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Bantu, LDF in titanic battle for title



MASERU – The Vodacom Premier League title challenge between Bantu and Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) is what everyone is talking about.

The sides are separated by five points at the top and even though LDF slipped up on Sunday, many believe the army side can still push Bantu all the way, especially because the two are yet to meet in the second round of the league.

However, while there is rightfully intrigue at the top, there is another titanic battle brewing at the bottom of the log that everyone seems to be forgetting.

At the end of the season, two teams will be relegated to the A Division and, at the moment, it is not clear cut who they will be.

At some point, it looked as if new boys CCX and Naughty Boys were obvious relegation candidates but with the bottom four sides now separated by just a point, it is anyone’s guess who will get the axe.

All four teams have 11 games to play but that has not stopped fans from already doing hypothetical mathematics of what is possible and what is not.

And that is not to say Lifofane with 20 points and Manonyane with 19 are by any means safe, but compared to the bottom four, they are better placed to survive.
Galaxy 13th (11 points)

After 19 games, Galaxy have managed to collect 11 points which is the same tally as Naughty Boys below them, but Galaxy have a superior goal difference.

In their last five games, Galaxy have lost four times and drawn once and that decline in form has plunged them right into the teeth of the relegation dogfight.

It has been a chaotic campaign from the start for Galaxy.

At the beginning of the season, there were talks about the club being up for sale because they were struggling to stay afloat. Ultimately, a sale did not happen but their struggles have been evident on the pitch and it is not surprising to see Galaxy fighting for their premiership lives.

Their next three games are not easy either.

They face title-chasing LDF, LMPS and relegation rivals Swallows.
Next three games:
February 12
Galaxy vs. LDF (H)
February 18
Galaxy vs. Swallows (A)
February 26
Galaxy vs. LMPS (A)

Naughty Boys 14th (11 points)

Promoted to the Vodacom Premier League at 11th hour last September, it was expected Naughty Boys would struggle and their season has been just that.

Like Galaxy, they have lost four of their last five games and drawn one. And, worryingly, there doesn’t seem to be any rainbow on the horizon for them.

Next up Naughty Boys face Lioli this weekend, followed by games against Linare and log leaders Bantu.

It is possible that if the new boys do not win at least one of those games, they could find themselves at the bottom of the log by the end of the month.

Naughty Boys have already changed coaches this season and it will be interesting to see how they fare in their next three games.
Next three games:
February 12
Naughty Boys vs. Lioli (H)
February 18
Naughty Boys vs. Linare (A)
February 26
Naughty Boys vs. Bantu (A)

Swallows 15th (ten points)

How Swallows survived relegation for the past three seasons remains a mystery and there is confidence within the club that they will again pull through, and that their astounding escapes have made them stronger and resilient.

In 2019, the Mazenod side survived on the last day by beating Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) 1-0 in Nyakosoba. It was a victory that left many speechless because it bookended a miraculous run that had seen Swallows beat Liphakoe and Likhopo in consecutive games before stunning LCS.

In 2020, their lucky stars were in full view again when Swallows were rescued by the Covid-19 pandemic which cut the season short.

And then last season Teele Ntšonyana performed miracles to pull them out of the gutter with a surge in form towards the finish line. True to their soap opera identity, Swallows sacked Ntšonyana three weeks ago due to poor results but nothing has really changed in terms of results – Swallows are on a five-game losing streak.

Perhaps they have a reason to be confident.

In the mix of their next three games, they play relegation rivals Galaxy. It is a game they will back themselves to win, but they have to battle Manonyane and Linare as well.
Next three games:
February 11
Swallows vs. Manonyane (A)
February 18
Swallows vs. Galaxy (H)
February 25
Swallows vs. Linare (H)
CCX 16th (ten points)

At some point, CCX looked dead and buried but their unexpected back-to-back victories over Lifofane and Naughty Boys have given them a massive lifeline. They are still at the bottom of the table but they are level on points with Swallows.

If they stay up it would be a great achievement for the club whose players are predominantly students.

Matlama, Lioli and Manonyane are next in line but although they have tough matches to come, it is possible CCX will still be within striking distance of survival if their rivals drop points in their games.

All the four clubs fighting to stay up have difficult games coming up. It will be a matter of who takes their chances better over the coming weeks.
Next three games:
February 11
CCX vs. Matlama (A)
February 19
CCX vs. Lioli (H)
February 25
CCX vs. Manonyane (A)

Tlalane Phahla

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Rabale eyes Champions League glory



Lesotho women’s team captain Boitumelo Rabale has her eyes on winning her second CAF Women’s Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns as the tournament gets underway this weekend.
The third edition of the prestigious women’s club football is scheduled for Ivory Coast from November 5-19, where eight clubs will battle it out to be crowned Queens of the continent.

“Queen”, as the Lesotho star is commonly known, was part of the Sundowns squad that was crowned champions of the inaugural edition of the tournament held in Egypt two years ago, becoming the first player from the Mountain Kingdom to taste Champions League success.
She has become one of the key players in Jerry Tshabalala’s squad having walked away with the Hollywoodbets Player of the Season in the previous campaign and currently leads the goal-scoring charts with 21 goals.

“It was exciting to win the CAF Women’s Champions League with Sundowns two years ago and in the process becoming the first player from Lesotho to do so,” Rabale said.

“I felt very lucky and honoured to make history. It gave me confidence to continue working hard and strive for more success with the club”
Sundowns head to the tournament as regional champions after clinching the COSAFA qualifiers to qualify for the continental showpiece, where they will kickstart their campaign against Tanzania’s JKT Queens on Sunday.

Rabale admitted that memories of losing the last final to AS FAR still haunts them, but they head to Ivory Coast a better team than in the last tournament.

“We learnt the hard way when we lost in the final to AS FAR and we come back a better team having rectified our mistakes.

“It’s our dream to conquer the continent again and I have no doubt that we have what it takes to get our second star in Ivory Coast.

“It will be very good to add the second CAF Champions League medal to my trophy cabinet,” she said.

The 27-year-old has been prolific for Sundowns this campaign having scored nine goals in her last five matches to take her tally for this campaign to 21 goals.
Sundowns are in Group A alongside tournament hosts, Athletico Abidjan, Sporting Casablanca of Morocco, as well as Tanzania’s JKT Queen.

Since joining Sundowns in 2021, Rabale has won the Hollywoodbets Super League twice, the COSAFA Zonal qualifiers twice as well as the CAF Women’s Champions League and is the reigning Hollywoodbets Player of the season.

Tlalane Phahla

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Red Skins fail to raise funds for championship



Lesotho volleyball giants Red Skins have failed to raise funds for the 2023 Zone 6 Senior Indoor Volleyball Club Championship they are set to host in December.

Red Skins will host the competition together with four other local volleyball clubs – Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Station (LMPS) and Rivers – and the tournament is expected to start on December 7 and end 10 days later.

Without any funds or sponsors coming in, Red Skins will have to foot the bill from their pockets for the tournament which will see teams from 10 countries converge on Maseru.

Among the participating nations, Botswana is expected to bring the biggest contingent with 12 teams, with Zambia following closely behind with nine teams while Zimbabwe is set to be represented by six teams.

Two weeks ago, Red Skins participated in the Elite Cup in Gauteng, South Africa, which was hosted by Aqua Darshan Volleyball.
Red Skins hoped to win the tournament and return home with a hefty jackpot but they only collected M5 000 which was won by the men’s team.

A gala dinner that Red Skins hosted last weekend also failed to generate income due to low attendance and speaking to thepost on Tuesday, the club’s vice-captain, Moleboheng Mofolo, said they will have to push on with what they have to host the tournament.
Mofolo said they no longer have time to come up with other means to raise funds.

“Tournaments will require us to find sponsorships and we do not have time now, we have to focus and train well,” Mofolo said.

“Our coach already told us to camp from this week but rain is our biggest challenge because we cannot continue with the training,” she added.

Mofolo said Red Skins are fortunate that participating teams are going to take care of their accommodation and catering. She said if Red Skins had to provide those services, they would not have been able to manage.

She pleaded with individuals, organisations and companies to help the team, whether it is by offering accommodation, food, or whatever little they may have.

Tlalane Phahla

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Giants avoid each other in Top 4 clash



Women Super League (WSL) giants Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies and Kick4Life Ladies have avoided each other in the WSL Top 4 knockout competition.
The two-day showpiece takes centre stage this weekend at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena and it will see last season’s top four finishers in the league – LDF, Kick4Life, Lijabatho and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Ladies – go head-to-head for bragging rights.

The draw for the competition took place last Friday and the semi-finals will see LDF go up against Lijabatho while Kick4Life will take on LMPS Ladies.
Both semi-finals will be played on Saturday with the tournament culminating the following day.

Sunday’s proceedings will kick-off with a third-place playoff game to determine who walks away with the bronze medals before the final later in the day.
All four games over the two days will be streamed on the FIFA+ website and the WSL Top 4 will usher in a new sponsor this year.

In the past, the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) fully bankrolled the competition, however, Computer Business Solutions (CBS) has come on board with a sponsorship for the first time.

The competition’s prize monies have not been revealed because they are still being finalised, but, speaking at last Friday’s draw, LEFA’s associations secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi, said the relationship with CBS is one that sport should engage in.
Mohapi added his hopes that the relationship will be a long-term one.

“While others are busy at their thing, we should really grow ours so that when their distraction finally ends, they find us as united as we can be as the football community,” Mohapi said.
“(We should be) united by the efforts and inputs that emanate from the business community, especially when it is a truly Lesotho business entity because other (foreign entities) are here to take money,” he said.

Addressing CBS as the tournament’s sponsor, Mohapi said: “We are thankful as LEFA for your initiative; (we) hope you will be in this marriage quite long. We know we are just testing the waters but we have a lot that can entice you to stay longer, not only my command but the instruments that we have.”

Mohapi said LEFA’s dream is that in two years’ time all league matches will be streaming on the FIFA+ platform which was launched last April by football’s world governing body to increase exposure of men and women’s football around the globe.

Currently, only three grounds in the country have the structures for broadcasting; Bambatha as well as the grounds at LDF and Lesotho Correctional Service grounds, and all are in Maseru.
LEFA plans to add more grounds to the list with the DIFA facilities in Maputsoe and Mohale’s Hoek set to be the first to follow suit.

“All our women’s competitions, cup competitions and (Vodacom) Premier League matches that will be played in those stadia that have our infrastructure – we will be able to stream those games internationally,” Mohapi said.

“We have extended our footprint,” he added.

“We are now doing LDF – we have already put up the structure – then we are moving to Maputsoe and, hopefully, Mohale’s Hoek. It is our desire that in two years’ time we will hopefully cover all the matches and put them on the FIFA+ streaming platform.”

WSL Top 4 fixtures:
Saturday (Bambatha)
Lijabatho Ladies vs. LDF Ladies
LMPS Ladies vs. Kick4Life Ladies

Tlalane Phahla

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