Matlama demands to end league

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – Matlama FC’s General Manager, Lebenya Makakole, says the current Vodacom Premier League season should be ended. This follows suspension of the current league, after Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro announced last Thursday the country’s entry into the colour Purple Code which, among others, prohibits contact sports and spectators at games in observance of set Covid-19 protocols, that technically suspend football.

“In the last three weeks Covid infections and deaths as well as health system utilisation related to Covid-19 are increasing rapidly,” said Majoro in announcing the suspension. “The country has breached the threshold of epidemic control, which is five percent positive rate.” Majoro further said: “At nine to ten percent and rising, this level of infections, coupled with rising health system utilisation and a full blown third wave in South Africa necessitate a review of the current mitigation standard.”

This was after the Deputy Prime Minister, Mathibeli Mokhothu, also on July 1 suspended fans from attending sports activities. The 2020/21 Vodacom Premier League season has been played to the halfway mark, with 14 teams out of 16 having just completed their first round fixtures. Matlama are the current log table leaders having collected 40 points from 16 matches, while the defending champions Bantu are on second spot after collecting 37 points from 15 matches.

The current season kicked-off in December last year, after the previous season of 2019/20 was ended pre-maturely due to the Covid-19 lockdown, with the log leaders at the time Bantu being declared the champions and awarded the league title.

No teams were relegated from the previous Econet Premier League but two teams were promoted from the A-Division to the top-flight league. Matlama, who at the time were lying on second position, challenged the decision by the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) but lost the case in the Disciplinary and Protests Committee (DISPROCO), Appeal Court and Arbitration Tribunal respectively.

Makakole told Public Eye on Tuesday this week that as Matlama management, they warned the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) before the start of the current season that it would be better to wait for a proper time to start a new season and not in December.

Football seasons in the world start either in August or September and Lesotho also used to start its seasons at the same time. But because of previous lockdowns in Lesotho since March 2019 and which resulted in suspension of sports activities, football seasons in Lesotho got affected. Because of the same Covid-19 disruption, Lesotho is not going to compete in the 2021/22 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League.

LeFA and the PLMC had already announced the decision not to register any local team for the continental competition because the Vodacom Premier League is running behind schedule. Lesotho used to be represented by only the league champions in the CAF Champions League. Last year, Lesotho was represented by Bantu who could not go beyond the group stages of the competition.

“We gave advice even before the start of the current season that there may be many challenges that would likely result in us not to finish our season and, as a result, we asked why we couldn’t wait for a proper time to start our league and at the same time with other countries in the world,” said Makakole.

“But our advice was not considered, and now here is the situation.” Makakole further said: “We are just in a halfway, at the most of 65 percent of the league; not anything more than 60 percent of the league.” The Matlama General Manager said this situation could have been avoided had PLMC taken their advice.

“As things stand now, we don’t know what is going to happen. We are just waiting to hear when the league will resume, which I don’t think it is going to be after two weeks.” Makakole further revealed that at Matlama, they currently had players and officials who tested positive for Covid-19. “We have 10 players and three officials who have tested positive for the Covid-19 as we talk. So the question remains: When are we going to resume the league, and why don’t we start it afresh in September?”

Makakole said it didn’t make sense at all that LeFA and PLMC had already made the decision not to register any local team for the CAF Champions League while the domestic league was in full swing. “If they have already decided that none of local teams will be registered for the CAF Champions League then what are we playing for?”

Makakole said the best decision that LeFA and PLMC could take now is to award the league title to Premier League log-leaders (Matlama) and promote two A-Division current log-leaders (Machokha and Galaxy) in the south and north streams respectively, just like the two football mother bodies did with the 2019/20 season in the light of the Covid-19 disruption.

“It could be better if they could do what they did last time when we were in the same situation,” Makakole said. Just like Matlama in the Econet Premier League, Machokha and Galaxy were also occupying second position in the south and north streams of the Lesotho PostBank A-Division League respectively, and all these three teams are now on pole position in their respective leagues. “It would make sense if these three teams will be declared the champions because they (LeFA and PLMC) have set the precedence.

“However, we will wait for them to make decisions. But to be honest, the time is no longer on our side for us to complete the league and start a new season,” Makakole said. The suspension of contact sporting activities by Majoro and the government of Lesotho came after both PLMC and LeFA ordered all the premier league teams to undergo Covid-19 tests in light of the increasing infection among some of the top-flight clubs.

The directive by the two football mother bodies resulted in the suspension of last week’s midweek matches after four Linare players and three in the Manonyane camp tested positive for Covid-19.

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