MASERU – The Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) Secretary General Mokhosi Mohapi has downplayed the suspension of Setsoto Stadium amid confusion by local football fans on what the ban of the pitch means for a poor country like Lesotho.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) suspended 23 stadia out of 56 for non-compliance. CAF revealed Setsoto’s suspension on Monday while announcing an entire list of pitches authorised to host the next World Cup qualifying matches.
The suspensions, according to international media, involve stadia in Lesotho, Mali, Liberia, Central African Republic, Namibia, Malawi, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Gambia, Eswatini, South Sudan, Somalia, Seychelles, Sao Tome, Niger, Chad, Eritrea, Malawi, Mauritius, Reunion, Sierra Leone and Zanzibar.
But Mohapi has downplayed the ban, saying it is intended for the current World Cup qualifiers which Lesotho is no longer part of since Likuena were knocked out of the competition by Ethiopia recently.
“There is an issue circulating on the social media about Setsoto Stadium being banned for CAF and FIFA competitions, particularly for the World Cup qualifiers,” said Mohapi in a media briefing at the Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena, LeFA headquarters, on Tuesday this week.
“Let me remind you dear partners that last year or the year before we played the preliminary qualifier against the national team of Ethiopia and we could not proceed to the group stages of the World Cup qualifiers which are about to start next month.”
Mohapi further added: “Now, CAF is the one who runs the World Cup qualifiers on the continent on behalf of FIFA, and so CAF has issued a circular about the stadia which will not be used for the current World Cup qualifiers. So we are not in the current World Cup qualifiers.
“That list of banned stadia does not have force on the Lesotho Football Association because we are not part of those games.”
Mohapi further insisted that in essence, CAF made a list of all the stadia which it said should not be used for next month’s qualifiers and not that it said Setsoto Stadium should not be used at all for any matches of both CAF and FIFA.
“I received a call from the Club Licensing Manager of CAF (Muhammad Feizal Sidat). They are saying in order to prepare for the next round of stadium inspection, so that when you qualify for CHAN or AFCON games we will issue you with small notifications on what you should look at for your grounds to be used. That’s what they just said,” Mohapi said.
An irate Mohapi said he would guide social media networks to that effect so that everybody would understand. This was since Mohapi believed the manner in which the issue of Setsoto Stadium was treated like was simply an attack to his association.
“Because now, what it has done and the manner in which it has be done was also an attack on the Lesotho Football Association when everybody else knows that Setsoto Stadium is not the property of the Lesotho Football Association.
“The property of the Lesotho Football Association in Setsoto Stadium is the (artificial) pitch.” Mohapi therefore said their pitch qualifies. “The pitch qualifies, while some little amenities do not qualify. “So because there is an onslaught on LeFA it was pushed in that direction so that the attack would be on LeFA.”
Attempt to get comments from both the Minister of Sports Likeleli Tampane and the ministry’s Chief Information Officer Maqalika Matsepe proved fruitless.
Tampane could not be reached on both her mobile phones; one was unreachable while the other rang unanswered. Matsepe was, on the other hand, first reached on his mobile phone but promised to call back after he finished what he was doing but from there his phone rang unanswered.
It is reported that CAF had already warned its member associations on April 1 about the requirements and the supervision of stadia.
“It had asked the member associations participating in the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, to organise the matches in stadiums that are up to standards,” said one source.
The 23 stadiums, including Setsoto Staduim, have not been approved by the Security and Safety Department of CAF and consequently these countries will have to organise the matches in other countries with quality lawns.
Setsoto Stadium is the biggest stadium in Lesotho, based in the capital city Maseru, which over the years was used to host international games.
Lesotho’ second biggest stadium is Leshoboro Staduim based in Mafeteng.
Leshoboro has not been used for more than three years due to the poor condition of the pitch, amongst others.
Other stadia in Lesotho are the likes of DIFA Maputsoe Stadium based in Maputsoe, Leribe and Bocheletsane Stadium based in Mantšonyane, Thaba-Tseka.
But the last two stadia are not up to standard for hosting big football international tournaments and matches.
This is despite the fact that Bocheletsane Stadium hosted the Rugby Africa Regional Sevens South Tournament in 2019.
The Federation of Lesotho Rugby (FLR) Secretary General Litšitso Motšeremeli said Bocheletsane Stadium met rugby international standard, hence they hosted the tournament of that magnitude two years ago.
“The standard of Bocheletsane stadium is fine for rugby and some sporting codes, but soccer has different standards,” said Motšeremeli yesterday.