Baholo Motene is president of the Lesotho Women’s Football Executive Committee
Former international footballer founded the Lesotho Defence Force Ladies Team
She helped women to find pensionable jobs through football
At 28 years old, most female footballers are reaching the prime of their playing careers. Crystal Dunn and Julie Ertz have won more than 200 caps combined for the USA national team at that age and are world champions, while Dzsenifer Marozsan just won her 100th international cap, to name just a couple of examples.
Baholo Motene made history at the same age when she was appointed the youngest president of the Lesotho Women's Football Executive Committee. "It was a historic victory as it was a dream that I knew I would one day achieve one way or the other," Motene said proudly in an interview with FIFA.com.
"I never expected it to happen this year as I was still on a learning curve," she explained. "But most coaches and administrators approached me and asked me to stand for the elections that were held in July 2020. They convinced me that I was the perfect candidate. I thought long and hard about it until I told myself: never settle for second best. I had all the potential and the support to win the election."
The confidence being placed in the former Lesotho international is not surprising; after all, Motene knows what she is talking about. She began advancing her career in a male-dominated environment at a young age, played street football and resists traditional gender roles suggesting that "a girl shouldn’t play football as it’s a men’s game. A girl should clean the house, cook and so on," she explained.
"Thanks to human rights and gender equality, woman share the same power and opportunities as men. Yet dreams cannot be achieved without rules. To overcome the challenges I encountered, I had to make sure that I had the full support of my family."
Motene’s love of football grew steadily. In 2007 she took part in the Lesotho National Vision 2020 Games, where her impressive performances earned her a call-up to the U-17 national team. But her journey was far from over.
She made appearances for Lesotho’s senior team, competing at several international tournaments including the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ qualifiers and COSAFA Women’s Championship. In 2019 she was appointed team manager of the women’s senior national side by the Lesotho Football Association.
"My international career ended when I enlisted in the army in 2014," she said. "But that never stopped me from achieving my dreams. I set up a team in the army. I also saw an opportunity for my team-mates in the newly-founded Lesotho Defense Force Ladies Football Club, many of whom were still struggling to get jobs.
"This all happened in 2016, and my team has been dominating since then. The positive outcome of this was that 15 players have now found permanent jobs. Helping other women through football has positively influenced my life."
It is this commitment to other women and determination to continue developing women’s football in Lesotho that sets Motene apart. Although there has already been some development work on the women’s side of the game, the dynamic 28-year-old still has plenty she wants to achieve. "There has been a huge increase in the number of women’s teams in Lesotho," she said.
"There is an active league, which is helping to improve the performance of the national teams. More than 15 players are playing football abroad. We have players in South Africa and two in the USA. My focus is on empowering more women to get involved with this beautiful game so that one day we can run it ourselves," explained the spirited Motene before setting out the next steps.
"We can have more teams and active leagues in the districts. As we have ten districts in Lesotho we can hold regular refresher courses specifically for women’s football and more administrative courses for managers to enable them to attract sponsors.
"At the moment it is still the Association who fund the Women’s Super League. The issue of incentives needs to be looked at to give the players something to motivate them. The football landscape has really changed, so companies could start investing in women’s football as well."
In the coming months, additional support for the women’s game in Lesotho will come from FIFA. As part of the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Fund, each of the 211 member associations can apply for a grant of up to $500,000, to be invested in the women’s game.
The Lesotho Football Association has applied for theirs, and submitted a strategic plan. Funding will be targeted at supporting domestic competitions, national teams, capacity building, and the grassroots game. All guided by the recent launch of FIFA’s new Women’s Football Development programme.