Under-17 coach fingered as soccer balls vanish

 MASERU — Lesotho national Under-17 coach Bishop Molatoli has been embroiled in an embarrassing scandal surrounding the disappearance of practice balls meant for the team.

Six of the team’s 10 balls were discovered missing when the youth side, popularly known as Bahlabani, were about to hold a training session last week.

Bahlabani face Cameroon at Setsoto Stadium on Sunday in a qualifier for the 2011 African Youth Championships.

The missing balls were part of the 2010 World Cup balls, known as Jabulani, that were donated by Fifa to all its member associations.

Two of the 10 balls originally allocated to the Under-17 side were reported lost in Maputo after their match against Mozambique in June.

But when the youngsters turned up for training last week, only two balls were available.

The Under-17 team management immediately held a meeting to probe how the balls could have disappeared.

Molatoli, according to a source close to the issue, is said to have then allegedly confessed that he had “lent” two of the balls to a “women’s football team”.

But when the Lesotho Times checked with the Under-17 management, the balls had not yet been brought back by yesterday.

Molatoli refused to discuss the issue when contacted for comment, insisting he wanted to know the source of the story first.

“Don’t come to me if you are not going to tell me the name of your source,” he said.

Under-17 team manager Thabo Pule has however sprung to Molatoli’s defence saying he had not stolen the balls.

He said the coach had rather lent two balls to “women’s football” without the team’s knowledge.

“Yes it is true that there were balls missing but they were not stolen by Ntate Bishop,” Pule said.

“I am surprised that you know about this issue yet it was discussed in a meeting held in closed doors involving four people.”

Pule said Molatoli had lent two balls to a “women’s team” which was training at Bambatha Tsita.

“According to my knowledge, Ntate Bishop took those two balls and gave them to the ladies team which was training while the Under-17s were resting,” he said.

“During our meeting to discuss the missing balls, that’s when we discovered that he had lent them to the ladies team.”

However, in an intriguing twist, Women’s Football Development Committee president Maleshoane Mokhathi has denied they ever received a ball from the Under-17 side.

Mokhathi said Lesotho does not have any national women’s team training at the moment.

“There is and was no women’s team practising at Bambatha and no team was given balls by the Under-17s in the past weeks,” she said.

“Under women’s football we do not have a national team and it is impossible for them to lend us balls.”

“Unless someone has formed their own national team that is currently practicing,” she added.

The whereabouts of the four other missing Jabulani balls has not yet been established.

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