THE 2018/19Econet Premier League season has been marred by poor officiating in recent weeks so much that the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) had to step in and suspend some of the underperforming officials.
The trio of Retšelisitsoe Molise, Lesupi Puputla and Nteboheleng Setoko, were over a fortnight ago slapped with a two months’ suspension having hogged the limelight for failing to implement the laws of the game during the recent LNIG Top8 match between Matlama and LMPS.
This was after they failed to give Matlama striker Motebang Sera his marching orders after getting a second yellow card while he was being substituted. In the process, the officials allowed Matlama to replace Sera with another player when the side should have played the remaining part of the game with 10 men.
Molise, who was the referee on the day only realised his mistake when the substitution had already been made and he had no choice but to issue that red while Sera was already on the bench. However, the damage had already been done as Tse Putsoa still finished that match with 11 players.
This was a silly mistake by the referees and I applaud the LeFA’s Referees Committee for coming down hard on them with a suspension.
I’m sure it was a lesson to the concerned officials and others who have been underperforming in recent weeks to take their job seriously and always do the right thing.
It’s just not the trio that has exuded erratic performances in recent weeks. It has become a norm that local referees perform shambolically week in week out and that is a huge drawback for our football.
The Econet Premier League and the LNIG Top8 are at a crucial stage where poor officiating cannot be tolerated and the referees, just like the teams must pull-up their socks.
Sad as it may be, the current crop of referees has failed to live up to the standards of the likes of Mohau Sentšo, the late Paul Phomane, Tšepo Mokhemisa and Sekhonyana Seeiso among others, who were always on top of their game when they officiated in domestic competitions as well as international matches.
I think it’s also sad that Souru Phatšoane is the only local official who has progressed internationally to be officiating in top continental matches such as the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup.
This should be a motivation for all the match officials to perform well in the domestic league to break into CAF and FIFA panel of referees so that they get regular appointments to officiate in major continental competitions at club and national team level.
I was very proud during the 2018 edition of the COSAFA Cup to see both Phatšoane and Lebalang Mokete officiating in the final of the regional competition in Polokwane.
All eyes will be on the referees this weekend as the country’s big guns Bantu, Matlama, LCS and LDF battle it out for the LNIG Top8 trophy as well as the M100 000 first prize.