It has been over a year since Baholo Motene (BM) took office as the President of the Lesotho Womenâ€™s Football Executive Committee, a move that prematurely cut short her career to focus on the new role as the face of Women Football in the country.
In the process, she became the youngest President of Lesotho Womenâ€™s Football Executive Committee.
In this wide-ranging interview, the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) media team sat down with Motene to reflect on her first year at the helm of the womenâ€™s football body and the disruptions brought about by the Corona virus pandemic to the sport.
LeFA: President, thank you for making time to talk to us. Letâ€™s get straight to it and discuss especially the increasing number of female footballers who are getting opportunities to ply their trade outside of Lesotho. It surely makes you happy as the president of the committee.
BM: Women football is now like a wildfire that is quickly spreading. Itâ€™s a privilege to be pioneering a move to support the girl-child breaking stereotypes and redefining the impossible. But more so, ensuring that they emancipate themselves and their families from poverty, as we all know that here at home, female footballers make nothing or earn peanuts from the sport.
Itâ€™s probably when they are with the national teams that they get camping and traveling allowances.
We need to keep on exporting more players so that our national teams are well fortified with players that will bring international exposure into the national team camps. This is all thanks to the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA), as the funder of women football leagues and other competitions. The more we play international competitions, the better the chances of women footballers getting scouted and securing contracts beyond our borders. I strongly hope that in the next camps, our women senior team, Mehalalitoe will showcase a better performance as our teams would have returned to competitive football and the pool of players will also be much broader unlike the previous year.
LeFA: Talking of Mehalalitoe, LeFA has registered the LDF Ladies team for the inaugural COSAFA Women Champions slated for August and September.
BM: It will be a historic moment for women football in Lesotho and of course an eye opener. Our teams need to start working hard and look for quality players, assemble good coaches to improve their players and make them competitive in local and international competitions. Itâ€™s not going to be easy for other teams because there appears to be a big gap between both LDF and Kick4Life Ladies with the rest of the teams in the Women Super League. The ball is in their court to work hard to close the gap.
LeFA: How would you describe your journey since you were elected as the President?
BM: A bag of mixed emotions, I would say. Administratively, things have been quite good as it has been a year of great content. We plan but most of the time fail to implement because of the restrictions brought about by the pandemic (covid-19). Our main task with the committee is to improve the standard of women football in all aspects to be more competitive. The FIFA and LeFA Relief Fund has been a blessing in disguise as it has helped us buy football equipment for our teams as well as PPE to protect them during the pandemic. Our teams have managed to come back and play successfully without any outstanding COVID-19 related issues.
There is no doubt that the long layoff did a lot of damage to our football, but we had to find ways to bounce back and that is why we sat down as a committee working with the Women Football Coordinator and decided to play using a new format after coming back.
We congratulate Kick4Life, who were recently crowned champions after defeating LDF 2-1 in the final. The number of women developmental teams has also increased. Most of the districts have managed to establish leagues for their developmental teams, but they have been forced to postpone their games on several occasions whenever there is a surge of infections in their respective districts.
LeFA: Your career was prematurely ended after you were elected as the president of the committee. How was the transition from a player to management?
BM: It hasnâ€™t been quite easy to be honest. I have been playing for a long time, from the girls U-17 team, U-20, and the senior team. I then joined the army hoping that I would rest, but that did not happen. I played a key role in the formation of the LDF Ladies team and instead of moving into the administration side of the game, I felt I still had a lot to offer as an experienced and quality left-back. I was a sort of a set piece specialist and scored many goals from free kicks. No defender has as many goals as I do in the Women Super League. LeFA Deputy Secretary General, Ntate Chris Bullock can attest to that, hahahahahaha.
After moving into administration, the plan had always been to make a meaningful contribution towards the development of women football in Lesotho. I realized that I could not continue playing because I had a lot of responsibilities as the President. It was a sad choice to make having to let go of my career as a player and focus on the administration component of the sport. At the same time, I was happy that I would pave the way for a young player who was ready to take over from me and fulfil the dream that I also had as a young player. In the end, I was able to hang up my boots in peace knowing that I had created an opportunity for a young player. Moving to management was bound to happen at one stage. I think that several young female administrators were afraid to contest elections and take up these administrative positions. We need to encourage more females to go into sports administration, coaching and refereeing. They can take up courses to prepare them for such roles when they are in the twilight of their careers.
That will make things easy for them to make the transition once they hang-up their boots. FIFA is calling-out for more women to be involved, especially in their respective territories. We want to see more female administrators, coaches and referees. A good example is with the upcoming Champions League where CAF wants a female coach in the technical team of every club that will be competing in the tournament, but itâ€™s not just that, but it should be a qualified female coach and that by itself says, we need to invest in female coaches. There are a lot of opportunities in football because Iâ€™m one of those that started as a volunteer at LeFA. I always availed myself to the then Women Football coordinator as well as the Secretary General and they were happy to utilize my services. That helped a lot and gave me the experience to grow as a young football administrator and as they say, the rest is history.
President Baholo Motene – A year in office