Are sports ministerâ€™s threats about Likuena coming to life?
The government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation (MGYSR) said it has no money to assist the national senior menâ€™s soccer team Likuena with preparation for the African Cup of Nation (AFCON) 2023 preliminary round.
Although that is the official response to the question of why Likuena cannot be supported by the ministry, it comes hot on the heels of a public controversy made by the sports minister Likeleli Tampane last month.
Speaking at a soccer tournament at her Senqu constituency in the Mokhotlong district on January 12, 2022 the sports minister said she would not rally support for Likuena as long as players from Mokhotlong where she comes from, do not make it into the national squad.
â€œI would be useless as a minister of sports if the players from Mokhotlong do not feature in the Likuena set up, and I would rather not support Likuena if my hometown players do not play in the national team,â€ said Minister Tampane then.
At the back of the public spat which had ensued, Tampane had come out in defense of her statement saying that it had been misinterpreted and taken out of her intended context, which was motivating political talk made to encourage the players from her hometown and that it meant no harm to the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) or Likuena.
â€œLeFA has no reason to worry because we have already put together a budget on their behalf,â€ she added.
This has come in direct contrast of what has happened as the national team prepares for AFCON action.
However, LeFA Secretary-General Mokhosi Mohapi indicated that the comeuppance had come as no surprise to them because it was manifestation of the ministerâ€™s warning-cum-threat made last month.
Speaking at a media briefing in Maseru this week, Mohapi did not mince his words as he mentioned that the response they got from the ministry regarding their letters was not a coincidence since the minister in her speech in Mokhotlong sent what he calls a warning to the association though he said at the time it was later down played.
â€œAt that time I remember well that I gave a warning to say if ever Likuena is not supported in any way by the Sports ministry it would make complete sense what the minister meant,â€ said Mohapi.
He said that they wrote to the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC) early in January to notify them of the upcoming AFCON home and away games but it was only in February when the ministry responded through LSRC.
â€œOn the 13 of January we wrote to the ministry to notify them that Likuena has been enrolled for the AFCON 2023 games and that later on in the year our intention is to enroll it to compete in the CHAN tournament.
â€œWe also inquired about how far rehabilitations of the Setsoto Stadium are, we never got an answer but we made them aware that if the stadium is still not rehabilitated we shall have to host in South Africa (SA) which means we will incur costs,â€ Mohapi said.
He stated that amongst costs they are to incur is the hiring of training grounds while in SA, hiring of the actual stadium where Likuena is to host their home game at, as well as accommodation, administration and media expenses.
Meanwhile, a response by the ministry indicated how as a result of decreasing budgetary allocations they stood short of sufficient funds to finance the contest.
â€œTake note that the ministry is currently experiencing some financial constraints and a continued budget decrease for 2022/23 as compared to the previous years,â€ reads the response letter.
Meanwhile, Mohapi announced that Likuena will host its home game at Dobsonville in Soweto, South of Johannesburg in Gauteng South Africa.
Mohapi stated that they chose Dobsonville as the preferred stadium based on positive results records they have for games played there.
â€œYou will remember that in the year 2009/10 we played the South African under-20 in the AFCON qualifiers and won that game 2-1 while in 2019 Likuena won 3-0 against Bafana Bafana in the Chan qualifiers. So we have seen that our players are a lot comfortable playing there,â€ Mohapi said.