Connect with us


Football in a post-Covid era



MASERU – The Covid-19 crisis is not just a threat to public health, it has toppled economies, caused disruptions to football across the globe with leagues and tournaments being suspended. For more than a year, the revenue streams of clubs and sports federations have been significantly affected by the absence of fans in stadiums. The LeFA Secretary General Mokhosi Mohapi sat down with the association’s media team to reflect on how the football body stood tall in the midst of the pandemic, and this is part of the wide ranging interview first published on LeFA’s website.
Take us through the year 2021 as the head of Secretariat at the Lesotho Football Association.

2021 has been the most interesting year of the past two years that we have been operating in this unusual era. You will recall that in 2020, when the pandemic started, the whole world was quite novitiate under the circumstances. Sport comprises of two features; it is the on the field activities and off the field activities.

By now you know that the World Health Organisation in 2020 declared a pandemic and advised all countries to lock down all those activities and events that were deemed to be exacerbating the spread of the virus. In the same vein, the Lesotho Football Association responded by suspending sport activities under its auspices.

LeFA then realising that sport would not be able to survive the pandemic and or recover from the effects of the pandemic, embarked on a return to football as early as May 2020. Coming back to the crux after the background, 2021 has been a very jam-packed year on and off the field of play. To align with the current challenges, LeFA developed a strategic plan aptly termed ‘The New Dawn.’

The New Dawn calls for the continuum of the LeFA mandate during the pandemic. It also calls for the adherence to Covid-19 compliance and mitigation strategies rolled out by the Government of Lesotho. This is the reason why most of our activities are based on strict compliance whether it’s on the field activities or off the field activities. Comparatively, I strongly believe that LeFA has outshone similar organisations in the country. LeFA has held by far the most number of sporting activities pursuant to its mandate.

It’s been very difficult two years for sports in general in the country due to the pandemic. However, LeFA unlike other federations still managed to go ahead with majority of its programmes. How did you manage?
LeFA managed to be at the forefront because at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic the organisation undertook research about the pandemic and what direction the pandemic was going to take. You will recall that LeFA was among the first organisations to have documented protocols aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus. You will recall that LeFA was the first organisation to set up ‘safe training environments’ or what is known as ‘bubbles.’

Before the ‘safe training environments’ were implemented, LeFA trained the two senior national teams (men and women) on the effects of the coronavirus and how to minimise the risk of infection. This was followed by an aggressive training programme given to what we then referred to as Compliance Officers from the teams and the Association Secretariat. Almost everything that LeFA does takes into cognisance the mitigation aspect with regards to the coronavirus.

Subsequently, the LeFA leadership is aware that life with the coronavirus and its induced Covid-19 pandemic will continue for some years to come, with this in mind, LeFA also realised that it has obligations towards its mandate which is to develop, regulate and promote to game of football locally and internationally. It is therefore correct to say as the biggest sporting code in the country, it is therefore befitting for LeFA to show the other smaller sport bodies that with the coronavirus and under the Covid-19 pandemic challenges life can be lived but much more cautiously. For this to be achieved, LeFA has issued a directive to all its internal stakeholders (clubs, fans etc) that as of the 1st of November, 2021 it shall be compulsory to attend all LeFA activities and events only when one has been vaccinated.
Financially as well, it’s been a very difficult year for other federations struggling to stage their activities and honouring international competitions, but it’s a different story for LeFA?

LeFA is both fortunate and meticulous in how it dispenses of its duties. We are fortunate to be part of an International Federation that is in a very sound financial state enabling it to provide for its member associations; FIFA. From an organisation position, LeFA has for the past years exercised prudent spending behaviours which have in these turbulent times come handy. About five years ago, LeFA changed its business plan and started a new era where austerity principles and strict adherence to the annual budget were exercised. It is not surprising that LeFA has enjoyed some relative ease while other Federations experienced hardship. Our sound financial utilisation policy has allowed us as an organisation to stay afloat, therefore.

The investment LeFA has put on the development and grooming of referees is paying off and Souru Phatšoane is testimony to that?
No one seems to remember that almost a decade ago, I did mention that it will finally dawn on the Association that our good deeds would bear results. I for some reason predicted that our referees would make it big on the international stage. However, they still need to show the same acumen and dedication to the local version of the game, after all it is the local game that made them. If the lads and ladies keep focused, they will earn even bigger accolades than those they are earning now, they definitely have what is required to be among the best in the trade.

All the national teams have had a difficult time as far as international competitions are concerned. What needs to be done for them to do better?
You stated a fact that I would rather have never come up to face. Yes, it is true that our national teams have endured a torrid two years. There are reasons which are intertwined. Many people got agitated when I stated the problems which have attributed to our dilemma. We need to wake up to the challenges instead of trying to find solutions without first understanding the contributing factors.

I am busy going to all the regions training the DIFAs on governance and administration, in all the course I have stated that our problems are not only internal but are also a result of bad political decisions taken by our national government. If one looks at the current education curriculum, there is no way sport will survive under such circumstances. I just read the other day that our neighbours across the border are beginning to experience similar problems where school sport is basically non-existent which has resulted in very low number of youths into the elite sport. That is the reason why we have ageing senior national teams and are seemingly unable to replace the older players.

Sports Reporter

Continue Reading


Moerane signs for Orbit



CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe made a bold statement during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire that this tournament will go down as the best in the history of the beautiful game.

The tournament has indeed lived up to those expectations as it reaches the quarter-final stage. The continental showpiece has entertained us with everything that every football fanatic would expect from a big continental tourney like the AFCON.

His decision to join Orbit FC ends months of speculation where he was linked with several clubs in South Africa in both the Premier League and Motsepe Foundation Championship.

The Mazenod-born goalkeeper had been the centre of attention after years of impressive displays playing for his country in various competitions.

Moerane had not only been a hit in Southern Africa, where in 2023 he was named the Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the COSAFA Cup, but had also been given standing ovations in countries like Cote D’voire and Nigeria, where Likuena surprised the continental powerhouses.

The goal-minder was also the 2022/2023 Vodacom Premier League Goalkeeper of the Season adding that he was sad to leave the police outfit, who had been on an impressive run in the current season.

LMPS remains the only team that is still unbeaten in the league.

“This has been a challenge I have been looking forward to and I’m very happy that it has finally come true,” Moerane said after his arrival in South Africa.

“I know that it will not be easy as I come to a new country, new team, new teammates and new coach, which I all have to win over to trust me as their new player.”

Moerane is adamant the presence of experienced Likuena teammate, Tshwarelo Bereng, who is a journeyman and is well respected, will help him settle down quickly at his new club.

“He is a very experienced and respected player, whose presence at the club, I have no doubt will help me settle down quickly at this club,” he said.

“This is a new chapter of my career, where I need to start all over and make a legacy like I did during my time with LMPS.

“I have been preparing myself for some time now and I think I’m mentally and physically ready for this new challenge,” he said.

Moerane said the First Division will be a good stepping stone for him to make a name for himself in South Africa.

“I’m happy with the move to the First Division, it’s a good platform for me to make a name for myself and I believe I will still get to the bigger league or clubs, but it has to go through the right channels,” he said.

The agency that represents the player, Opus Sports Group with renowned football administrator Chris Bullock as the managing director, stated that they felt the first division was a good platform for Moerane to gradually grow into South African football.

“The move was about Moerane taking the next step of his career. He will get a good opportunity to get exposure at a good NDF club and if he does well, it will be a chance for him to progress further,” Bullock said.

“We liked how Orbit conducted themselves throughout and their vision for Sekhoane too and I think everyone is on the same page.

“It’s now up to Sekhoane to work hard and perform the way we know he is capable of and the rest will take care of itself,” he said.

Bullock also expressed gratitude to LMPS FC for allowing Moerane, who was recently promoted to the rank of Sergeant, to leave the country for greener pastures.

Mikia Kalati


Continue Reading


Manonyane boss blames injuries for poor run



Manonyane head coach Mosholi Mokhothu has blamed injuries for his side’s poor Vodacom Premier League campaign.
After a promising 2022/23 season in which they won two of their final four games and finished 11th, Manonyane have taken a major step back and find themselves languishing in 14th place.

The Roma side haven’t won a league match since a 1-0 win over Machokha on November 18, a run of nine games that includes five losses.
Manonyane have been so bad, in fact, that they haven’t scored a goal in all three games they have played since the turn of the year.
Their poor form has, unsurprisingly, dragged them firmly into the relegation picture.

Manonyane are four points above 15th-placed CCX who occupy the final relegation place, and the Roma side are in real danger of relinquishing the coveted top-flight status they gained in 2020.
Mokhothu pointed to Manonyane’s lengthy injury list as the reason for their struggles.

Thabang Tsakajoe (midfield), Bokang Matobo (striker), Molise Masoabi (midfield) and Bakoena Mosola (fullback) are all injured while Moraphate Nkejane has only recently returned to training.

All five players are key and their absences have hurt a squad that doesn’t have great depth.

“(After the injuries) it became difficult to use the available players in positions they do not play,” Mokhothu said.
The former Lioli and Lesotho Correctional Service mentor admitted Manonyane have to turn the corner quickly.
“We are at the point where we are fighting for a win in every game,” he said.

“We are trying to not put the players under pressure (but) we are in a risky position now, we are now discussing how we can move up the table,” he added.
Having won the league with Lioli and LCS, Mokhothu has experience of what it takes to navigate the challenges of a season. He said Manonyane’s improvement needs to start on Sunday when they host Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) who haven’t had the best of seasons themselves.

The army side, who finished third last season, are in ninth place with 22 points from 12 games and have fallen short of their own pre-season expectations.
“I believe starting from this coming week; we will work hard on winning game after game,” Mokhothu said.

“It might happen that we win or draw in those games but, most importantly, we want to see if our results are pushing us up (the league table) or not,” he said.
He said the team plays well but do not have enough knowledge of how to score goals, something that was evident in their latest blank last Sunday when they lost 1-0 to LCS.
“Last season, we were creating many chances, even if we lost some of the games but we were still converting them unlike the LCS game. On Sunday, most of my attacking players were not there so I ended up making forced changes because of the situation,” he said.

Mokhothu said the LCS game taught him valuable lessons about his players, however.
“We saw who can play where and where some (players) need assistance and I am pleased that if they can hear me out, we can change our way of playing and results,” Mokhothu said.

For that to happen, the club’s supporters will also play a big role, he added.
“The players really need the supporters, so they should always show up and give (the players) hope,” Mokhothu said.
“It is true that the supporters are supporting us with crying hearts but I promise them that, one day, they will get what they expect.”

Relebohile Tšepe

Continue Reading


Afcon lives up to expectations



CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe made a bold statement during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire that this tournament will go down as the best in the history of the beautiful game.
The tournament has indeed lived up to those expectations as it reaches the quarter-final stage. The continental showpiece has entertained us with everything that every football fanatic would expect from a big continental tourney like the AFCON.

In the last edition of the tournament held in Cameroon, I was able to put my head on the block from the word go that the Terranga Lions, as the Senegal national team is popularly known, would go all the way, which they did as they were crowned champions after defeating Egypt on penalties.

I have tried to do the same with this tournament and I must confess, it was very difficult to make a prediction as to who will walk home champions when the tournament ends on February 11.

At the completion of the group stage, a lot of people had their money on the defending champions Senegal and Morocco, who looked unmatched in the group phase as each won all their games.

Fast forward to the last 16, both countries were eliminated by Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa respectively. Worse for Cote d’Ivoire, their tournament looked to be over when in their last match of group stage, they suffered a humiliating a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Equatorial Guinea, who everyone regarded as minnows.

That was the biggest defeat suffered by AFCON hosts but the Elephants were thrown a lifeline into the round of 16 qualifiers as one of the four best-third placed finishers.
The Ivorian FA didn’t waste time and sacked Frenchman, Jean-Louis Gasset, which didn’t come as a surprise to me as the Elephants were not convincing at all during his spell in charge of the West African country.

I managed to watch his team closely as they played against Likuena in the qualifiers. During the first leg played at the Dobsonville Stadium, the two countries played out to a goalless draw while in San Pedro, the Elephants secured a narrow 1-0 victory.

Former Ivorian international Emerse Fae was tasked with the responsibility of saving the sinking ship of the Elephants, a job he did with aplomb as the hosts fought their way back from a goal down to salvage a 1-1 draw against defending champions, Senegal taking the last 16 tie to penalties, where they won 5-4.
I must say the Elephants looked a different side to the one I saw under Gasset as Fae got them firing to stun the defending champions, who have since packed their bags and gone home.

Cote d’Ivoire were indeed very lucky as the same cannot be said of the likes of Ghana and Algeria, among the big guns sent packing in the group stages of the tournament.
The poor performance of the Black Stars and the Dessert Foxes led to both Chris Hughton and Djamel Belmadi agreeing to step down as the coaches of the West and North African countries respectively.

Morocco is another country that was tipped to contest for the AFCON title, but they also failed to come to the party in their last 16 encounter.
Bafana Bafana won the match 2-0 to book a place in the quarter-finals.
Bafana Bafana have proved a hoodoo for Morocco, who many people thought would win the continental showpiece after their exploits at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, where they became the first African country to reach the semi-finals.

Their struggle against Bafana Bafana is nothing new as it dates to the days of former African Footballer of the Year, Mustafa Hadji.
Bafana Bafana’s opponents in the quarter-finals, Cape Verde, have been the surprise package of the tournament. The Blue Sharks’ remarkable journey in Cote d’Ivoire saw them win a group that had both Egypt and Ghana.

They have since inked a milestone in the history of their country winning a knockout match for the first time after beating Mauritania to set up a showdown against South Africa in the quarter-finals.
Mauritania themselves punched above their weight to have made it to the last 16 at the expense of a powerhouse like Algeria, who they beat 1-0 in the group stage. I have been impressed by their coach, Amir Abdou, who is making a name for himself as one of the best coaches in the continent having achieved a similar feat with Comoros in the previous edition of the tournament.

The one team that was under the microscope going into the tournament for unconvincing performances is Nigeria.
They eliminated Cameroon in the last 16. Their talisman Victor Osimhen has lived up to the billing of having recently been crowned African Footballer of the Year.
He has been the main man for Nigeria so far in the tournament by not only scoring goals, but also providing assists. His attitude and commitment in the field of play has been second to none.

I must say, the Super Eagles looked ordinary without Osimhen as they struggled to get their groove in matches played before AFCON where they were held by Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa have all looked very solid in their last 16 matches and I have a feeling they all have a very good chance of making it to the semi-finals. My gut feeling tells me that the AFCON trophy is going to remain in West Africa with Nigeria or Cote d’Ivoire winning it.
I really think that they tournament has lived up to expectation both on and off the field. Credit goes to the continental football body CAF under the leadership of Patrice Motsepe and Cote d’Ivoire as the host country, for putting so much effort to make the tournament a success.

To the government of Lesotho, this is yet another lesson of how football can be powerful when it has the support of its government as witnessed with countries like Mauritania and Cape Verde, who were deemed as minnows but are making strides in major continental competitions.
I have managed to visit some of these countries as well as others like Comoros, who have also qualified for AFCON tournament in recent years. Their governments have invested hugely in football infrastructure hence they are able to go pound for pound with some of the best in the continent.

Mikia Kalati


Continue Reading