Open Letter to Prime Minister Thabane
FOR years, the sports fraternity has been crying out for government support and it would appear this time those pleas have found receptive ears.
It’s only been a month since you were sworn in as Lesotho’s Prime Minister but you are already playing a leading role in organising support and motivating athletes to do better.
Honourable Thabane, you are demonstrating your leadership skills by doing what the previous government failed to do.
The former Prime Minister wielded power for a long time but sadly that did not translate into meaningful support for sport in the country.
But in the month since your return to power, Ntate Thabane, you have been supportive of our beloved Likuena, attending their send-off ceremony to Comoros a fortnight ago as well as their Sunday clash with the same side at Setsoto Stadium.
Even Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) president Salemane Phafane was in raptures, describing your efforts especially your attendance of Likuena events as the first time he has witnessed this from a prime minister.
Ntate Phafane has been around in football administration and that means he knows what he is talking about.
Before Sunday’s match, you even appeared on national television alongside Sports Minister, Kabelo Mafura to rally Basotho to fill up Setsoto Stadium.
This certainly worked like a charm as the match attracted large numbers although our 1-0 win sadly failed to turn the fixture in our favour.
Yes, we are all disappointed that despite your best efforts, Likuena was eliminated from the African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers on a 1-2 aggregate score.
All the same, your efforts cannot go unrecognised and for that I will tell it on the mountains that you have did well, Honourable Prime Minister.
Having said that, we are however, going to need the same if not greater commitment from you and the government to enable our country to finally take its place of pride among the world’s great sporting nations.
I want to draw your attention to the Likuena players that you heartily supported through their busy schedule in different competitions over the past few weeks.
These players have been working hard for months and they have been forced to sacrifice quality time with their families in order to represent the country in three different competitions.
Before Comoros, the same group of players were in Tanzania on 10 June for the opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations. Shortly afterwards, they spent almost a week in South Africa at the COSAFA Cup where they narrowly lost out to eventual winners, Zimbabwe, in the semi-final.
I will not even go into details about the preparatory friendlies they played in Swaziland but suffice to say, these players have not rested as they went into camp immediately after a gruelling Vodacom Premier League season.
I can sadly bet that despite all the blood, sweat and tears, they will not be having anything to show for that by way of remuneration when they reunite with their families.
I mean proper incentives of the kind enjoyed by their counterparts in other countries whenever they are on national duty for such a long time.
They get allowances from LeFA every now and then but these are just peanuts which do not make them feel appreciated and loved for their patriotism.
We may blame LeFA but there is only so much that they can do without sponsors.
So, my plea to you Honourable Prime Minister is that government should ensure that companies that are making millions in this country also give back by sponsoring sporting activities.
Now that you and government have expressed and demonstrated a desire to serve the nation, your influence must extend to the corporate world.
It is only when our athletes and teams have proper sponsorship that they can perform on the grand stage.
It is only when we have good sponsorship, facilities and infrastructure that Likuena will no longer be continental whipping boys.
Honourable Prime Minister, it is not good that our clubs are competing for a M100 000 and M200 000 first prizes in our domestic competitions.
It gets even worse in the lower divisions where teams receive as little as M12 000 for winning a competition.
While I understand that this is better than nothing, it is also my duty to tell the truth by saying this is grossly inadequate.
Players get the same if not more for winning individual accolades in neighbouring South Africa and such amounts only serve to make us the laughing stock among fellow African countries.
I know for a fact that clubs in the premier league spend way more than what they finally receive as prize money.
First division sides spend at least M50 000 on logistics during the season.
Admittedly, we have a smaller economy compared to South Africa but that is no excuse for substandard sponsorship packages.
A contributory factor is the trust issue between companies and sports associations which has been caused by lack of accountability within sports federations.
I therefore call on government through the minister of sports to also find ways to root out corruption in the sports associations.
We also have administrators who want to remain in power forever despite their failure to bring the necessary changes to grow and improve sport.
Not long ago, our football was embroiled in a match fixing scandal that hit a lot of Southern African countries who participated in a tournament in Malaysia in 2007.
But no one cared to investigate this matter thoroughly despite some players coming out and declaring that they were paid huge some of amounts to throw away matches in Malaysia where in one of the games, Likuena lost 5-0.
It was reported that our association had been in contact with convicted match-fixer Raj Perumal.
The likes of Zimbabwe and South Africa have since punished those that brought into their game into disrepute after they were found guilty.
This maybe one of those things that continues to haunt our football as it seems companies only sponsor clubs instead of national teams.
You have already taken giant steps, O Prime Minister, and it is exciting to players, the sports fraternity and the nation to see you with all hands on deck in reviving the sporting spirit in the country.
Surely things will improve for the better if you last the distance and do more to assist sport in our beautiful Mountain Kingdom.