TOP Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) assistant referee, Souru Phatšoane along with South African duo of Victory Gomes and Zakhele Siwela inked their names in the history books of football in the continent last week Monday when they officiated the final of the CAF Champions final between Al Ahly and Wydad Athletic Club.
June 6, 2022
6 min read
How Phatšoane became a continental gem
Top Lesotho Assistant Referee, Souru Phatšoane
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The trio in March became the first match officials from southern Africa to officiate the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, when they handled the final between continental heavyweights, Senegal and Egypt at the Stade Olembe in Yaoundé.
They never looked back since officiating the CAF Super Cup final between Esperance de Tunis and Zamalek in Qatar in 2020 and their stock keeps rising internationally.
The three are among the best referees from Africa who will do duty at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in October.
According to his elder brother, Ketsebile, Souru’s love affair with refereeing began at a tender age when he would officiate matches involving boys Under-12 teams.
“I used to own a football club that was called Killers with boys under-12, 15 and 17 teams as well as Likhosatsana, which was a woman’s team and we later sold its status to LDF Ladies FC, that campaign in the LeFA Women’s Super League,” Ketsebile says.
“At one stage, I decided to shift all my focus to Likhosatsana and Souru had to look after the boys youth teams, and this is where he played the role of referee when our boy’s teams were playing.”
Ketsebile believes Souru’s passion for the beautiful game was influenced by his older brothers as football was all they ever talked about at their Tšenola home on the outskirts of Maseru.
“Our eldest brother, Joel and I were very passionate about the game as we grew up, I believe it rubbed off on Souru and he quickly followed suit,” Ketsebile recalls.
“His passion for refereeing developed as a youngster and he soon learnt how to take care of the young boys’ teams because he would referee whenever they played.”
Ketsebile says he could tell that his younger brother was interested in making it big as a referee when he got hold of his referees’ handbook called the ‘Laws of the Game’.
“I had the FIFA Laws of the Game handbook that was a gift from a late friend, who was already a referee at the time. Souru got hold of the booklet and at that point, I knew he would follow a career in refereeing,” he says.
His next port of call was attending the LeFA basic course after completing his high school education and as they say, the rest is history.
Despite his hectic schedule in recent years traveling across the globe to officiate in all the big international tournaments, Souru has not forgotten his humble beginnings and remains committed to his community, where he owns Under-12 and 15 teams called Yebo Yes.
For his part, Joel says the family is quite proud of the achievement his younger decorated sibling has had over the years.
“As a family, we thank God for all that our little brother has achieved in his career as a referee. It has not been an easy journey at all,” he states.
“He has faced a lot of challenges along this journey, but his commitment and dedication got him this far.
“We are very proud because he has become a national pride as the football fraternity and the national at large continue to rally behind him,” he says.
Giving a rare interview after officiating the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, where he was honoured by LeFA in March, Souru attributed his success to both hard work and dedication.
“My secret is simple, that is to work hard and make use of any opportunity that comes my way. I always make sure that I’m in good shape to cope with the demands of officiating at the biggest stages of continental football as well as the local league,” the decorated assistant referee said.
“It’s quite important for referees to always be in good physical condition and be in the position to go as far as the extra time because that is always an option in the knockout stages of different competitions,” he said.
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He admits that officiating the Africa Cup of Nations final between Senegal and Egypt came as a huge surprise as one of the youngest assistant referees, where he was paired with the experienced duo of Gomes and Siwela.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to officiate the final because if you look at the team that I was paired with, I was not as experienced as they were, and I thought it would take at least officiating in three Afcon tournaments before I could feel comfortable in their midst.”
FIFA Referees Instructor and COSAFA Referees Manager, Felix Tangawarima, states that the Lesotho star referee is a typical example of how an association and the region can develop referees.
“When we talk about referees’ development, Souru is a typical example how we can develop referees. I’m so proud of him because I actually identified him from the lower ranks of LeFA referees,” Tangawarima says.
“We groomed him through COSAFA and today we see where he is in his career. Both the COSAFA region and myself as a person are very, very proud of the development which has taken place in his career.”
The former Zimbabwean international referee says Souru’s best attributes are his disciplined nature and loyalty to his work.
Tangawarima adds: “One good thing about him is that when you teach him, he listens. He is a very humble guy, loyal, and disciplined. These are the attributes that have taken him thus far.
“When you look at what he has done, for Lesotho, the zone as COSAFA and for Africa, really, he has been raising the flag for all of us and I’m extremely happy and excited that I have Souru, who has reached that far.
“When you look at Lesotho, people say, a very small country has produced such a world class referee. For me really, this is wonderful. His amazing discipline has gotten him this far in his career.”
“This is a very good example and a very good development for the Lesotho Football Association and Lesotho as a nation. Where he is going, you will see the Kingdom’s flag raised by this young man. We need to continue supporting him and praying he gets more. My wish is that when he goes to the World Cup, he can continue to advance within the ranks. This is a big development for me as his instructor and coach, for Lesotho and COSAFA as the region. We are very proud of him,” the FIFA instructor says.
The Lesotho Football Association Executive Committee Member and Chairman of the Referees Committee, Tebalo Mpiti, paid homage to Phatšoane for hoisting not only LeFA’s flag high internationally, but Lesotho’s.
“He has hoisted our fly high not only as the association that groomed him, but the country at large. We are very proud of him.
“He remains the biggest inspiration to all our young referees to dream big and follow in his footsteps especially now that he has been selected among referees that will officiate at the World Cup.
“We wish him all the best in life,” Mpiti said.