The recent Police Training College(PTC) induction of new recruits has sparked a debate once again and put into question the state of professionalism of our football in the country due to the participation of state security forces therein.
With most teams having lost their players to the state forces teams, it is clear that the continued recruitment into the force thus, will see a lot of teams be they in the Premier League, A-Division, B-Division or C-Division disadvantaged a feat which analysts have said is bad and kills football.
Two weeks ago, new recruits reported for their training that will take half a year at PTC and amongst them was a host of prominent premier league names from big name teams in our football currently.
Such players who have enrolled for training include Khubetsoana Kamela of Kick4Life, former Matlama midfielder Kefuoe Mahula, Relebohile Makepe from CCX and Lebohang Pitso from FC Likhopo.
Usually, when a player joins the police force, they end up having to play for the police side Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) FC, and this is no different in the other forces such as the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) and the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) which also have teams that participate in the elite Vodacom Premier League (VPL).
Early last year, we saw former Kick4Life player Tšeliso Botsane join the army and he was later registered as LDF player after he had completed the military training.
The situation has been ongoing for so many years even before the level of football in the country was at a semi-professional state. At this point most private or community owned teams are able to get some form of sponsorship for their day-to-day running, however, the money is never enough to sustain players’ salaries.
Semi-professional state means employees or in this case players and staff of the teams get some of form of compensation to support their living but they are not entirely dependent on it hence they also rely on other forms of making a living such as a regular nine-to-five job.
So grim is the situation that some even opt to completely leave football and pursue different careers. But for some, playing football is their passion and a way out of poverty above all that there is also national pride.
There are only a few teams in the football league structures of Lesotho that are said to be well compensating their players, in most cases these will be the most successful teams in terms of trophies and league success over the years and it becomes easy for them to have a lot of good sponsors.
However, their players are also not guaranteed a life time of comfort especially in the life after the short-lived football career. As a result, they seek employment in the state security teams which offer not only a chance to play football but also permanent and pensionable employment.
A similar situation is very much alive in many of African countries, for instance, in Botswana, security force teams are run privately with no force or influence of the said security agency. The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) FC runs its affairs separate from the army which gives them an opportunity and freedom to sign whoever they want and for whoever is in the army to play for any team of their choice, this is according to Tebalo Lebajoa, sports show radio producer and presenter at the national broadcaster Radio Lesotho.
“A few years back, Bushy Moletsane who is a civilian born and bred in Lesotho, was bought by the Botswana Police team which plays in that country’s premier league. It did not matter that not only was he a foreigner, but also a civilian, that tells you a lot about how other countries are handling their affairs in terms of the state of professionalizing football.
“One player will enroll into the force, take six months to become a soldier or a police officer and immediately afterwards be subjected to play for the said force’s team. Although there is no law on players having to play only for their employer’s team, most of them are not given a choice to do otherwise because if that would be the case most would find themselves being transferred to faraway places thus frustrating their endeavours to either train and play for their team” Lebajoa explains.
“You find that some players end up not playing football at all because they either have to play for the force or not play at all. So unless we privatise these teams, a lot of players’ talent will die and this is not good for football, in fact it is bad for football” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Moses Maliehe former senior national team coach and long serving stakeholder in the football of Lesotho, says the presence of such teams in the structures of our leagues is detrimental to our football but also an opportunity for better life for most of the players that can only secure permanent employment through them.
“These teams are a way out for most of our players because our football is not yet at a stage where it can pay good salaries. Being at a semi-professional state means we have to work towards getting to a professional state eventually,” he said. He also points to other institutional teams in countries like South Africa wherein, when university teams went professional, they had to privatise they structures and running to meet the professionalism of it.