MASERU –– When the 2009 Vodacom Soccer Spectacular finally kicks off in October there’s little doubt the nation’s eyes will be glued on the tournament.
The four-week extravaganza is Lesotho’s first M1 million football competition.
But that’s not the only reason all eyes will be fixed on the event. All eyes at football fields around the country instead will be on the number of goals that will be scored in this year’s Soccer Spectacular.
That may sound straightforward enough; goals win games.
However in Lesotho’s cup competitions goals have become a four-leaf clover –– very hard to find. The last three major finals in the country –– the MGC Supa 8 and Imperial Top 8 in 2008, and this year’s MGC contest –– have produced a grand total of five goals; two of those finales have been decided on penalties.
The most recent of these, LMPS’s 2-0 Supa 8 victory over LDF three weeks ago, was perhaps the worst cup final ever seen in Lesotho; a match where the ball spent more time airborne than on the ground –– a final that was more head-ball than football.
Unfortunately that is local football at the moment, a game that in terms of artistic value is at an all-time low; indeed if farming was a weekend sport it would possibly be more exciting to watch.
Teams have abandoned orthodox ways of playing football and matches in Lesotho are rarely inspiring, usually pass-less and forever played in frantic mode.
And in cup games, where sides are meant to be liberated, things get even worse.
Of course before criticising teams too much, it’s prudent to recognise that there are factors beyond their control.
The awful state of Lesotho’s fields is a classic example. No matter how talented a player is, it’s simply impossible to perform on pitches where it’s easier to predict lottery numbers than the direction in which the ball will bounce. As a result cup games in Lesotho will always struggle to be the action-fests they are elsewhere in the world.
There are other similarly overlooked factors that impinge on Lesotho’s cup football; however the biggest problem it faces ironically is the money it offers. That much needed, and welcomed, cash pumped into knockout competitions unfortunately also acts as a hindrance.
Because Lesotho’s football has remained so deprived, cup competitions offer the best chance for clubs to make ends meet. As such they are treated as the be all and end all.
Sad as it is, Lesotho’s Premier League is just not the bread and butter it should be,
Indeed when LMPS won the Supa 8 last month they attained more cash in one go than from their previous four Premiership finishes combined.
In short cups, unlike the league, offer much-needed cash instantly.
The results are disastrous. The objective for clubs is to avoid defeat rather than to win, As a result teams play the stalest football possible to win. Which is why when LMPS went ahead against LDF in Roma the police side invented a new formation – the 8-0-2.
Though to blame LMPS would be harsh; negativity is a bug that catches even so-called entertainers as soon as the whiff of money is in the air, sadly for fans free-flowing knockout football dies.
For Lesotho’s long-suffering fans, cups have become but a footnote for the negativity now endemic in the local.
In the 2008/09 Premiership season, 11 of the 16 league teams scored less than 40 goals. Five scored less than 30 –– less than a goal a game –– and the average goals scored per team was 35.
LCS the division’s highest scorers – and saviours of the league’s goals average –– got the bulk of their 62 goals from a few matches in sporadic thumping wins: 7-0 and 5-1 against Sekamaneng Young Stars, 6-0 vs Swallows, 5-0 vs Lerotholi and 5-3 against Naughty Boys. Masheshena in fact failed to score in eight league matches, including four goalless draws.