LNOC let us down badly, says Likatola

LNOC let us down badly, says Likatola

MASERU – The national rugby team, Likatola, has blamed the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) for costing the side glory at last month’s 2018 Rugby Africa Regional Sevens South tournament. Likatola finished second at the showpiece in Burundi losing 15-5 to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the final.
The four-team tournament, also featuring Burundi and Congo Brazzaville, was played on September 29 and 30 and defeat in the final cost Lesotho an opportunity to qualify for next year’s Africa Men’s Sevens.

However, even getting to the final was a miracle given the chaos Likatola dealt with on the way to the championship which included arriving on the morning of the tournament and being stranded overnight at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Ultimately, Lesotho was forced to play the final against DRC with five players in the seven-a-side rugby format.
The LNOC’s shoddy work is another example of how Lesotho’s national teams are continuously failed by the country’s sports authorities.
This Monday, for example, Uganda arrived in Maseru before Likuena for a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier after taking a chartered flight paid for by the Ugandan government while Likuena had to complete their trip home via a five-hour bus ride from Johannesburg.
Likuena ended up losing the return game 2-0 on Tuesday evening after falling 3-0 to Uganda last Saturday in Kampala.
Similar incompetence affected Likatola as well.

According to Federation of Lesotho Rugby (FLR) secretary general, Litšitso Motšeremeli, the team’s flight tickets to Burundi were cancelled on the eve of their trip after a bungle by the LNOC.
LNOC was responsible for Likatola’s tickets, Motšeremeli said, but purchased them through a travel agent which forced the FLR to improvise and buy tickets afresh when Likatola were unable to get hold of the LNOC’s agent.

Caught off guard at the last minute, the FLR could not afford to buy tickets for the whole team, however, and some players had to be sent back home.
“We didn’t win the tournament because, firstly, we did not leave to Burundi with a solid team; we had to leave five players behind due to travel challenges caused by the LNOC,” Motšeremeli said.
“They (LNOC) bought tickets through their agent and did not even tell us who the agent is so that when we encounter problems (the agent) can be contacted for help,” he added.
“We ended up buying tickets because the airport cancelled the tickets saying the (LNOC) travel agent must be present for us to travel and we left with only seven players for the tournament. We were supposed to leave with 12 players because rugby is a sport that needs many players to help when others are tired or injured,” Motšeremeli said.

Because of the mess up, Likatola had to sleep at OR Tambo and then again in Kenya on a layover. Likatola only arrived in Burundi two hours before their opening game against the hosts with no time to acclimatise or train.
“We slept at OR Tambo airport, left the following day and also slept at Kenya airport and left the following day. As a result we arrived in Burundi on Saturday at 8am and had to play at 10am,” Motšeremeli said.

“Our players did not rest (after arriving and) they played their first game, luckily we won against Burundi, 40-0. We also played the semi-finals against Congo Brazzaville and won 17-0. We won two games that took us to the finals and we were beaten 15-5 by DRC Congo because we were playing (against) them with only five players due to injuries. We could have won the tournament,” Motšeremeli lamented.

Despite the lack of support from the LNOC, Likatola fought to a second place position and an opportunity to host the same tournament in September next year where ten teams are expected to take part. However, Motšeremeli called for rugby to be better taken care off to help the sport grow and improve.
Rugby has made tremendous strides since the formation of the FLR in 2012 with Lesotho now a full member of Rugby Africa and World Rugby.

The Rugby Africa Regional Sevens South tournament was a big opportunity for Lesotho to reach another milestone.
It was one of two regional rugby sevens tournament organised by Rugby Africa in September to decide promotion to the 2019 Africa Men’s Sevens and the field for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games qualifiers. Lesotho’s results at the Rugby Africa Regional Sevens South:

Day 1:

Burundi 0-45 Lesotho
DRC 26-5 Lesotho
Lesotho 7-12 Congo Brazzaville

Day 2:

Semi-finals:
Lesotho 17-0 Congo Brazzaville

Final:
DRC 15-5 Lesotho

Nkheli Liphoto

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