A section of football coaches, players, fans criticise it
MASERU – Some football coaches and players have criticised the recent re-election of Salemane Phafane as the president of the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) for a fifth term. They accused the veteran lawyer of lack of vision and underperformance. Phafane was re-elected at the association’s congress in Maseru, cruising past his only rival Lijane Nthunya, whose late candidature for LeFA’s top job drew calls for the long-serving Phafane to pull out of the race to allow new brains to direct national affairs in football. He comprehensively beat the Maseru District Football Association (DiFA Maseru) president, Nthunya, by 42 votes to 7.
But, although Phafane has successfully retained his position for the fifth time as president, some of football fans and officials are still not satisfied with his re-election. This was a huge victory for Phafane, who in 2013 won the presidential election polls by 39 votes to 12 against then LeFA Second Vice President, Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) Chairman and Lioli FC president, Lebohang Thotanyana. Phafane retained his position unopposed in the next presidential election in 2017.
Outspoken Lesotho Football Coaches Association Secretary General, Teele Ntšonyana, who has for a long time openly lambasted Phafane’s administration for failure to develop the country’s football, told Public Eye following the congress that the vote simply exposed the kind of football administrators this country has. “This simply explains why we are where we are in terms of football as a country,” said Ntšonyana in an interview on Monday this week. “It says that most people are at the same level with Phafane when it comes to their understanding and administration of football,” he added.
Ntšonyana further said: “A lot of people are still on that level, and we, therefore, should not expect miracles. Let’s expect that we will continue fumbling because a lot of people just endorse a candidate and fail to consider their integrity when we go into an election. They also fail to bring to mind FIFA and LeFA’s statutes.” Ntšonyana, who is a former Likuena, Swallows FC and South African Wits University striker, said the people who elevated Phafane to LeFA’s presidency do not care about football excellence at all.
“They don’t say anything about excellence in football. They are backers of mediocrity,” he continued, adding that these were the kind of people who do not have a full grasp of football. “It speaks volume. It tells a lot about the quality of the bigger chunk of the people who vote in the association’s congress.” According to football insiders this paper spoke to, Nthunya should have received votes from the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC), DiFA Maseru and the Lesotho Primary School Sports Association (LEPSSA). Ntšonyana concurs.
He shared with this reporter that he liked Nthunya’s challenge for the presidential post because, even though he lost, there are people who had bought into his vision and showed it by voting – an indication that they wanted something positive. “I happy for Nthunya and the people who voted for him. Those are the people who want to do away with the status quo; people who say no we want something positive and stood up regardless the fact that they were outnumbered.” Ntšonyana further said: “Let me say this for what it is. As a district, if I am correct, Maseru has 10 teams in our elite league that is the pinnacle of the national league.
“So, if Maseru (DIFA Maseru) voted for Nthunya, we are talking about people who have the understanding of football, and people of a certain calibre. If the premier league itself voted for Nthunya, we are talking about quality football, not quantity. “No, we are not giving up. We still want to strive for excellence in football. We want to strive for better quality football administration and governance. We still have to strive for better and good performance in the world.”
Ntšonyana said sport is a big industry, and that football should be treated as such – a big industry. “Sport is a very big industry and football is in that industry. So we are working tirelessly to ensure that, ultimately, football becomes an industry. “We still need to turn football into the industry that it should be.” On the other hand, football coach and ex-footballer, Kenny Mohoanyane, noted that the people who elected Phafane have exercised their democratic right.
“I will say that because we live in a democratic dispensation, and the fact that the global football governing body, FIFA, is similarly democratic, it can only follow that the delegates at the congress have demonstrated their right by voting for a person they think is a good football administrator. And that is why we have the massive difference in votes polled for each of the candidates,” said Mohoanyane.
“But if people want changes then they must be involved in the administration of football from lower division teams in their District Football Associations. That is the only way for them to qualify for football administration posts.” Mohoanyane said, as things stand, the people who were eligible to elect have decided on Phafane – though a lot of people appear to dislike his administration.
He said those who were complaining could not change anything, whether they are former footballers, legends or football fans. “It doesn’t make any difference if one would claim a stake in football by virtue of having played in previous years…yet they are currently not doing anything for football.” Mohoanyane called on football legends not to give up but contribute so that football goes in the right direction.
On the other hand, former DiFA Maseru President, Mothusi Letsie, said Phafane’s huge victory over Nthunya was an indication that the latter was completely not in the same league with his opponent. “This simply indicates that Phafane’s challenger was totally not in the same league with him,” said Letsie, “Again, his camp included, among others, people LeFA considers a threat; that also made it impossible for him to win as voters began to lose hope in him.”
Letsie further said there was a lot that Nthunya could have done before even thinking about challenging Phafane. “Look at his district (Maseru); there is absolutely nothing that he has done ever since he took the reigns (as DiFA Maseru President), not even a single sponsor or any kind of competition.” Letsie, who said Phafane won because there wasn’t a good challenger or the right candidate he also faulted what he said was an inadequate campaign by Nthunya.
“I don’t think his campaign was enough. Even if he tried, but he simply failed to do it the right way. “The problem was simply with the people he was associating himself with.” Letsie said apart from that, Nthunya was so far clean as a football administrator. “To be honest, he is clean and I liked his manifesto.” Kefuoe Lebesa, a former footballer, said Phafane won before the polls day.
“I would say the elections went well because, to be honest, Phafane won even before the election day,” said Lebesa. “Our District Football Associations had said it loud and clear that they supported Phafane.” Lebesa, therefore, said it shouldn’t be surprising that Phafane was elected by a lot of people. Speaking about Nthunya, Lebesa said he delayed to announce his campaign for the election.
“Nthunya started his campaign very late and I think next time anyone who would like to challenge Phafane must start his campaign on time.” Mohlaping Matsau, a football fan, said electing Phafane again was a disaster in waiting. “If a person can take so many years serving in the same position without any development under his leadership, but despite that people continue to elect him by a large number of votes, that alone is disaster,” said Matsau.
“My question is why President Phafane seems to be so desperate for LeFA’s presidency after so many years serving in the leadership of local football, unless he is benefiting somehow.” Matsau further said: “This doesn’t make sense at all. I think I need to find out from FIFA if there is a secret salary for him. I am suspicious.” Phafane has already served for four terms, totalling 16 years, as LeFA’s president and this is his fifth term in office. He succeeded the late Thabo Makakole, who died in a car accident in 2009. Makakole had also served as LeFA’s president for more than a decade.