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Bullock waves goodbye!

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MASERU – Two weeks ago, the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) announced that its deputy secretary general, Chris Bullock, would be leaving his position to return home in the United Kingdom.

His last day in the office is tomorrow and he will leave the country next Thursday. Bullock has been in Lesotho for close to a decade and is well-known for the job he did at Kick4Life Football Club where he led a stable football programme from 2013 when he arrived in Lesotho until his move to LEFA in September 2020.

Bullock sat down with thepost this week in a wide-ranging interview as he reflected on his time in the Mountain Kingdom. It became clear during the discussion that his passion for sport and this country is undeniable. Lesotho is the place Bullock has called home for nine years and he even got married here.

Over the years through Kick4Life and his personal endeavours, Bullock has sought to help athletes better their lives, and says he hopes that one day athletes will be able to make a living through sport in Lesotho. While he is most famous for his work in football, including the women’s game, Bullock has been one of the foremost supporter to 18-year-old middle-distance star athlete ‘Manqabang Tsibela.

He added that it gives him joy to see the players Kick4Life has helped to get scholarships abroad doing well for themselves and having their future in their own hands because Kick4Life’s aim was to always change lives through sport.

When you first arrived here, did you think you would be here for this long?

No. I was meant to come for one year. I adapted very quickly; I was happy here, I was at Kick4Life then and the job started quite well. I knew during my first year that I would probably extend to a second year but there was never any point in my first few years that I thought I would be here for nine years, especially at the start. I agreed to come for one (year).

You have led a stable football programme at Kick4Life for a long time and the performances on the field reflected that. What do you think worked well for you?

The key has always been building a strong team of people, I have never achieved anything on my own. What we have achieved, we have done that as a team. We always had good support at Kick4Life because it was quite a stable organisation, at least, that allowed us to put things into place.

We managed to put (together) a team of good people. I was always lucky with the staff I had, the coaches, the players, and I think we always worked well as a team and that helped.

Before I arrived in Lesotho someone (at Kick4Life) sent me a report because the season before they stayed in the A Division on the last day of the season, they were very close to going to the B (Division).

The players sort of came together and came up with a report (of) why they think the team struggled, and they came up with things like ‘we drink too much’, ‘we don’t respect the coaches’ and I thought: what have I let myself into here?

What helped was that during that first preseason with the players we sat down with them.

I talked about my vision, the importance of working together as a team and wanted everyone to buy into what we wanted to achieve and everybody bought into that vision and were committed to what we wanted to achieve.

It’s all about everybody working well together. I have always been very lucky to have strong people around me, especially throughout my time at Kick4Life, everybody played their part.

It’s not just football you were involved in, you also got involved with the ‘Manqabang support group. How did that happen and is it something you are passionate about?

I realised how much of a role sport could play in the country to better lives, especially for the youth, and I became very passionate about that. What a lot of people don’t know is that my first time in Lesotho was in 2009. I came for two weeks with Kick4Life before I worked for them.

With ‘Manqabang I always remember I was in Botswana at the time and it was a photo of her winning I think it was 3000 metres and it was a photo of her coming first barefoot, behind there was a white South African girl.

In South Africa a lot of white athletes get opportunities at school, you know they are probably quite privileged and seeing this picture of ‘Manqabang made me want to get involved. That’s when I got in touch with the guys.

I really want to see sport developing in Lesotho but I also want to see youths get the opportunities to fulfil their talent. (The) Lesotho Cricket (Association) came to me (in 2020) after Kick4Life and I helped them put their strategic plan together.

I just want to see sports in the country grow. Obviously, football is my main passion, hopefully one day people will be able to make a career out of sport in Lesotho.

All the coaches you have worked with have nothing but good things to say about you, what do you think worked well with you and your coaches?

I think we have always been lucky with coaches, Dona (Motlalepula Majoro) was already there when I arrived; he took us to the Premier League. I don’t think we need to talk about Les (Leslie Notši) and Bob (Mafoso) because everybody knows what their records are and how good they are as coaches, but my job was to support coaches.

I always had a very good relationship with my coaches. We would meet regularly; we would always sit down and talk about what the plans were for the future. (We talked about) how I could support them and what their challenges were and they were also very understanding of what our limitations were and would understand what the budget was and what we could do with the budget and I think that’s important. If you have that regular interaction with your coaches, they also buy into what you want to do.

You have been with LEFA for a while now, how has it been?

I have loved it to be honest, I wish I could have stayed longer and had more time to make an impact but things change in life and you have to make hard decisions. I think I have managed to see where LEFA wants to go, I like to think I have been able to play a part in contributing towards that. A lot of it will still need to be implemented over the next few years, it takes time when it comes to development of football, it doesn’t happen overnight.

If the plans that we have put in place do get implemented, things will improve, football will grow. I am just grateful I was given an opportunity to be part of that journey, I just really hope that football will continue to grow, professionalise and hopefully move in the right direction.

Tlalane Phahla

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Bokamoso Dolphins, Trailblazers win big

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MASERU – Bokamoso Dolphins and Bloemfontein’s Trailblazers were the big winners as the annual Winter Basketball Tournament made its long-awaited return last weekend.

The invitational basketball competition was last held in 2019 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and it returned to life at the Lehakoe Recreation Centre last Saturday and Sunday.

In total, almost 20 teams took part in the festivities and, when all was said and done, Bokamoso Dolphins were holding the women’s trophy while Trailblazers ran out winners in the men’s competition.

Dolphins were one of five sides fielded by the Bokamoso Basketball Programme which is headed by Faku Masupha and has been at the forefront of developing young players in Lesotho for the past decade.

In the women’s final, Dolphins came out victorious in a grudge match against Lerotholi Polyethnic and Masupha was full of praise for his young ladies’ team afterwards.

“I am pleased with the performance against a good team that gave us a run for their money,” Masupha said.

It was a high intensity women’s final and one reason Masupha pin-pointed was the fact Fokothi have several players in their side who came through Bokamoso’s ranks and have inside knowledge of Bokamoso’s fast paced style.

Amongst those Fokothi players from Bokamoso’s development structures was Selloane Mohale who Masupha complimented for combining well with her teammates.

Mohale and her teammates took a young Dolphins side by surprise in the opening stages.

“I think in the first half the players had anxiety. It was bad, the players couldn’t take instructions,” Masupha said.

“Fokothi have energy and they are one of the most supported teams in the league and most of their players have come through the Bokamoso development pipeline,” he said.

However, for an experimental and young team, Masupha could not have asked for a better response and the moment their combinations clicked, Dolphins dominated the second half and eventually claimed the victory.

Bokamoso are restructuring and integrating young players to refresh ahead of the new season.

Dolphins fielded many young players who are likely to form the core of the Bokamoso women’s team when the season starts.

“It’s a good team with a mix of experience and young players. We are restructuring to give it a bit of energy, the players we have are now young parents and can no longer cope with long hours,” Masupha said.

All in all, the Bokamoso programme had five teams competing in this year’s tournament – Sharks, Badboys, Rebels, Dolphins and Alumni. Three of them – Sharks, Badboys and Alumni – were knocked out in the group stages while Rebels fell one step before the men’s final when they lost by one point to KTA All Stars.

Masupha said his players showed character and winning a trophy from the weekend’s action is just the icing on the cake as Bokamoso head into the new basketball season.

“In a couple of months’ time I believe they will be competing for a championship,” Masupha said.

Tlalane Phahla

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Why tennis prodigies are valued so highly

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MASERU – 17-year-old Kamohelo Khethisa and 20-year-old Lerato Mathibela have been tennis partners for as long as they can remember.

Both starlets are in the Cosmos Tennis Academy and are regarded as the academy’s top prospects.

The duo was paired together at the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games last year and two weeks ago they left the country to compete in a junior tennis championship in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

It was the first time Khethisa and Mathibela went to a competition to compete for International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior ranking points and the pair showed just why they are so highly-rated.

Khethisa and Mathibela finished third when they teamed up in the doubles competition.

In the singles they dominated as both advanced to the final where Khethisa got the better of his pal, Mathibela.

Khethisa opened up their bond and said they are brothers.

Khethisa said Mathibela usually wins when the two meet, but he was determined not to lose to his older brother this time around.

“The first match I played at the tournament was a warm up because it wasn’t my first time at a tournament, I had knowledge on what to do in the first round, it is tough,” Khethisa said.

“I played in the quarter-finals then we went to series and in the semi-finals, we played well together and met each other in the final,” he said.

“We always play against each other but he beats me most of the time but I told myself that I am going to play (my best),” he continued.

Khethisa lauded Mathibela for being a good partner saying they talk regularly and give each other tips. The two will once again be paired together in the Southern African Christian Schools Sports Association (SACSSA) games later this year.

Khethisa said they are hoping to do better than they did last year when they won a bronze medal.

“I motivate him and build him up. I tell him ‘I love you’ more than anything, ‘you are my spirit’ because he is more powerful than I am. The more I build him up, the more we become too much for the opposing players. I know my worth. I am good at the net. He is good with serving, he is a good partner,” he said.

He said after watching the main draw finals they saw weaknesses in the players but the difference is the number of tournaments they attend to prepare themselves.

“You have to go to a lot of tournaments to become the best player, to have more ITF points, there are tournaments that I can’t go to, there is one in Pretoria,” Khethisa said.

“We can’t go because we don’t have points but because we have started, I can promise good work, effort and good results. We are working hard.”

Tlalane Phahla

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Boxing medal hopes extinguished

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MASERU – Lesotho’s hopes for boxing silverware at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England are over after the country’s boxers all failed to get past the round of 16 stage.

The losses extended Lesotho’s medal drought for another four years with the country’s last boxing success at the Games coming in 2006 when Moses Kopo won silver at the Melbourne edition in Australia.

As usual, the root of Lesotho’s problems was poor preparation which led to the downfall of Retšelisitsoe Kolobe, Moroke Mokhotho, Qhobosheane Mohlerepe, Phomolo Lengola and Arena Pakela as each suffered heartache one step before the quarterfinals.

Speaking to thepost yesterday, the Lesotho Boxing Association’s (LEBA) spokesperson, Rethabile Mohale, said the team’s preparations were so bad that even meeting for training was a challenge.

Associations and athletes have always been clear about what needs to be done for them to be ready for major international competitions like the Commonwealth Games, but the government sinks to new lows every year.

Even after arriving in England, athletes were complaining privately that their needs were not being met.

Lengola, who fights in the 51-54kg weight category, was the last Lesotho boxer to fight and he lost 4-1 on points to Owain Harris-Allan from Wales on Tuesday.

On the same day, Pakela was also eliminated in the round of 16 as he lost 5-0 on points to Aidan Walsh of Northern Ireland in the light middleweight category (67-71kg).

Pakela started the competition in the first round where he defeated Isaac Zebra of Uganda 4-1 on points, but his joy was short-lived.

Despite their heartbreak, Mohale commended the boxers for their performances in the face of the challenges they faced.

“The performance was good even though we are out of the Commonwealth Games as boxing Lesotho,” Mohale said. “We cannot hide behind what didn’t happen, we have to say what the performance was. We used the public’s funds and we are coming back with nothing, but what is important is what people on top did to make sure we trained the same as those we were fighting against,” he said.

The fighters could have done much better with better preparations, Mohale was clearly saying.

“To just go to training and meet as the team was a big problem (and our) camp happened late,” he said.

“Our preparation was bad, if you look at their first fights, they won, but in the second fights they lost but they were competing. We were lacking strong preparations.”

Mohale was also not happy with the refereeing which he felt was unfair in two fights.

 

One involved Lesotho’s 2016 Olympian, Moroke Mokhotho, who lost on Referee Stops Contest (RSC) when he was on points on the scorecard.
Earlier this year Mokhotho who fights in the 54-57kg weight category, announced he would be retiring from international competitions after the Commonwealth Games to focus on development of young boxers and his failure was perhaps the biggest disappointment.

The other two boxers who failed to go beyond the round of 16 are Qhobosheane Mohlerepe and Retšelisitsoe Kolobe who lost to Canada’s Wyatt Sanford and Jake Todd from Wales respectively.

Mohlerepe, who fights in the 60-63.5kg weight category, had won his preliminary fight against Atmatzidis Odysseas from Cyprus.
Kolobe, like Mokhotho, lost his bout on RSC.

A lot of Lesotho’s athletes at the Commonwealth Games complained about poor preparations prior to leaving for Birmingham with some saying they had not been to tournaments in months and

had only trained locally against their counterparts.
Even after arriving in England, athletes were still crying that they were lacking things they needed to compete properly.

In other events at the Games, Mokulubete Makatisi clocked a personal best of 2:36:05 hours and finished eighth in the women’s marathon.
Finishing in the top 10 has been described as a good performance Makatisi can build on ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

On Tuesday, Mojela Koneshe was unfortunate not to proceed to the semi-finals of the men’s 100 metres when he finished fourth clocking 10.46 seconds in his race. Koneshe was racing against seasoned sprinters including South Africa’s Akani Simbine. In the 800 metres, ‘Manqabang Tsibela finished sixth clocking 2:13.34 but it was not enough for her to proceed to the next round.

In the men’s marathon, Lebenya Nkoka and Tšepo Mathibelle clocked season’s best times as they finished 15th in 2:32:52, and 17th in 2:38:52 respectively. Motlokoa Nkhabutlane did not finish the race.

Tlalane Phahla

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