Lesotho Sports Minister dribbling politics into sport
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…but LEFA says it won’t be intimidated
By Itumeleng Koleile and Lerema Pheea
Sports minister Likeleli Tampane’s threat to withdraw ministerial support from the national soccer team, Likuena, if players are not drafted from her constituency has been condemned as an intimidatory tactic that would not intimidate Football.
Tampane, in a televised comment, said she would be inept if during her tenure as a sports minister her constituency [Senqu constituency in the district of Mokhotlong] football players would not be among the country’s national team players.
The Minister went on to threaten that she would withdraw her ministry’s support to the national team if its players would not be selected from her home constituency.
But when contacted for comment by KDNews Tampane said she will only comment on the matter after having had the audience of the LeFA on the issues as its interpretation of her statement is that the interpreter was under pressure.
Tampane’s remarks aroused many retaliatory remarks from soccer fanatics and political activists who accused her of fiddling in affairs of an independent process of selection of players that has nothing to do with politics.
Among the retaliatory responses was a cutting statement from the Lesotho Football Association posted on its Facebook page and confirmed as a formal response to the minister’s remarks by the association’s spokesperson Mikia Kalati.
LeFA said it is “shocked by Honourable Likeleli Tampane’s statement calling for the selection of players from her constituency into the National Team (Likuena).
“…LeFA is extremely disappointed with…Minister’s remarks and wishes to remind her that selection of players into the national teams, is done only by the coaches and it is done purely on merit.
“We want to make the Honourable Minister aware that neither the coach nor LeFA will be blackmailed into calling players from Minister’s constituency into the national teams in exchange for her support to the Association and or the national teams,” LeFA also said.
Following an interview with LeFA’s Secretary-General Mokhosi Mohapi, KDNews understands the minister and the association relations can be best described as having been that of “hate at first sight”.
“I will take you back, she [Tampane] was less than 72 hours in the office and when she made a similar statement, so what she said was not a slip of a tongue.
“It is on record; she made the same remarks that we should not expect that she will be helping out or working with LeFA. A lot of people who were there and listening to her when she was introduced, she was being introduced to the ministerial staff and the sports fraternity at the Lesotho Football Association’s headquarters. That’s when she made the shocking remarks.
“Now it has reared its ugly head again, it’s an error if she erred once, so I don’t think ‘M’e letona has erred,” said Mohapi.
Mohapi further added that Tampane should be cognizant that Article 16 of FIFA clearly stipulates and detaches football from political interference or influence.
“The minister is a political figure, and if she is a political figure and says now the national team should be selected on the basis of the people from constituencies, oh no! are we seeing the reincarnation of the capture that was done to the Lesotho wool and mohair industry?
“Knowing what finally transpired many a farmer went without receiving their payment, some of them due to frustration passed on.
“You may say I should qualify that but ask the Lesotho Wool and Mohair leadership, they may tell you that quite a lot have passed on, not many as such but there is a number of people who passed on as a result of the stress.
“What we are saying is that not even the [LeFA] National Executive Committee selects the players. That is the prerogative of the coach,” said Mohapi.
Mohapi said football is ruled under non-discrimination rules and Tampane seems to be suggesting that players should be drafted based on political affiliations.
He said many a country tried to go against the FIFA rules but they ended bringing chaos into soccer.
“Many a country says we will do this, until FIFA says, okay! you do not care about us, you are not even funding your organizations back at home, they survive purely because they are funded by us, FIFA, let us hold our finances and see how long you will last,” Mohapi said.
“In the long term, when the shit hits the roof, then everybody says, wait, I don’t think we made the right decision because now in the short term it satisfies you and everybody but in the long term, then the reality kicks in.
“Where is the money to pay the staff, where is the money to pay the overheads, where is the money to ensure that the national teams are intact, where is the money to buy equipment? And knowing the kind of government we have!” he said.
Mohapi further added that maybe somebody will argue that “‘m’e letona was happy seeing potential votes but she should have been careful that she couldn’t risk in a recorded medium which a television for her information’s sake that also has archives”.
Mohapi said LEFA would not just react without having been provoked by Tampane whom he said made her shocking remarks in a recorded medium.
“And we thought she would have seen that this needs a retraction, and have retracted before we react,” he said.
Mohapi said among the various reasons they had to react to the sentiments shared by the minister threatening withdrawal of support were the derelict state of Lesotho’s only national stadium, Setsoto.
“The stadium is in tatters; it has been ruled out for hosting any international matches. You must be also aware that on the 23rd of January, CAF will be conducting the draw of games for the 2023 AFCONs where we have enrolled our team.
“Basotho should not be surprised then that Lesotho will play its matches either in Johannesburg or in Bloemfontein.
“And they know very well, I mean as we speak now, the ministry has paid 4000 dollars as a fine for a dilapidated stadium. That stadium is under control of the ministry of sport,” said Mohapi.
He added that Lesotho has been told that for its home games, Setsoto Stadium cannot be used until concerns presented that were forwarded onto the ministry have been addressed.
Mohapi said among other shenanigans displayed by Tampane included a time when she wrote to FIFA.
“The Minister wrote to FIFA for various issues and they communicated with LeFA, asking, what is your minister trying to say here? FIFA will never communicate with a minister; it will always communicate with associations.
“If there is a matter to be transferred onward to minister it will always be through LeFA.
“Somebody was saying let FIFA suspend us [Lesotho], we can manage our own things, what! Not even your players will be able to transfer to other countries because once suspend you, they remove you from the system.
“Only a few who wanted to be in their favor will win it, but it has never lasted for more than three weeks. Nigeria did it twice, the minister said I have suspended you; I have disbanded you. And they said okay! that’s good, we have disbanded them, give us our financial report now, so that we know which money you have taken over from the legitimately enacted football association.
“Because obviously if you are going to take over their financial facilities it means then you are going to use part of the money that belongs to FIFA,” said Mohapi.
Mohapi told KDNews that in October 2021, LeFA’s President, Advocate Salemane Phafame, and the Honorable Minister met and they resolved matters concerning the two organizations: LeFA and the ministry. He said Phafane and Tampane agreed that there shall always be consultations between the two on mutually beneficial issues.
But, Mohapi said the sentiments shared by the minister shocked them and they tried to ask her ministry’s information office to explain the statement by the Ministry to no avail.
Tampane said she had talked to LeFA’s secretary-general Mohapi, about their statement as she believes it would have been fair to have talked to her about her statement before having gone public about their statement.
“I talked to Mohapi and requested that he helps find whoever wrote the statement because I reckon the writer could have communicated with me beforehand as colleagues.
“I will wait until I find him because I believe he may have written the statement under pressure as such it is my request that you give a chance to talk to whoever wrote the statement for me to address the issue accordingly,” she said.
She added that there are no sour relations between her and the association.
“There are no sour relations between me and the association, there is no way I can have people work under me and fight with them at the same time,” she said.