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.”
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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