Sports minister Thesele ‘Maseribane says the national football team is struggling for funding to fulfil its 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) fixtures because government had not budgeted for the group stage of the competition.
Addressing reporters soon after holding a crisis meeting with national team players and Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) officials at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena on Monday this week, ‘Maseribane said it was unfortunate the team had refused to travel to Angola the previous night following a bitter row over allowances.
Likuena, as the team is popularly known, refused to leave for Angola on Sunday night for yesterday’s crunch Group C qualifier against Angola after Lefa had refused to bow down to the players’ demands for M5000 each, and had, instead, offered M600 in travel allowances.
However, the team only left on Monday evening—but without star-players Ralekati Mokhahlane and Tšepo Seturumane due to the allowance dispute—after the minister had promised to look into the issue.
“I have to say, the group stage was never budgeted for and this is a learning curve for us,” ‘Maseribane said regarding the team’s surprise qualification to the group stage of the qualifiers at the expense of giants Kenya and Liberia. “We have to make sure of better preparations in future when facing such serious competitions. My ministry will also pay some monies to the players as we try to find a way to settle the matter.”
‘Maseribane also said the political instability in the country had affected operations in some ministries, including his, hence failure to give Lefa its subvention. Lefa receives M1million a year in quarterly grants of M250 000 from the ministry but has not been given anything since the beginning of the year.
Speaking with reporters Monday, Lefa president, Salemane Phafane, admitted the M150 daily allowance each of the footballers is being given is not enough, adding however, that the players should have explored other means to resolve the issue instead of refusing to travel to Angola.
“We have attached one of our executive committee members to the team to oversee issues such as this allowance dispute. On our part as Lefa, we feel the players could have handled the matter better and communicated their grievances to their leaders within the team, instead of resorting to this type of behaviour,” Phafane said.
“We did not expect them to act the way they did, which to me, is like putting a gun to our heads and the whole country.
“It really does not make sense that the players always go on strike when they are supposed to be leaving the country for matches, yet they would have had the chance to communicate with their leaders within the team well before hand.”
However, team captain, Moitheri Ntobo, said it had become very difficult for the players to discuss financial issues with Lefa for fear of victimisation.
“The whole situation has become very difficult to communicate because in the past, we have seen players being victimised and never selected to play for the national team again,” Ntobo said.
“However, we are hopeful that the issue is going to be resolved now that the minister has promised to look into the matter. The M150 daily allowance is too little and has to be reviewed going forward.”