Joalane Tongoane fell in love with football at an early age while playing with boys in the dusty streets of Ha ‘Makhoroana in the Berea district, but little did she know that her journey with the beautiful game would take her to the pinnacle of football administration in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.

In this wide-ranging interview with the Lesotho Football Association media team, Tongoane opens-up on her transition from being player to an administrator.

LeFA: First thing first, who is Joalane Tongoane?

JT: Joalane Tongoana is a young lady from the rural areas of Berea, Ha ‘Makhoroana. I used to play soccer with boys at my village and that was from the age of 7-years going into my primary days. My love for football developed rapidly throughout my high school days at ’Malithuso High School as we participated in sports activities and mostly girls’ football. I believe I had grown in leaps as a player because I was selected for the Vision 2020 team playing for Maseru District in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2010 joined Rovers Ladies team and was appointed captain of the team in 2012.  This was during my time studying at the National University of Lesotho.

LeFA:  How difficult was it to balance the two?

JT: It wasn’t easy at all because I had a lot of schoolwork to do almost every day at the University and having to make time for football made it difficult, but God gave me the strength and I managed to do both. I had people like former Women’s national team player Makopo Kepa (KB), who kept me motivated because she has been doing the same for years as a female soccer player and also studying at the National University of Lesotho. That made me realize that when time is managed well, there is a lot that can be achieved. I managed to  live my passion, which was playing football and also graduated with a BA in Sociology and Development Studies.

LeFA: Take us through that transition from being a player to the management side of the game…

JT:  In 2016, I got very ill, I was admitted in hospital and was diagnosed with meningitis. The doctor told me that I will no longer bear the pressure of high-intensity training and that’s when I decided to call it a day as a player. I then moved to administration and joined the management of Rovers Ladies and I was also elected as the Vice-Secretary of the Women National Committee. The new role helped me to grow as an administrator and managed to find experienced football administrators like Mr. Chris Bullock, who was the Secretary.

He took me under his wing as my mentor and saw the potential I had as a young administrator. We worked well together, and I really enjoyed my time serving women football and the beautiful game. The following year, I was elected to be a member in the Women’s Super League Committee, where I would once again team-up with Mr Bullock, who was the Chairperson for that committee.

I cannot forget Mr Tjamela Tjamela, whom I succeeded as the Women Desk Officer at the Lesotho Football Association in 2019. He is another person who also motivated me in my early days in Women football administration.

LeFA:  It’s surely a dream come true for you to work for the Lesotho Football Association overseeing Women football?

JT: I was very happy after being given the opportunity to serve women football development working for the football mother body. It has been a fulfilling experience though very challenging. It was and it is not easy as a young lady, but the support that I get from my colleagues and principals especially the head of the department-Mr. Leslie Notsi as the Technical Director. He keeps me going, I think we are making good progress towards improving the standards of women football in the country.

I have also discovered that we have a lot of talented young girls throughout the country. However, the biggest challenge especially in the remote areas, girls are still being restricted from playing football and displaying their God given talents. Due to our culture, a lot of girls are still being denied the opportunity to play football as it’s still being considered as a male sport.  That hampers their development because they do not get the same support as boys especially those that play football when it comes to things like buying them soccer boots.  I believe we also must do a lot of training for female coaches and those working in women football. There is a lot they need to learn about women football.

I believe there is a need for a country-wide awareness to change this culture that playing football is for only males. Parents need to understand the need to support end encourage girls to also play football. Such campaigns have worked wonders for grassroots football and I’m confident they can do the same for women football.

LeFA:  How much have you developed since joining the football mother body in Lesotho?

JT: I have developed a lot since joining LeFA and the learning continues. In 2018, I attended the FIFA coaching course held here at home by FIFA Instructor-Mrs. Jacqui Shipanga from Namibia. LeFA also sent me to the Women Administration course held in Cairo, Egypt in 2019. The course was challenging as I had only been in the office for three months, but I gave it my all because we had a long chat with the then LeFA Development Officer Mr. Mohaila Letseka regarding what to expect. He gave me all the necessary information prior to the course and my presentation about girls grassroots football was chosen among the best four out of 30 countries that participated. I also did the CAF D License Coaching instructed by Mrs. Bootes from South Africa.

LeFA: What’s your message to young girls hoping to follow in your footsteps?

JT: You are strong, able and exceptional. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. A healthy body means a healthy mind; spread it out to other girls out there. #sportsforusall.