MASERU – By the beginning of next week the Lesotho Basketball Association (LBA) will have new leadership in place as the New Year brings with it a fresh chapter for local basketball. The executive changes will come on Sunday when the LBA holds a special annual general meeting (AGM).
The conference is special because it will include early elections.
The current board, which was elected in 2015, was only due to finish its term at the end of 2018 but because of departures from inside the committee the LBA has been forced into early elections.
It is an important juncture for the sport.
Over the past decade local basketball has grown in leaps and bounds, and from being a minority pastime, it is now played on an organised level in six of the country’s ten districts.
This week thepost sat down with outgoing secretary general Palo Mohlotsane who has been actively involved in basketball for over 15 years, first as a player and then as an administrator.
During his sit down with thepost, Mohlotsane reflected on the LBA’s achievements during his time in office and the future of basketball in Lesotho.
You have been a member of the LBA’s executive committee since 2007. You served three terms, one as the public relations officer and two as the secretary general. Why are you stepping down?
First of all, it is a constitutional obligation. Our constitution says a person can (only) be in office for two consecutive terms if you are occupying one position. So I am bound by the law, (and) because we believe in law, we had to make the decision to step down.
Secondly, I think you are aware that we are calling these elections before time. That’s because I personally have many commitments and I no longer have time to run the association effectively meaning we are now leaving a lot of work to the president (Molupe Mothepu) alone.
(The president) is overloaded now and it means the federation is going to suffer.
So because we love basketball very much, it is important to us that when we see there are gaps we cannot fill, we should not to occupy the seats when there are other people who can do a better job than us.
Third, a lot of people resigned from their positions (in the committee). Vice-president Sekhoane Moshabesha left the federation (in 2017) because he had other commitments outside the country and his job was the competitions administrator.
The treasurer (Nkhethuoa Makhorole) also said she has other commitments and will not be able to be hands-on to help run the association, so the functioning was no longer visible.
So if you are to be a good leader you have to admit where there are gaps. If you claim to love your sport, the most important thing for you is to accept it is no longer time for you to be here. What you need to do is to leave a legacy where you did well, I think that’s all.
Which accomplishment during your time in office are you most proud of?
Well, there are many. When I first arrived in administration (in 2007), we were doing life skills.
At that time basketball was focused on issues of life skills which were sponsored by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).
Schools came in numbers because of the life skills element and we groomed a lot of coaches at that time.
We taught them to apply those life skills not only in basketball but in their personal lives as well and, if you look at basketball people in different (job) sectors, you will see that those who received our life skills training are achieving a lot in their lives.
The passion for basketball is also back. Basketball used to be played in high schools but nothing much after that.
We decided to bring the slogan “Driven by Passion” because we wanted to say “we are here because we want to push the love and passion for basketball”.
We also managed to get some sponsors back – the likes of Sprite, Gallitos, Beltex, Vodacom, Econet, KFC, you name them – we successfully brought them into basketball to support us.
We also managed to get recognition internationally. Lesotho is an active member of FIBA (International Basketball Federation) and Africa Region 5; we attend a lot of their meetings, mostly by me.
We have managed to lobby FIBA and they help us annually with equipment. We have actually accomplished a lot of things.
How has basketball improved during your time in office?
It has improved in terms of play; remember we did not have high school basketball in Thaba-Tseka (before 2009).
Through our development office we managed to have high school basketball in Thaba-Tseka and Qacha’s Nek. In Quthing the standard had deteriorated, now it is improving. We are now on track in bringing high school basketball to Mokhotlong.
Secondly, the level of administration has also improved. The first thing we did was to amend our constitution. It helped us because we didn’t have financial policies to guide us when it comes to managing money.
What is the biggest improvement that still needs to happen for Lesotho basketball?
It is to bring back the national team; we have to push the national team to compete internationally.
We need to work with three on three (basketball) and make it a strong component.
We need to ensure that when the new committee comes in that our administration has good relations with other sports federation. We also need more companies to help us, so a good image is one of the biggest things we need.
What do you think has been the biggest milestone in terms of basketball development?
It comes from the development office which is (Faku Masupha’s) office. He developed a framework and every office within the LBA was able to help the association in a certain way.
He drew up a policy in which he said this is going to help us when it comes to development because it is the most important thing. Programmes like Bokamoso (Basketball Development Programme) came to life.
What are some of the challenges the incoming committee is going to encounter, challenges that have been on-going over the years which the outgoing committee was not able to overcome?
There are many. We still have to build relationships with other national federations. We have many pending cases whose judgments are (now) available. What (the out-going committee) needed to do was to publish them and make decisions when the judgements come; (the new committee) are coming to work and they are expected to push it.
They need to make sure our basketball players don’t only end up here (in Lesotho), we have many players outside the country but we need to push to have more. (The incoming committee) also needs to be seen internationally at meetings.
They have to manage the funding (from FIBA and government); that’s a big thing because, whether you like it or not, finances have to be managed.
Will you be there to support the incoming committee or this is where your journey with basketball ends?
I will be there supporting but not as a member of the executive committee. Remember I am a referee, I was also trained as a coach but I could not do all these things because I was in the executive, I had to excuse myself for a while.
But now that I am no longer part of the executive it is going to be easier to help run games and help groom referees because we need more referees.
We also need the media to help us, provided you love our sport. The incoming committee must know sport doesn’t pay, it is better to know now.
When we were sitting in the executive committee all these years we never had sitting allowances, they were not there. We understood we had to spend our own money to help the players and assist where we could.
How do you see the future of basketball in the country? Where do you see the game in the next five to ten years?
With the coming executive I see basketball as the best sport in the country.
We have a plan to have improved our game and our structures by 2020. We started two years back, so it says we have a bright future.
In the next five years we will have improved our international rankings in Southern Africa, provided we bring back the national team like I said before.
In terms of administration, I think we are (already) the best run federation in the country.
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.
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.
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:
Lijabatho Ladies vs. LDF Ladies
LMPS Ladies vs. Kick4Life Ladies
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