Lesotho’s boxers have been given a last chance to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.
Moroke Mokhotho, Tšepo Lepoqo and Masheane Mohlerepe’s lifeline is the AOB Final Olympic World Qualifier event in Baku, Azerbaijan, in June.
The championships are scheduled to take place from June 7 to 23 and are the final opportunity for boxers to secure a spot in Rio.
Mokhotho, who fights in the 52 kilogram category, Lepoqo (64kg) and Mohlerepe (60kg) all fell short at last month’s AIBA African Olympic Qualification Event held in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
The trio was part of a four-man team sent to Cameroon by Lesotho Boxing Association (LEBA) and only 56kg fighter Suntele Nkululeko booked a spot at the Olympics.
Of the three who missed out, Mokhotho came closest to joining Nkululeko losing a disputed qualification decider.
Speaking on Tuesday, LEBA public relations officer Pheello Sofe urged the fighters to grab this final opportunity.
“The three that did not qualify in Cameroon will go to the world qualifiers to try and see if they can qualify like Suntele has. This is their second chance and if they fail to qualify they will miss out (on the Olympics),” Sofe told thepost.
He added: “If they fail in Baku it will be a disappointment and they will have to wait for another international competition (after the Olympics) to try their luck.”
The boxers will not find it easy, though, as they will be facing opponents from different parts of the world also looking to make it to Rio.
However, Sofe said he is confident Lesotho’s team would do well.
“We are confident that they will qualify this time around because they will be facing the same people that were in Cameroon who failed to qualify just like them,” Sofe said.
He continued: “But, there are so many things in boxing that can make one lose a match. One can perform well and dominate their opponent but still lose the match depending on the times the referee has cautioned him. Judges sometimes also look at you and the country where you come from and decide that you are not going anywhere.”
Sofe cited Mokhotho’s loss at the African qualifiers in Cameroon as an example.
He said Mokhotho, a bronze medal winner at last year’s All Africa Games in Congo, dominated his opponent.
“Look, Mokhotho beat his opponent left, right and centre. He beat him and dominated his fight from the beginning but he still lost the match. The judges knew him (Mokhotho), they saw him in Congo Brazzaville and somehow he lost the match despite beating his opponent,” Sofe said.
Meanwhile, Sofe said five local boxing clubs – Best Boxers, Tšosane, Lerotholi Polytechnic, Butha-Buthe and the National University of Lesotho boxing club – are preparing to compete in the Invitational Boxing Tournament to be held in Fouriesburg, South Africa, at the of May.
Sofe indicated LEBA might take Mokhotho, Lepoqo and Mohlerepe to the tournament in order to keep them sharp ahead of the Olympic qualifiers in Azerbaijan.
“Next month we will be in Fouriesburg competing. This is just to keep the players in shape because we do not want them to spend a lot of time without competing,” he said.
Sofe also disclosed Nkululeko is continuing with his training for the Olympics. He said the boxer’s preparations were now the responsibility of the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC).
Dicing with death
MASERU – spinning is a motorsport that originates in South Africa.
The pastime started in the 1980s in the country’s townships and was used mainly by gangsters as a way to show-off their stolen cars.
In the subsequent years, the sport has grown in popularity in South Africa’s neighbouring country and it has made its way to Lesotho.
Although spinning competitions are not held regularly in Lesotho, they always come with a huge fanfare and hundreds of supporters normally flock to its venues to watch drivers spinning, drifting and doing stunts.
It is a loud and mostly dangerous sport that has been labelled as the world’s most reckless sport.
It’s not just any car that is used in spinning, there are special cars that favourties for entertaining crowds.
The BMW 3-series famously known as Gusheshe owing to the brusque sound its engine makes are designed for the spin. Spinning enthusiasts say that BMW 3-series cars can be manipulated and their engines maintained easily.
Lately other people have started to opt for the V8 Toyota which they sport with BMW wheels.
In Lesotho, the shows are held at various places, including the Masianokeng filling station in Maseru. In 2021, Seisa Mohapi left the crowd yearning for more thrills, stunts and spins at Makoanyane Barracks and he emerged as a local favourite.
He has since gone on to make a career out of car spinning and because of the lack of competitions in Lesotho, Mohapi has to travel outside very often to compete.
Today, Mohapi, who is one the most famous spinners in Lesotho, is preparing for the Battle of the Nations competition to be held in Pretoria, South Africa, on April 29.
He is not a newbie to the competition. Last year he was the only Mosotho competing against drivers from the host country, Eswatini and Botswana.
One fascinating fact about Mohapi is that he was not into spinning cars until a friend urged him to join the sport because of his fast driving. Mohapi insists, however, that when he is driving on the road he is not as fast as he is on the track.
He may now be a well-recognised spinner, but it was a difficult road. Getting invitations to South African competitions was mission impossible in the beginning because the sport was not recognised in Lesotho.
The best Mohapi managed was competitions in Bloemfontein and Thaba-Nchu, before he eventually started getting invites to big events.
In 2018, he received his first invitation to attend big spinning events in Villiersdorp, Western Cape, and now the rest is history. He has travelled to several countries including Eswatini and Botswana.
Mohapi remembers: “(My friend) gave me an idea that you already have speed, if you can spin, you can do it well. From there I started spinning on the streets until we started taking it seriously, (we are) hosting events and joining spinning groups.”
When Mohapi is not throttling cars on weekends, during the week he has an office job at the Ministry of Social Development. He says his routine is between his job and spinning.
It is a costly passion.
Motorsport is one of the most expensive sports in the world because it requires fully operational engines and such are costly. Mohapi has no sponsor, he bears all the costs when it comes to his car. Luckily for Mohapi, he can repair cars which means the costs of fixing have not weighed as heavily on him as they otherwise would have.
“Even though spinning is a very expensive sport, I am still fully self-sponsored and it does not cost much on my pocket because I know how to repair cars. So, this is different to someone who waits on engineers when their cars crash,” Mohapi says.
“Because these cars are being used heavily, they kill engines a lot. The cheapest engines range from M3 000 to M4 000 so if you are buying them regularly it becomes expensive. The (engine) I am using is about M18 000 to M20 000 – I am hoping spinning will be recognised as a growing sport,” he continues.
In spinning contests, it is the host’s responsibility to provide participants with tyres, while the participants should make sure that their rims are fit for the performance. Many drivers have earned themselves a reputation with drifting, but that is not the case with Mohapi.
He enjoys spinning and doing stunts most and that has become his trademark.
“For the spin to be performed best, it requires skills,” Mohapi says.
“Some can draw the interest of the audience and some just drift and confuse the audience. When the audience cannot capture what you are doing, they keep themselves busy by buying refreshments,” he adds.
There is a difference between spinning and drifting. Spinning which is more popular is when drivers lock their cars into a spin and screech tyres and make clouds of smoke. They then climb out of the car to perform stunts while spinning.
Meanwhile, the internet defines drifting as a driving technique where the driver intentionally over-steers, with loss of traction, while maintaining control and driving the car through the entirety of a corner.
The technique causes the rear slip angle to exceed the front slip angle to such an extent that often the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn. For example, if the car is turning left, the wheels are pointed right or vice versa.
Mohapi says spinning is all about entertainment, no one can be considered a winner, the only way to know if you did well is by the crowd’s reaction to your performance. South Africa is now preparing to host bigger spinning events in which there will be prize money given to participants who impress, and he says he is looking forward to it.
“All I can say is Basotho should support spin because their kids love it,” Mohapi enthuses.
“Their kids must know there is someone in Lesotho who spins and his name is Seisa. At these events there are really a lot of kids, it brings happiness to them.”
Bereng raring to go
MASERU – Likuena star midfielder Tshwarelo Bereng says it’s good for Likuena to go in the match against star-studded Zambia as underdogs despite winning the last encounter between the two countries.
The two southern African countries will face-off in back-to-back matches of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium and Dobsonville Stadium on March 23 and 26 respectively.
Motebang Sera was the hero in the last match at the COSAFA Cup beating Kennedy Mweene twice to become Likuena’s all time leading goal-scorer in the regional tournament with six goals.
Bereng, who now plays his football for Eswatini giants, Mbabane Highlanders, makes a return to the Likuena squad since last year’s goalless draw against Ivory Coast, where he was an unused substitute.
“Look, it will be a totally different ball game to the one when we last played at the COSAFA Cup and they also know that it’s not going to be a walk in the park for them,” the midfielder said.
“We just have to approach the game with the same mindset we had against them two years ago in Port Elizabeth, which was self-belief and playing to our strength.”
Bereng, who had a long career playing in South Africa for the likes of Moroka Swallows, Chippa United and Black Leopards, admitted that Zambia are favourite on paper going into the two matches, but is adamant they can cause an upset like they did in holding star-studded Ivory Coast to a goalless draw.
“Of course, on paper they are favourites because they have a lot of players playing abroad such as Patson Daka of Leicester City, but like I said, self-belief is very important at this level of football,” Bereng said.
“I think for me it’s very good to be labelled underdogs, it takes the pressure away from us and gives us room to surprise them.
“They are going to be to tough games, but we have been there before and we know what we have to do to improve our position if we are to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations,” he said.
Likuena will host Eswatini in a training match this Thursday as both countries fine-tune their preparations for the upcoming 2023 Afcon matches.
Free show for football fans
MASERU – The Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) has opened its gates to Basotho who want to watch the national team Likuena today. Lesotho hosts Eswatini this afternoon at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena in their last friendly match before they fly to Zambia.
This training match is part of Likuena’s preparation for the back-to-back 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Zambia in two weeks’ time.
Three weeks ago, Lesotho coach Veselin Jelusic and his charges travelled to Malawi for a friendly match which ended with a 1-1. At the time the Serbian coach said he wished for more games and today’s match will surely come in handy as it will help him to fine-tune mistakes Likuena made against Malawi.
The first leg match of the AFCON qualifier against Zambia will be played at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium on March 23, with the return leg set for Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on March 26th. Lesotho needs to win at least one of the two games to stand any chance of qualifying.
After two AFCON qualifying games, Likuena are bottom of Group H which also includes Comoros and Ivory Coast.
Like Likuena, Eswatini is also preparing to take on Cape Verde in their AFCON qualifying campaigns on March 24 and 28 respectively.
LEFA has invited Basotho to come and watch their team free of charge as this could be their last chance to watch Likuena on their home soil until Setsoto Stadium is upgraded to meet international standards.
Because of the unavailability of the national stadium Likuena have been forced to play their home matches in South Africa.
Likuena lost 2-0 away to Comoros in their opener but played to a spirited 0-0 draw with giants Ivory Coast at ‘home’. Both games were played last June.
Two of Likuena’s foreign based players have already joined up with the team. Lead striker Motebang Sera, who is still recovering from a minor injury that side-lined him for his South African premiership club Royal AM, is with the team. He missed his team’s 5-1 clobbering by Mamelodi Sundowns on Tuesday. Tšoarelo Bereng, who is also based across the border, is another one that is now in camp with Likuena.
Richards Bay striker Katleho Makateng is yet to link up with the team, he is expected to be part of the Richards Bay squad that will take on TS Galaxy in the DSTV Premiership in Mpumalanga on Sunday. He will be allowed to join Likuena after and is expected to be a key figure against Zambia.
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