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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From The Archives: Lesotho's dusty fields

A New Year invariably bring with it fresh hopes and expectations. However, for Lesotho football 2011 arrives with more questions than answers.
Certainly, when it comes to the standards of football grounds in the country and the conditions to which players are exposed the situation is a dire one.
Perhaps this is best exemplified by LMPS’s Old Europa ground, a field which is only roughly 125 kilometres away from Bloemfontein’s Vodacom Stadium, but is a world away from qualifying as a top flight ground.
Last September LMPS’s ground was the scene of a Vodacom Premier League match between LMPS and Lioli where in reality gas masks were needed as dust swirled around the desert-like ground.
The Nthane Brothers Holdings Independence Cup in October meanwhile was also tainted by dusty conditions at the Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena, spoiling what was an outstanding tournament all-round.
And now with the heavens pouring relentlessly it is more than likely the premiership will be hit by several postponements before the end of the month.
Lesotho's dusty fields...
In the greater scheme of things the standard of grounds shows that Lesotho’s top flight is still very much a boozer’s league when it is meant to be a semi-professional division by the beginning of the 2012/13 season.
But instead of improving more of Lesotho’s grounds are becoming a hazard to the health of players and spectators alike.
For a club like LMPS – a police team, with manpower to fix their ground – theirs is a shameful situation. However, it is sadly an abundant state of affairs which means that even though medical tests for players have been abandoned, Lesotho’s footballers may soon have to visit their doctor because of tuberculosis.
According to Dr Teboho Lekhanya the risks footballers face in Lesotho are limitless.
Lekhanya, who heads the Lesotho Football Association’s (Lefa) medical committee, says the country’s pitches are home to irritants which adversely affect players’ health.
Footballers’ situation is made worse because of their strenuous physical activity and the lack of medical checkups in the local game.
“The dust goes into the nose and subsequently to the lungs, and that is dangerous. Of course the dust also hurts the eyes,” Lekhanya says. “If a person has allergies it possible they may contract bronchitis or simply end up with lungs that are filled with dust.”
Lekhanya believes there are already players with these illnesses plying their trade in the premiership. “Definitely,” he says. “Those who have been in the game long enough will have these conditions, especially because there are no check ups.”
“About 10 to 20 percent of a population is allergic,” Lekhanya continues. 
“It means if a team has 35 players then seven or eight of the players will have an allergy of some sort which may cause an adverse reaction to dust. Even those that don’t have any allergies are still likely to have serious ailments from the dust,” Lekhanya says.
Lekhanya says there are simple ways to attempt to improve the situation. “The night before or on the morning of the game the clubs should water the fields,” he suggests.
However, this is a rare occurrence.
The simple fact is that a few clubs have shown enough of an interest in improving their grounds and the situation is made worse by the Premier League’s toothless approach in dealing with the issue.
Currently LCS and LDF are the only sides in Lesotho’s elite league that own grassed grounds.
LCS captain Moitheri Ntobo, who played professionally in Tunisia, is one of a number of players dismayed by the state of football grounds in the country.
“It hampers us a lot, sometimes it becomes dusty and you can’t do anything, you can’t see and it can be difficult to breathe,” Ntobo says.
Grass, a rare sight...
Furthermore, with players forced to play on grounds such Bantu’s Mafeteng concrete turf or Linare’s Hlotse dustbowl, Ntobo says ankle and knee injuries are prevalent amongst players while severe bruising can come about simply from falling in the field of play.
“It puts pressure and strain on your joints and even if you don’t get injured you will have pains after the game,” Ntobo says.
The wear and tear caused by fields could perhaps explain the lack of players in their thirties playing at the highest level in Lesotho.
LDF striker and former Likuena international Lire Phiri, who is 32, is now retired thanks to a litany of knee and ankle injuries. This is the same Phiri who just two years almost single-handedly led LDF to the league title, only for Sohle-Sohle to finish a point behind Lioli.
A closer look across the board shows a dearth of so-called older players in Lesotho. Matlama have one first-team player in Lehlohonolo Mokhele over 30 years while Lioli’s lone ranger is Thabile Secker who now serves mostly as an assistant coach and is not a first-team regular.
Conversely Ivory Coast and Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is 33 and looks as though he is improving with age. He is just one of a number of international stars the other side of 30.
Undeniably there are external factors which limit playing age in Lesotho amateur football, the need for employment and steady income, ill-disciplined lifestyles or even age-cheating. But in an age where footballers are playing longer because of advances in training methods and equipment, the veteran player in Lesotho is the exception rather than the norm – and the standard of fields could be a major reason.
“There are many players (in Lesotho), even though I wouldn’t want to name names, that have had (health) problems after they stopped playing,” Ntobo adds.
In Lesotho there are even grounds land-mined with stones and rocks and Dr. Lekhanya says this season has already seen several cases of serious injuries caused by these conditions in the first division.
Sadly, because of their love for the game, local footballers continue to play on these grounds despite the obvious dangers they face.
Clubs meanwhile complain that they don’t the money to improve their grounds.
Swallows for an example are a community club from Mazenod. Maswai-swai president Mabote Masienyane says the club is trying but there is little they can do.
“We are we have tried to close some of the areas. We are dependant on the money we get from the league. Apart from that it comes from our pockets,” Masienyane says.
“All we can do as the owners of clubs is to continue to beg. It’s not easy,” Masienyane adds.
But the question is if obscure first division outfit Butha-Buthe Fast XI is able to raise over 150 000 votes costing M1 each for the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular, then why do clubs continue to fail to improve conditions for players?
First written in January 2011

1 comment:

  1. What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable knowledge about unpredicted feelings.

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