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All roads lead to Butha-Buthe

by Lesotho Times
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MASERU — All roads lead to Butha-Buthe this weekend when the eagerly awaited M1 million Vodacom Soccer Spectacular tournament finally gets underway.
But should this be the case?
Should Butha-Buthe really be the centre of attention?
All the weekend’s Vodacom Soccer Spectacular first-leg, quarter-final ties are being played at Butha-Buthe’s Pitso Ground as double headers.
Butha-Buthe is the Lesotho  Football Association’s choice of venue for the quarter-final first-legs.
On Saturday, Qalo take on Matlama in the tournament opener before Bantu and LCS clash in the day’s second game.
Then on Sunday, Manamela’s match against LDF will be followed by the game between Likhopo and Lioli.
All second-leg ties will be played at LCS’s Central Prisons ground two weeks later.
But while there is excitement over Lesotho’s most lucrative cup competition ever, there is also an overshadowing sense of anti-climax.
The majority of the participating teams will not have the opportunity to play their games at home — a privilege warranted when their teams were voted into the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular.
Bantu (71 831 votes), Matlama (47 685) and Lioli (46 994) who are the teams with the biggest fan bases in the country will not have the chance to host any game.
“The thing is that the teams in the tournament have been voted for by their fans and so the supporters deserve to see their team,” Lioli’s communications and marketing manager Moeketsi Pitso said this week.
Butha-Buthe is 90km away from Teyateyaneng, Lioli’s home town.
The majority of Mafeteng people too will not have the opportunity to see their team, Bantu, in action.
A trip to Butha-Buthe will, depending on the mode of transport, cost fans from Teyateyaneng, Mafeteng and Maseru a minimum of M50.
“The fans don’t have the money to go to Butha-Buthe,” Pitso said.
“Teams have said that the next time such decisions are being made they should be consulted.”
“We voted with our money (for our team to qualify for the tournament) and the expense is going to be too much because Butha-Buthe is far,” Mososo Ntaopane, treasurer of Lioli’s Maseru supporters’ branch, said.
“It also doesn’t help the promotion of the game here in Teyateyaneng. It is very painful.”
But that is not the only problem — teams will not get the much-needed gate revenues.
“We are going to lose revenue, and we have nothing,” Tšiu Monne, Matlama’s public relations officer, said.
“Just because we are playing in a rich tournament doesn’t mean the teams suddenly have money.
“For football it is a bad move.
“It is important that the qualifying games are played at the teams’ home grounds.
“The final can be played anywhere, no problem.
“It takes a lot away from the supporters and the game.
“We need to take football to the country but it doesn’t mean others have to suffer.”
On the field of play the away-goals rule means it will be hard for the hosting teams.
One of those is Bantu who have the added disadvantage of playing LCS at their Central Prisons ground in the return fixture.
“It is a disadvantage,” Kabelo Ramolula, member of Bantu’s technical team, said.
“If we were playing at home of course we would have more supporters.”
The only sides that will have home ground advantage are Qalo in the first leg and LCS in the second.
Qalo, naturally, are not complaining.
“It will give us a crowd and a bit of an advantage,” Qalo coach Seboche Chenene said.
“We are not afraid of Matlama and I’m not going into the game with thoughts that they are the better team.”
On the field the likely winners of this year’s Vodacom Soccer Spectacular are tough to call.
Matlama have made a good start to the season and are undefeated in the league, but Lioli are always in with a shout.
The state teams, LCS and LDF, bring solidity and experience while Likhopo cannot be counted out.
But, no doubt, the atmosphere would have been enhanced if the teams were playing at their home grounds.

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