Lesotho clubs took a major step towards their goal of professional league, resolving to make drastic improvements to their domestic game after a FIFA club management course last week.
The mountain kingdom, completely surrounded by 2010 FIFA World Cup™ host South Africa, has a 16-team Premier Soccer League but still plays on a amateur basis and attracts little sponsorship and no television coverage.
Leaders of the clubs took a week away from their busy schedules to attend FIFA's club management course, which forms part of the 'Win in Africa with Africa' programme.
At the end of six days of deliberation, wide ranging measures were announced to fast track Lesotho club football and bring it in line with professional developments elsewhere in the world.
The 'Mohale Declaration', named after the rural site of the course in the dramatic beauty of highlands of the southern African country, set out a road map for drastic changes over the next six years.
Among them are a reduction in the number of premier league teams, from 16 to 12; the introduction of a club licensing system, the appointment of refereeing inspectors at all league matches, a contract system for coaches and players, a coaching license scheme, establishment of youth development leagues and the implementation of safety procedures at matches.
The changes will be brought about in stages, culminating in a deadline of 2014.
A positive reaction
"We have had many problems with our management structures. It is commendable all the changes that we have been able to work on," said Teko Bereng from Matlama, Lesotho's oldest and most popular club.
"I'm very happy about the coaching licensing idea. It will ensure that the right people are involved in Lesotho football," added Joy FC coach Thibinyane Motlatsi
Lesotho is one of many African countries being singled out for a major overhaul of their footballing structures in order to benefit from the upcoming FIFA World Cup finals on their doorstep.
" ," said Kolisang Lepholisa, a lawyer by trade and chairman of former champions Likhopo. "There was a time when the league clubs and the Lesotho Football Association did not see eye-to-eye. We felt our complaints were not attended to, but there is now a willingness for us all to get together to solve our problems."
"We learnt a lot. We can now strive towards a level of professionalism and also get some continuity in our clubs," added Tsuinyane Tselisehang, secretary of Arsenal FC, who are based in the capital Maseru.
The club management course has previously been held in Tanzania and Botswana with similar positive results. It will now be rolled out across the continent.
FIFA's 'Win in Africa with Africa' programme has also established a high-level coaching course, the latest of which is to be held in Tunisia this week.