MASERU– Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) claimed top spot on the Vodacom Premier League table for the first time this season by beating Bantu 1-0 in Mohale’s Hoek on Sunday.
The victory put LDF in the drivers’ seat in the title race with six matches to go, but it has been overshadowed by controversy and the violent behaviour directed at match officials by Bantu players after the match.
The match official in question is international assistant referee Siza Dlangamandla who onlookers say was on the receiving end of Bantu goalkeeper Ntsane ‘Feso’ Lichaba’s filthy insults after he awarded a 72nd minute penalty for handball against the home side.
Lichaba has since been elevated to hero status on social media. He is being framed as the victim not an aggressor
The narrative is much to the annoyance of LDF head coach Motheo Mohapi, who says he personally removed Lichaba’s hands from Dlangamandla’s neck.
Mohapi says he also ordered LDF players who were not involved in the game to provide security after the game to Dlangamandla and other officials as well and escort them from harm’s way.
Bantu have since written a letter of complaint to the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) claiming their goalkeeper was slapped by an LDF player.
thepost has not been able to verify Bantu’s claim, however, three people have confirmed Mohapi’s account. Mohapi who was still reeling from Sunday’s events sat down with thepost on Tuesday to recount the scenes and discuss LDF’s season.
Mohapi also talked about a lack of transparency within the PLMC among many other things. The wide-ranging interview lasted an hour and this is just a part of the conversation.
On the league title and discipline
For a long time, LDF has played second fiddle as bigger teams in the league exerted their dominance in local football. This is proven by the fact that no team besides Matlama, Bantu and Liol, has won the league in the last decade. The last time none of the trio won the league it was back in 2011 when Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) were crowned champions.
LDF, meanwhile, haven’t tasted any league success since 2004.
This season, however, LDF have poked the hornet’s nest by fiercely contesting for the league title and posing a serious threat to the big boys.
They have done that despite many challenges. Not only have they been dealing with multiple suspensions of their players, LDF say they are credited with all the bad behaviour that happens at the grounds where they are involved in matches.
Mohapi said sitting on the side-lines watching teams win trophies did not sit well with LDF and they have dedicated themselves to changing the situation. Although the log leaders started the season slowly, they have grown into the campaign and appear ripe for the final push.
“When you are in a race with people who do better than you, if you are someone who likes nice things, it will not sit well with you,” Mohapi said.
“It’s something that has not made us happy as LDF that we are in a race with people, we were fighting for this cup and they won it we didn’t, that on its own is painful. All the time it was always about changing the situation so that when we are in a race with people, we can also win the race,” he said.
Mohapi said character and discipline are what separate LDF from the rest of the league and that goes all the way from administration to the pitch.
Mohapi vowed there is no team in the league that is more disciplined than his team. He referred to an incident during a 2-1 win over Swallows in January when LDF’s Bonang Mohapi was sent off following a commotion.
“Everywhere these unfortunate incidents happened, you will realise we didn’t start them, from Morija, the person who started it was a Swallows player, but that has now turned to be about LDF.
From administration to the pitch, there is no team in the league that is more disciplined than LDF,” he said.
“In terms of administration, if you go looking for match reports, we have all match reports. After playing we submit match reports, others don’t. When referees want LDF players 45 minutes before kick-off they will find LDF there,” he said.
Mohapi said many people think LDF do not know how to play football and only rely on physicality. He said if that was the case, the army side would not be on top of the log and would be struggling at the bottom.
LDF have used this criticism to fuel them even further this season and with six games to go, ‘Sohle-Sohle’ hope to clinch their first league title in two decades.
On Mohale’s Hoek’s events
It all started with assistant referee Dlangamandla flagging a handball inside Bantu’s penalty box.
Referee Moeketsi Ntoa is said to have initially missed the handball but gave a penalty against the home side. The penalty made Bantu write a letter to the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) to complain about the assistant referee while, on the field, Dlangamandla spent the rest of the game being insulted by the Bantu goalkeeper.
After the final whistle, Lichaba went straight for the official and put his hands on his neck as if he wanted to choke him. Mohapi rushed to diffuse the situation and protect the official. Mohapi said although LDF do not start all the incidents, at times , his players end up accepting provocation.
“In Mohale’s Hoek we defended the match officials. Feso, (the player) that everybody is talking about that he was beaten, it’s me who removed his hands from linesman’s neck – Siza Dlangamandla – but what is trending is that Feso was beaten,” he said.
“When I got to the centre I found (Bantu defender Motlomelo) Mkhwanazi framing that story of Feso being beaten and I called him a liar. I ordered LDF players who weren’t playing to protect the officials, Siza can tell the truth. Even in the court of law I can say this. I know the players that I gave to Siza so that they protect him, but today Feso has been made a hero because it’s LDF,” he continued.
One of the things that were trending on social media is Mohapi’s behaviour on the technical area.
The LDF coach said the referee indicated that 13 minutes were left to play but let the game continue until it reached 18 minutes played. Mohapi said he stood up to signal the game was over, like any other coach would do.
“I was complaining that time is over. Let the players work for themselves (without help), when they beat us, we leave. Matlama beat us at our own ground twice and we did nothing,” he said.
“Everyone that is shouting that we should get expelled will see our importance once we leave this league. Expel us, they will remember us, because all these bad things that happen at football grounds, we don’t start them. Like anyone we can make mistakes, yes,” he continued.
On club’s CMM’s
The LDF mentor did not hide his dislike for club spokespersons around the league who he said seemed to be only interested in entertaining people over the radio instead of educating their supporters. Mohapi said they are ruining football. The club communication and marketing managers (CMM) have turned themselves into comedians who are more concerned with making people laugh and competing over who is funnier.
“They are ruining football, they go on radios to make people laugh, “you did this, you did that” and people laugh. But, at the end of the day, the people you are leading are not educated enough to be able to behave on the grounds,” Mohapi said.
“Fans are fighting at the grounds; people don’t know it’s our right as LDF to lodge appeals according to the rules. We didn’t do anything, (we are accused) just because we are soldiers,” he said.
Mohapi who holds a CAF A-License and is one of the country’s highest qualified coaches, said he doesn’t coach LDF with army rankings. His behaviour on the touchline is in line with football coaching guidelines, he said. He said the CMMs are contributing nothing to the clubs but only to radio programmes.
“Basotho we are one, if things happened, there are people who are in charge who will deal with them, don’t come here and express things that will not take us anywhere, you leave a nation bitter against other people,” Mohapi said in reference to club CMMs.
“I think people have forgotten they have made mistakes, just that we are quiet and now it’s like they are angels. We will not be doing football any justice if we go on the radio and talk about football issues and then ask for companies to support us. They are not having any contribution at grounds or clubs, they have contribution on radio programmes,” he said.
On PLMC structure
Another thing that irks Mohapi is the structure of the PLMC. He said people go there to serve the interests of their own teams. Clubs nominate their own candidates to stand for elections, and then
clubs through their representatives vote. Clubs who have candidates lobby for support from others.
Mohapi said he wishes the PLMC could be led by people who simply love football and are not there to advance their own interests.
“They are not there to serve football interests. Do you think we will survive these judgements? Look at the (PLMC) secretary, he is from Bantu, Phasumane is from Linare, the chairman is from Matlama and LDF is fighting for the league with these teams. Do you think we will get anything?” he asked.
“Left and right they want LDF out, they want to find what they can use to LDF because they are fighting for LDF to drop out and leave these teams that they think are the biggest. I won’t let them.
They think they got football because of their large support base, and we are ruining it. They don’t care about LMPS (Lesotho Mounted Police Service), it could end at the bottom,” he continued.
While LDF has been fielding suspensions of Bonang Mohapi, the league went radio silent on the attack of former Matlama head coach Mothobi Molebatsi by a Matlama supporter at the beginning of the season. There has also been nothing on hooliganism Bantu fans displayed in Teyateyaneng after a goalless draw with Lioli when they threatened and chased officials.
“We were born in a very unfortunate country, a country of apartheid. I wish the Premier League could be formed by people who love football because this one is of people from clubs and they serve the interests of their own clubs,” Mohapi said.
Rabale eyes Champions League glory
Lesotho women’s team captain Boitumelo Rabale has her eyes on winning her second CAF Women’s Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns as the tournament gets underway this weekend.
The third edition of the prestigious women’s club football is scheduled for Ivory Coast from November 5-19, where eight clubs will battle it out to be crowned Queens of the continent.
“Queen”, as the Lesotho star is commonly known, was part of the Sundowns squad that was crowned champions of the inaugural edition of the tournament held in Egypt two years ago, becoming the first player from the Mountain Kingdom to taste Champions League success.
She has become one of the key players in Jerry Tshabalala’s squad having walked away with the Hollywoodbets Player of the Season in the previous campaign and currently leads the goal-scoring charts with 21 goals.
“It was exciting to win the CAF Women’s Champions League with Sundowns two years ago and in the process becoming the first player from Lesotho to do so,” Rabale said.
“I felt very lucky and honoured to make history. It gave me confidence to continue working hard and strive for more success with the club”
Sundowns head to the tournament as regional champions after clinching the COSAFA qualifiers to qualify for the continental showpiece, where they will kickstart their campaign against Tanzania’s JKT Queens on Sunday.
Rabale admitted that memories of losing the last final to AS FAR still haunts them, but they head to Ivory Coast a better team than in the last tournament.
“We learnt the hard way when we lost in the final to AS FAR and we come back a better team having rectified our mistakes.
“It’s our dream to conquer the continent again and I have no doubt that we have what it takes to get our second star in Ivory Coast.
“It will be very good to add the second CAF Champions League medal to my trophy cabinet,” she said.
The 27-year-old has been prolific for Sundowns this campaign having scored nine goals in her last five matches to take her tally for this campaign to 21 goals.
Sundowns are in Group A alongside tournament hosts, Athletico Abidjan, Sporting Casablanca of Morocco, as well as Tanzania’s JKT Queen.
Since joining Sundowns in 2021, Rabale has won the Hollywoodbets Super League twice, the COSAFA Zonal qualifiers twice as well as the CAF Women’s Champions League and is the reigning Hollywoodbets Player of the season.
Red Skins fail to raise funds for championship
Lesotho volleyball giants Red Skins have failed to raise funds for the 2023 Zone 6 Senior Indoor Volleyball Club Championship they are set to host in December.
Red Skins will host the competition together with four other local volleyball clubs – Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Station (LMPS) and Rivers – and the tournament is expected to start on December 7 and end 10 days later.
Without any funds or sponsors coming in, Red Skins will have to foot the bill from their pockets for the tournament which will see teams from 10 countries converge on Maseru.
Among the participating nations, Botswana is expected to bring the biggest contingent with 12 teams, with Zambia following closely behind with nine teams while Zimbabwe is set to be represented by six teams.
Two weeks ago, Red Skins participated in the Elite Cup in Gauteng, South Africa, which was hosted by Aqua Darshan Volleyball.
Red Skins hoped to win the tournament and return home with a hefty jackpot but they only collected M5 000 which was won by the men’s team.
A gala dinner that Red Skins hosted last weekend also failed to generate income due to low attendance and speaking to thepost on Tuesday, the club’s vice-captain, Moleboheng Mofolo, said they will have to push on with what they have to host the tournament.
Mofolo said they no longer have time to come up with other means to raise funds.
“Tournaments will require us to find sponsorships and we do not have time now, we have to focus and train well,” Mofolo said.
“Our coach already told us to camp from this week but rain is our biggest challenge because we cannot continue with the training,” she added.
Mofolo said Red Skins are fortunate that participating teams are going to take care of their accommodation and catering. She said if Red Skins had to provide those services, they would not have been able to manage.
She pleaded with individuals, organisations and companies to help the team, whether it is by offering accommodation, food, or whatever little they may have.
Giants avoid each other in Top 4 clash
Women Super League (WSL) giants Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies and Kick4Life Ladies have avoided each other in the WSL Top 4 knockout competition.
The two-day showpiece takes centre stage this weekend at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena and it will see last season’s top four finishers in the league – LDF, Kick4Life, Lijabatho and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Ladies – go head-to-head for bragging rights.
The draw for the competition took place last Friday and the semi-finals will see LDF go up against Lijabatho while Kick4Life will take on LMPS Ladies.
Both semi-finals will be played on Saturday with the tournament culminating the following day.
Sunday’s proceedings will kick-off with a third-place playoff game to determine who walks away with the bronze medals before the final later in the day.
All four games over the two days will be streamed on the FIFA+ website and the WSL Top 4 will usher in a new sponsor this year.
In the past, the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) fully bankrolled the competition, however, Computer Business Solutions (CBS) has come on board with a sponsorship for the first time.
The competition’s prize monies have not been revealed because they are still being finalised, but, speaking at last Friday’s draw, LEFA’s associations secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi, said the relationship with CBS is one that sport should engage in.
Mohapi added his hopes that the relationship will be a long-term one.
“While others are busy at their thing, we should really grow ours so that when their distraction finally ends, they find us as united as we can be as the football community,” Mohapi said.
“(We should be) united by the efforts and inputs that emanate from the business community, especially when it is a truly Lesotho business entity because other (foreign entities) are here to take money,” he said.
Addressing CBS as the tournament’s sponsor, Mohapi said: “We are thankful as LEFA for your initiative; (we) hope you will be in this marriage quite long. We know we are just testing the waters but we have a lot that can entice you to stay longer, not only my command but the instruments that we have.”
Mohapi said LEFA’s dream is that in two years’ time all league matches will be streaming on the FIFA+ platform which was launched last April by football’s world governing body to increase exposure of men and women’s football around the globe.
Currently, only three grounds in the country have the structures for broadcasting; Bambatha as well as the grounds at LDF and Lesotho Correctional Service grounds, and all are in Maseru.
LEFA plans to add more grounds to the list with the DIFA facilities in Maputsoe and Mohale’s Hoek set to be the first to follow suit.
“All our women’s competitions, cup competitions and (Vodacom) Premier League matches that will be played in those stadia that have our infrastructure – we will be able to stream those games internationally,” Mohapi said.
“We have extended our footprint,” he added.
“We are now doing LDF – we have already put up the structure – then we are moving to Maputsoe and, hopefully, Mohale’s Hoek. It is our desire that in two years’ time we will hopefully cover all the matches and put them on the FIFA+ streaming platform.”
WSL Top 4 fixtures:
Lijabatho Ladies vs. LDF Ladies
LMPS Ladies vs. Kick4Life Ladies
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