MASERU — Fifa development officer Ashford Mamelodi says Lesotho has moved very little in implementing the recommendations in the Mohale Declaration, a roadmap designed to help turn local football professional.
According to the roadmap, signed two years ago, Lesotho is supposed to have professional football by 2014.
By then the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) should have introduced a club licensing system, a contracts system for coaches and players and a coaching licence scheme, the Mohale Declaration says.
Lefa is also expected to oversee the establishment of youth development leagues and the implementation of safety procedures at matches.
But after visiting the country last week Mamelodi, the international football body Fifa’s development officer in the region, noted the implementation of the roadmap was sluggish.
“I would say three (out of 10),” Mamelodi told the Lesotho Times on Monday when asked what he thought of Lefa’s achievements so far in implementing the Mohale Declaration.
“There have been some achievements but there are still areas that have to be urgently addressed.”
Mamelodi dismissed scepticism that the roadmap was overly ambitious for a country whose top-flight football is still at a very amateur level.
“The declaration is not an imposition by Fifa,” he said.
“For anybody to suggest that it is ambitious means they have no desire to see football in the country improve.”
Mamelodi said professionalising the game was the only way Lesotho could attract sponsorship.
Domestic football is played at appalling facilities, with negligible sponsorship and no television coverage.
“No sponsor is going to sponsor a poorly organised league,” Mamelodi said.
“For every R10 a sponsor expects R100 in return. That’s how a sponsor thinks.
“That is why South Africa is successful.
“We will never know why Likuena can’t compete, but the reason is that there is no professional league in Lesotho.
“Becoming professional comes at a cost, not a monetary one — the football fraternity must be ready for a change.”
As part of the roadmap, the Premier League will be trimmed from 16 teams to a manageable 12 sides.
“(Sixteen teams) are too many in a country with a population the size of Lesotho’s (1.8 million people) and considering where football is right now,” he said.
“There are teams that are just in the league to donate goals and points.
“They weaken the league and it’s not good for the marketability of the league.”
So far all Premier League clubs have met the minimum requirements as set out in the Mohale Declaration to have 100 registered supporters, a rubber stamp and a revised constitution.
Each team is also expected to provide a technical area with 24 seats during matches as well as eight marshals and a stretcher.
Mamelodi said this was a step in the right direction yet too little.
“Clubs need to have an office — that was one of the areas we pressed on so that if there is a simple delivery you know where you can find a club,” he said.
“These are little things that help development.”
Mamelodi said Lesotho was lagging behind countries such as Botswana and Swaziland in terms of football development.
He said the two countries had made huge strides in turning their football professional since embarking on roadmaps similar to the Mohale Declaration in 2007.
“Before their declaration (Botswana) found it very difficult to attract sponsors,” Mamelodi said.
“But afterwards the league agreed a television deal worth R1.5 million a year. Now it is worth R5 million.”
Mamelodi urged Lefa to take the centre stage in the implementation of the Mohale Declaration.
“Lefa should look at strategies to improve facilities. That is their job, and it is crucial to achieving the Mohale Declaration,” he said.
“I don’t care about national youth programmes. Being professional is the most important to a country’s football (because) clubs produce youth structures and development strategies.”
Lesotho has only one venue, Setsoto Stadium, which can meet international standards.
The majority of the facilities used by Premier League teams are either sandy or rocky or uneven grounds with patches of grass.
“I believe the issue of facilities is one they should look at,” Mamelodi reiterated.
“But I’ve been told that they are doing something.”
“This is the only country in the whole region where you can watch a Premier League match for free,” he added.
“That is valuable revenue being lost.”
Mamelodi said Fifa was keen to assist countries that were making efforts to improve the game.
He said he hoped Lesotho would fulfil the Mohale Declaration by the 2014 deadline.
“We would like to see it done by 2014,” Mamelodi said.
“We don’t have a problem with extending the process until 2016 but we will only extend if progress has been made, not because nothing has been done.
“Fifa wants to focus on countries that are taking strides forward.”
Mamelodi was in Lesotho to oversee a Fifa development workshop held in Mohale last week.
He was also present at the Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena on Monday as the Premier League’s 16 clubs were presented with equipment from Fifa.