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Likuena to play games in SA

Business

Chris Theko

The senior national soccer team Likuena will be forced to play their official matches on foreign soil as a result of venues’ unavailability in the country following last year’s out-casting of the Setsoto Stadium as venue fit for hosting any international games.

This was announced by the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) in a media briefing at Bambatha TÅ¡ita in Maseru on Tuesday.

The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) condemned Setsoto Stadium for hosting any FIFA fixtures since May 2021. Over half a year later, the stadium is still in wreaks forcing LeFA to look to neighbours South Africa to host Likuena games.

Speaking at the briefing LeFA President Advocate Salemane Phafane KC, said the embarrassing decision had to be made in order to avoid any confusion.   

“We have come to this decision based on the calendar we have for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) because the preliminaries will start soon and there is still no clear indication of Setsoto being ready by then.

“The reason we are putting this out to the public is so that when it happens people should not be surprised by seeing their team play outside the country,” said Phafane.  

Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced in May 2021 that Setsoto stadium and a host of other stadia in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mali, Central Africa Republic, Burundi, Eritrea, Chad, Gambia and Namibia had been banned from hosting FIFA fixtures. 

This meant all the countries whose stadia have been condemned will have to play their home games in any official FIFA recognized grounds until they have put their houses in order; this includes World Cup AFCON qualifier games.

Some of the things that saw Setsoto being suspended was the substandard changing rooms, lack of requisite amenities such as equipped doping room, lack of internet facilities, sanitation, and warn out artificial turf.

“The expectation was that by now at least most if not all of this things will have been attended to and fixed but until now there is still no change,” Phafane said. 

Setsoto stadium is sorely under the management of government through the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation (MGYSR) and all the expenses of its upkeep are government’s responsibility. 

In the same month that the stadium was condemned by FIFA, the government approved a M250 million budget which was to go towards upgrades at the stadium. However, all that was attended to in preparation for the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games was the re-installation of the tartan track while it was expected that the artificial turf would be attended to in January 2022 due to time constraints. That is also yet to be realized.

Be that as it may, the stadium was utilised as the main arena for the games which played from 3 to 12 December 2021.

When asked about the stadium’s artificial turf being changed and other upgrades attended to in January as the ministry had said, Phafane said they are not going to take any chances with waiting for the ministry on something that took months being said.

“It is the middle of January now and there has not been anything happening at the stadium as far as renovations, so we are not going to wait for something that we do not see taking place hence we are taking the step to be proactive and start preparing now.

“However, we are still expecting that they will do as they have been promising since May last year,” Phafane said in reference to the leadership of the sports ministry.

Phafane further stated that they have already written to the ministry to notify them of their move given the current circumstances and they are still awaiting a response.    

Speaking on behalf of the ministry of sports, Maqalika Matsepe confirmed that the ministry has received the letter by LeFA and is going through it. 

“We are aware of the letter by LeFA and the media briefing they had however the letter is currently with the director for Sports who will go over it and respond as it was only received today (Thursday),” Matsepe said. 

The draw for the AFCON 2023 will take place today (Friday) and Likuena is amongst the countries that will start the competition in the preliminaries and the games are to be played in March this year.             

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