournament overall,” he said.
“All in all, I think it was a very satisfying career with the national team though you always want more as a player. I’m happy to bow out having helped Likuena re-write history. It’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.
“I’m very grateful to all who have supported me throughout my career, my teammates, coaches, administrators and the supporters, who were always by our side and of course the Lesotho Football Association for giving me the opportunities to lead the national team,” he said.
Notši picks squad for Ivory Coast tie
Lesotho interim coach Leslie Notši has named a provisional 27-man squad for the side’s final 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Ivory Coast which is scheduled for September 9.
By virtue of being the hosts of next year’s showpiece, Ivory Coast have already qualified for the tournament while Likuena no longer have a chance of joining them after back-to-back defeats with Zambia in June.
With nothing to play with but pride, Likuena can draw inspiration from their performance when the sides met in their first Group H encounter last June which ended in a goalless draw.
The match was played in Soweto and Lesotho’s memorably dogged display against their much more fancied opponents is something Notši’s charges can look to for inspiration.
Several new faces could feature in that return game in Ivory Coast.
Fresh off last month’s COSAFA Cup final display, Notši has called up some fresh blood to bolster the squad such as Khubetsoana Kamela, Tšeliso Botsane and Teboho Letsema who have each represented Lesotho’s junior teams but are yet to make the leap to the senior side.
Notši’s squad also includes the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) trio of Morena Moloi, Lebesa Lebesa and Victor Ferreira who have been called up to the national team set-up for the first time in their careers.
The most surprising inclusion is perhaps that of Ferreira who spent the majority of last season making cameo appearances from the LDF substitutes’ bench.
Speaking with LEFA’s media team, Notši said the new faces are intended to give him depth going into the 2024 African Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifiers which start in September and are reserved only for locally based players.
It means the handful of Likuena players plying their trade outside the country will be ineligible to play. The first round of the 2024 CHAN qualifiers is set to begin from September 22 to 24.
“We all know that AFCON qualification is out of our reach and the bigger picture is to prepare the team for the CHAN qualifiers, which are coming very soon,” Notši said.
“Most of these boys have come through the ranks playing for our junior national team and it’s the association’s investment that needs to be given a chance to grow,” the Lesotho mentor added.
The 27-man Likuena squad will be trimmed down to a manageable size towards the side’s departure to Ivory Coast, but the core of the players that went to the COSAFA Cup in July are expected to retain their places in the team.
Likuena have a busy schedule ahead with the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers also in the pipeline this year. Notši needs to have as strong a team as possible to compete in all the competitions.
Likuena provisional squad:
Sekhoane Moerane, Teboho Ratibisi, Mosoeu Seahlolo.
Rethabile Senkoto, Motlomelo Mkhwanazi, Mohlomi Makhetha, Rethabile Mokokoane, Rethabile Rasethuntša, Lebesa Lebesa, ‘Mellere Lebetša.
Lisema Lebokollane, Khubetsoana Kamele, Tšeliso Botsane, Lehlohonolo Fothoane, Thabo Lesaoana, Tumelo Makha, Koenehelo Mothala, Tšepang Sefali, Victor Ferreira, Tshwarelo Bereng, Teboho Letsema, Neo Mokhachance, Tšepo Toloane, Morena Moloi.
Thabiso Mari, Jane Thabantšo, Motebang Sera, Katleho Makateng.
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