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PLMC undecided on way forward

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – The resumption of domestic football for the 2020/21 season has been thrown into doubt amid reports that the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) is undecided on how to proceed after government announced suspension of all contact sports in light of the Covid-19 scare three weeks ago. Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro moved the country to the colour Purple code level which, among others, prohibits contact sports in observance of set Covid protocols.

This technically suspended football despite efforts by the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) in December last year pushing football stakeholders towards setting up the bio-bubble concept to kick-off the current season successfully. At the time domestic football had been on hold for some time when authorities imposed a national lockdown to contain the deadly pandemic – the season was prematurely terminated as a result of the Covid-19 scare.

Immediately before the current suspension LeFA and the PLMC had ordered all the premier league clubs to, among others, undergo Covid-19 testing in light of reports of infection among some of the top-flight clubs’ players and officials. This was after Linare and Manonyane players tested positive for Covid-19. Matlama were to later report the same – with both players and officials infected.

The suspended 2020/21 season was only in the beginning of the second round and already behind schedule as far as international football is concerned. PLMC’s Communications and Marketing Manager, Qamako Mahao, told this publication in an interview that the status quo is bound to also negatively affect football’s next season “as even now we can’t tell after how long we will move out of the colour Purple Code.”

“As we speak contact sports have been indefinitely suspended and this has already affected our league because we wanted to play to end this coming month,” Mahao further said. He said it has become obvious that the league cannot be played to the finish as planned, and that this is also bound to affect the next football season which was pencilled for September.

“I cannot predict what will happen. It will entirely depend on government’s relaxation of restrictions. We will be directed by the situation more than any other thing.” With the PLMC unsure of which direction to take, it was only last month that log-leaders Matlama FC’s general manager, Lebenya Makakole, revealed they had been advised against commencement of the league in December last year by the PLMC.

Makakole said his club proposed that it would be prudent to wait for “the proper time to start a new season, and not in December.” But Mahao denies the claim by the Matlama boss.

However, he admits that there were indeed clubs that were against the decision to resume the league in December 2020. “I don’t remember Matlama saying that to us. Yes, there were two teams who were against the decision to start, if I remember well, and Matlama were not part of those teams.”

Mahao further said: “We had only one question for them, which was what time would be best to start because no one knew, and no one knows how long the pandemic will be with us.” Matlama, according to Makakole, want for the current 2020/21 Vodacom Premier League to be called off; the 2019/20 season was also prematurely terminated with log-leaders, Bantu, declared league champions.

No teams were relegated to the lower division, but two of the A-Division log-leaders at the time, Manonyane from the Southern stream and CCX from the Northern stream were promoted to the top-flight league.

Matlama, who are currently log-leaders on the 16-team Vodacom Premier League log table, were sitting on second position behind Bantu. ‘Tse Putsoa’ management even challenged LeFA and the PLMC’s decision to award Bantu the league title without relegating the last two teams from the league.

But they lost the bid with the Disciplinary and Protests Committee (DISPROCO), only to further lose their appeal against the decision as well as another effort in the Arbitration Tribunal. This is the second time that sports activities are suspended this year, the first time being in the beginning of January in light of the resurgence of the same pandemic. Football seasons around the globe mostly begin in September, which had also been the case Lesotho before the Covid scare hit in 2019.

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