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MASERU – Finally, there is a Lesotho Football Players Association. Well, sort of.

This past weekend a provisional body made up of players from the Lesotho Football Association’s (LEFA) various football divisions was formed.

The players first met four weeks ago to discuss the long-awaited idea and on Sunday they finally put some action to their words.

For now, the LFPA is headed by an interim committee that will steer the ship while preparations go ahead to hold a general meeting that will elect a permanent committee and fill unoccupied executive positions.

At the moment, there are no notable senior players in the committee which is worrying, but Tumelo Mopapa, one of the association’s founders, said the LFPA invited all players to join and they decided to start with those available so they could register the association with LEFA.

Whether the country’s star players have not joined yet because they do not want to be seen as creators of the association, or whether they are fearful their opportunities in football would be limited is unclear.

However, Mopapa stressed that the association has been formed to help players thrive. He said the association’s main aim is to protect players in every aspect of their lives and he is hopeful the big guns will soon join as well.

“(The association) is here to protect the players in every aspect in their lives, on and off the pitch,” Mopapa explained.

“We have health services where we will teach them about first aid and how they can take care of themselves on their own.”

Mopapa said there are people eager to help the association.

“There are companies willing to work with us,” he said.

“We are talking to one of the insurance companies about what we call sports medical insurance where players can insure their talent. It is already happening in some other countries.”

In those countries, players’ associations also work to educate and create opportunities for footballers.

Another important duty of such bodies is representing players in matters concerning wages, hours and working conditions and protecting their rights as football players.

One of the main challenges facing players in Lesotho is a lack of knowledge when it comes to the contracts they enter into with clubs.

Countless players do not know what they are signing up for and are often exploited by club owners who pay their players when they wish.

Players are routinely left helpless and Mopapa said the association will be working with some lawyers in the country to teach players about contracts and negotiations.

Recent months have seen a rise in contractual disputes between players and clubs that have had to go to LEFA to be resolved. Mopapa said if players are educated, they would have a better idea of what they are signing.

“The main issue is contracts, they are forced (to sign them) and they not clear to them,” he said.

“You don’t know whether you are signing for a season or not. Some teams will tell you they are giving you a one-season contract but when the season is over you are not a free agent. You will end up getting to 2023 with the same contract,” Mopapa said.

“It’s a lack of knowledge and understanding, our players see M5 000 and they sign on the dotted line. They are not looking at how their contract will be terminated. They are not looking at their payment date. At the end of the month there is no money and no one comes to you to explain,” he lamented.

The association’s plans go beyond contracts, Mopapa added. He said the LFPA is planning “entrepreneur boot camps” which will educate players on how they can prepare for life beyond football by starting their own businesses or investing money.

Another plan is to have training camps for members who are free agents so they can still get coaching and remain match-fit while they are looking for new clubs.

The message from the newly-formed LFPA is a simple one: football players are workers as well and, therefore, like all workers, they deserve fair pay, work benefits, decent work hours and a safe working environment.

Interim Committee:
President: Tšeliso Sello
Vice president: Ntsane Lichaba
Secretary: Percy Mohami
Vice Secretary: Leshoboro Kori
Communication officer: Tšeole Ranthimo
Treasurer: Leluma Posholi

Tlalane Phahla

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