MASERU – The 2020/21 Vodacom Premier League will be in full swing this weekend with interesting fixtures both tomorrow and on Sunday. The season actually resumed on Wednesday this week with a game between Lifofane and Lioli in Butha-Buthe. This was confirmed by the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC)’s Communications and Marketing Manager, Qamako Mahao.
The Lifofane-Lioli match was initially supposed to take place in December last year but had to be postponed because the pitch was not conducive for play at the time, and after that the league was suspended due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
When sports were suspended, football to be precise, by the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) even before the Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s official announcement of the COVID-19 lockdown, all the Premier League teams had just played four games, expect for Lifofane and Lioli who had played three league matches.
Prime Minister Majoro only announced that sports were allowed to return to action about three weeks ago, with fans also allowed at stadiums but not more than 2 500 at normal grounds and 50 percent capacity at proper stadiums like Setsoto. “Yes, the league resumed on May 12 with a game between Lifofane and Lioli in Butha-Buthe,” Mahao said.
“Then on May 15 and 16 all the teams will be in action.” Mahao said they had a meeting with all the 16 Premier League clubs’ bosses two weeks ago where it was agreed that in the beginning teams should not play more than one game per week given that the players had been inactive for full four months.
He said that was despite the fact that his committee had already reset the fixtures at the time. “But last week when we had a meeting with our 16 Premier League clubs they asked that in the beginning the teams be allowed to play one match per week since the players were inactive for quite a long time.
“That was the suggestion by the clubs and it became the decision because we couldn’t see anything wrong with that.” Mahao, however, said that would be a temporary programme as per their agreement with the clubs’ bosses. “As per our agreement, teams would play one match each per week for about four weeks and then after that we could start to have two to three fixtures a week,” Mahao said.
The local top-flight football season is already behind schedule as far as the international football calendar is concerned. Just like other leagues in the world, Lesotho Premier League used to start in August or at the beginning of September and end at the end of May the following year.
But this is not going to be the case this time around because of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw the Vodacom Premier League being suspended from January this year. Mahao said PLMC had projected the current season to come to an end either in August or September, with the first leg expected to end in July. “We are aiming to finish the 2020/21 season between August and September so that we could start our league at the normal time, come 2021/22 season,” Mahao said.
This is while Mahao again said people should, however, bear in mind that the plan may also be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic since no one knows when the virus will resurge.
The previous 2019/20 season was not played to the end due to the same pandemic, which led to the then Econet Premier League to be suspended and later end prematurely with eight matches remaining on average.
Bantu were leading the log standings with Matlama sitting in second position when the league was ended prematurely and, as a result, Bantu were declared the champions and went on to represent Lesotho at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League.
No teams were relegated from the Premier League while two teams were promoted from the A Division. Local top-flight teams also received their full league prize money according to the log standings as if nothing happened. Matlama, who were behind Buntu with 16 points, challenged the decision to award the league title to Bantu.
But Tse Putsoa lost the case at the Disciplinary and Protests Committee (DISPROCO), Appeal Court and at the Arbitration Tribunal. The current Vodacom Premier League log standing is a duplication of last season’s Econet Premier League, with Bantu on pole position and Matlama on second spot. This time around Bantu and Matlama have 12 points each from four leagues matches.
Matlama take on the 14th-placed FC Likhopo tomorrow, while Bantu are facing the ninth-placed Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) FC on Sunday, both matches will be at the Setsoto Stadium. Third-placed Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) FC welcome 10th placed Linare at the LCS Ground on Sunday. Masheshena, as LCS are popularly known, are two points behind both Matlama and Bantu on the 16-team Vodacom Premier League log table.
Vodacom Premier League weekend fixtures at a glance
Saturday, May 15
Matlama vs FC Likhopo (Setsoto Stadium) 15:00
Swallows vs LDF FC (Nyakosoba) 15:00
LCS FC vs Linare (LCS) 15:00
CCX FC vs Kick4Life FC (LAC) 15:00
Sunday May 16
Bantu vs LMPS FC (Setsoto Stadium) 15:00
Lioli vs Manonyane FC (Maputsoe DIFA Stadium) 15:00
Lifofane vs Lijabatho (Butha-Buthe) 15:00
Sefotha-fotha vs Liphakoe (LDF) 15:00