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Debunking myths around darts

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MASERU – IN public houses (pubs), taverns and every other drinking place, it is hard to miss a group of people in front of a darts board. So when some call it a game of drunkards, the name seems apt – except to Tlali Letsie.

The president of the Lesotho Sports and Recreational Commission (LSRC), who served the Lesotho Darts Association for a long time, gets upset each time the game is associated with drunkards.
To add to his woes, it seems there isn’t much that Letsie can do to take the game out of these drinking places.

“As much as I would like to take darts out of the pubs, my hands are tied. Darts players are found in drinking places even though many don’t drink because there are no facilities elsewhere,” lamented Letsie.

Lack of infrastructure, he said, is hampering the development of darts.

“Little, probably nothing has been done to build infrastructure for indoor games such as darts in this country. Darts is one of the most unfortunate games in the country as there is no specific infrastructure where we can play the sport,” Letsie said.

“We are always at the mercy of tavern owners who give us venues to host darts games due to lack of specific grounds. We are not the only sport in this sordid state. There is pool (snooker) which uses drinking places to host venues.”

Through his extensive experience in darts Letsie has identified that a lot of Basotho have developed certain misconceptions about the sport that has made many not willing to venture into it.

“Darts is a very intriguing game but a lot of Basotho have a negative attitude towards it as they have labelled it a game of drunkards for we mostly play in pubs,” he said.

The perception is shutting women out of the game because most of these places are patronised mainly by men in Lesotho. “That’s why you don’t see women participating in it mostly.”
Because the sport is played in drinking places, the governing body says it has adopted stringent measures to ensure that professional players stay away from vices such as drugs and alcohol.

“We make sure that players stay away from alcohol during games,” says Letsie who has served in different portfolios in the sports fraternity in the country.

During his tenure as the president of the Lesotho Darts Association, Lesotho managed to win the SADC darts championship in 2010.
Besides being an administrator at national level, Letsie has been a player, coach and president at team level with the Moshoeshoe 1 International Airport (MIA) Darts Club.

His presence in the MIA Darts Club, which is the darts team he is affectionately attached to, has culminated in the club becoming a force to be reckoned with in Lesotho.
Initially, darts Lesotho was dominated by the LDF Darts team but the presence of MIA Darts Club has turned the tables within the sport.
Letsie is known for being a leader who openly speaks out his mind and calls a spade a spade.

“I am someone who works on set principles and policies. I cannot just bend the principles in order to appease everybody,” Letsie said. “All I work for is to uphold set principles that govern sports in order to harmoniously attain targeted goals.”

Darts has its sister games such as archery and javelin, although the latter are outdoor games, as they entail throwing a pointed object such as an arrow at a targeted spot.

“I always tell my players that when they are playing darts, they are just like warriors holding spears. They are emulating warriors in the battlefield so if they misfire, they are inviting the unknown.

The element of warrior empathy and the spirit to conquer should manifest when players are taking part in a darts game,” he said.
Coming to the practicality of darts on the ground, Letsie said that the premise of playing is nothing but just a matter of hitting the target.
The players have to aim for a particular spot on the board in order to convincingly win a game.

“The majority of people who are not familiar with darts believe that you have to target the BullsEye, centre of the darts board, in order to win games, of which it is not always the case,” he said.

“Yes, it is part of targeting but might not help the player to win the game.”

Darts, he said, is maths at play.
There are a lot of mathematical calculations involved during the games from both the players and score keeper to give out the score instantly.

“You wouldn’t believe it when I say I have seen a lot of people quit darts just in the name of mathematics. A good darts player has to be good with maths because you have to know what score each throw you make will yield. In darts, there is multiplication, addition, division and subtraction, which participants have to master in order to perform.
The use of maths in the game has discouraged many people from participating because of the negativity towards mathematics as a subject, said Letsie.

“Most of the children who I saw playing have always performed well in maths,” he said, urging parents to introduce children to darts from an early age. “Although people have different sentiments towards maths, I, however, see this as an advantage to darts players as they get to train themselves mathematically while playing.”

In standardised international tournaments, games are arranged by age groups and there are also categories for singles and doubles. In Lesotho, the game is in a dire state and “is sinking to the bottom,” he said.
He said the sponsorship the sport used to enjoy from the private sector has since vanished and darts teams are contributing from their pockets to organise tournaments.

“We used to have the Lesotho Darts Association League, which used to receive sponsorship from Maluti Mountain Brewery and Maseru Sun Cabanas but with the change of administration in those companies the sponsorship at some point stopped,” he said. “Since then, there have been challenges in raising funds for the league to continue until it eventually stopped.”

He said teams have to dig from their pockets to enroll in tournaments.

“Worst of all, even when teams have contributed, there is no money for transport to take them from one place to another to play their games.”

He said the high cost of fuel has worsened the situation.

“Teams can no longer afford to travel long distances.”

Currently, there is an ongoing darts tournament and the team from Lithabaneng in Maseru, Mali Darts Club, is occupying the top spot while MIA Darts Club is sitting in third position.
As a general sports stakeholder in the country, Letsie is concerned with the imbalance in the attention given to different sporting codes by the government.

“There is unfair treatment of other sports in the country. The irony is that some sports are not performing well and don’t make it through even in regional SADC tournaments but they keep receiving hefty financial support from the government,” he said.

“It’s true that some of those sporting codes are crowd-pullers but they are under-performing. If they can’t win regionally then it would make no sense to prioritise them on the grounds of popularity.”

“If athletics is doing well, why can’t we beef it up by backing it financially as it has a proven potential to put Lesotho’s name on the world map? It is a ridiculous scenario to try to scoop soup from the pot with a slotted spoon. If we want to holistically grow sports in the country, we have to stop favouritism and do justice by adopting a merit system where sports which are doing well are given preference,” he said.

Letsie also mentioned that morale in the sports sector was down due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, as resultant lockdowns led to a stop in all sports amid a ban on gatherings.

“Covid-19 has been a terrible disaster to us as sports practitioners. The most hard-hit people are us who are playing indoor games since there were restrictions or limits of people who could gather in a confined space,” he said.

“Some darts teams which I knew were doing well but have now literally died, they no longer exist.”

Calvin Motekase

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Moerane signs for Orbit

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CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe made a bold statement during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire that this tournament will go down as the best in the history of the beautiful game.

The tournament has indeed lived up to those expectations as it reaches the quarter-final stage. The continental showpiece has entertained us with everything that every football fanatic would expect from a big continental tourney like the AFCON.

His decision to join Orbit FC ends months of speculation where he was linked with several clubs in South Africa in both the Premier League and Motsepe Foundation Championship.

The Mazenod-born goalkeeper had been the centre of attention after years of impressive displays playing for his country in various competitions.

Moerane had not only been a hit in Southern Africa, where in 2023 he was named the Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the COSAFA Cup, but had also been given standing ovations in countries like Cote D’voire and Nigeria, where Likuena surprised the continental powerhouses.

The goal-minder was also the 2022/2023 Vodacom Premier League Goalkeeper of the Season adding that he was sad to leave the police outfit, who had been on an impressive run in the current season.

LMPS remains the only team that is still unbeaten in the league.

“This has been a challenge I have been looking forward to and I’m very happy that it has finally come true,” Moerane said after his arrival in South Africa.

“I know that it will not be easy as I come to a new country, new team, new teammates and new coach, which I all have to win over to trust me as their new player.”

Moerane is adamant the presence of experienced Likuena teammate, Tshwarelo Bereng, who is a journeyman and is well respected, will help him settle down quickly at his new club.

“He is a very experienced and respected player, whose presence at the club, I have no doubt will help me settle down quickly at this club,” he said.

“This is a new chapter of my career, where I need to start all over and make a legacy like I did during my time with LMPS.

“I have been preparing myself for some time now and I think I’m mentally and physically ready for this new challenge,” he said.

Moerane said the First Division will be a good stepping stone for him to make a name for himself in South Africa.

“I’m happy with the move to the First Division, it’s a good platform for me to make a name for myself and I believe I will still get to the bigger league or clubs, but it has to go through the right channels,” he said.

The agency that represents the player, Opus Sports Group with renowned football administrator Chris Bullock as the managing director, stated that they felt the first division was a good platform for Moerane to gradually grow into South African football.

“The move was about Moerane taking the next step of his career. He will get a good opportunity to get exposure at a good NDF club and if he does well, it will be a chance for him to progress further,” Bullock said.

“We liked how Orbit conducted themselves throughout and their vision for Sekhoane too and I think everyone is on the same page.

“It’s now up to Sekhoane to work hard and perform the way we know he is capable of and the rest will take care of itself,” he said.

Bullock also expressed gratitude to LMPS FC for allowing Moerane, who was recently promoted to the rank of Sergeant, to leave the country for greener pastures.

Mikia Kalati

 

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Manonyane boss blames injuries for poor run

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Manonyane head coach Mosholi Mokhothu has blamed injuries for his side’s poor Vodacom Premier League campaign.
After a promising 2022/23 season in which they won two of their final four games and finished 11th, Manonyane have taken a major step back and find themselves languishing in 14th place.

The Roma side haven’t won a league match since a 1-0 win over Machokha on November 18, a run of nine games that includes five losses.
Manonyane have been so bad, in fact, that they haven’t scored a goal in all three games they have played since the turn of the year.
Their poor form has, unsurprisingly, dragged them firmly into the relegation picture.

Manonyane are four points above 15th-placed CCX who occupy the final relegation place, and the Roma side are in real danger of relinquishing the coveted top-flight status they gained in 2020.
Mokhothu pointed to Manonyane’s lengthy injury list as the reason for their struggles.

Thabang Tsakajoe (midfield), Bokang Matobo (striker), Molise Masoabi (midfield) and Bakoena Mosola (fullback) are all injured while Moraphate Nkejane has only recently returned to training.

All five players are key and their absences have hurt a squad that doesn’t have great depth.

“(After the injuries) it became difficult to use the available players in positions they do not play,” Mokhothu said.
The former Lioli and Lesotho Correctional Service mentor admitted Manonyane have to turn the corner quickly.
“We are at the point where we are fighting for a win in every game,” he said.

“We are trying to not put the players under pressure (but) we are in a risky position now, we are now discussing how we can move up the table,” he added.
Having won the league with Lioli and LCS, Mokhothu has experience of what it takes to navigate the challenges of a season. He said Manonyane’s improvement needs to start on Sunday when they host Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) who haven’t had the best of seasons themselves.

The army side, who finished third last season, are in ninth place with 22 points from 12 games and have fallen short of their own pre-season expectations.
“I believe starting from this coming week; we will work hard on winning game after game,” Mokhothu said.

“It might happen that we win or draw in those games but, most importantly, we want to see if our results are pushing us up (the league table) or not,” he said.
He said the team plays well but do not have enough knowledge of how to score goals, something that was evident in their latest blank last Sunday when they lost 1-0 to LCS.
“Last season, we were creating many chances, even if we lost some of the games but we were still converting them unlike the LCS game. On Sunday, most of my attacking players were not there so I ended up making forced changes because of the situation,” he said.

Mokhothu said the LCS game taught him valuable lessons about his players, however.
“We saw who can play where and where some (players) need assistance and I am pleased that if they can hear me out, we can change our way of playing and results,” Mokhothu said.

For that to happen, the club’s supporters will also play a big role, he added.
“The players really need the supporters, so they should always show up and give (the players) hope,” Mokhothu said.
“It is true that the supporters are supporting us with crying hearts but I promise them that, one day, they will get what they expect.”

Relebohile Tšepe

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Afcon lives up to expectations

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CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe made a bold statement during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire that this tournament will go down as the best in the history of the beautiful game.
The tournament has indeed lived up to those expectations as it reaches the quarter-final stage. The continental showpiece has entertained us with everything that every football fanatic would expect from a big continental tourney like the AFCON.

In the last edition of the tournament held in Cameroon, I was able to put my head on the block from the word go that the Terranga Lions, as the Senegal national team is popularly known, would go all the way, which they did as they were crowned champions after defeating Egypt on penalties.

I have tried to do the same with this tournament and I must confess, it was very difficult to make a prediction as to who will walk home champions when the tournament ends on February 11.

At the completion of the group stage, a lot of people had their money on the defending champions Senegal and Morocco, who looked unmatched in the group phase as each won all their games.

Fast forward to the last 16, both countries were eliminated by Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa respectively. Worse for Cote d’Ivoire, their tournament looked to be over when in their last match of group stage, they suffered a humiliating a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Equatorial Guinea, who everyone regarded as minnows.

That was the biggest defeat suffered by AFCON hosts but the Elephants were thrown a lifeline into the round of 16 qualifiers as one of the four best-third placed finishers.
The Ivorian FA didn’t waste time and sacked Frenchman, Jean-Louis Gasset, which didn’t come as a surprise to me as the Elephants were not convincing at all during his spell in charge of the West African country.

I managed to watch his team closely as they played against Likuena in the qualifiers. During the first leg played at the Dobsonville Stadium, the two countries played out to a goalless draw while in San Pedro, the Elephants secured a narrow 1-0 victory.

Former Ivorian international Emerse Fae was tasked with the responsibility of saving the sinking ship of the Elephants, a job he did with aplomb as the hosts fought their way back from a goal down to salvage a 1-1 draw against defending champions, Senegal taking the last 16 tie to penalties, where they won 5-4.
I must say the Elephants looked a different side to the one I saw under Gasset as Fae got them firing to stun the defending champions, who have since packed their bags and gone home.

Cote d’Ivoire were indeed very lucky as the same cannot be said of the likes of Ghana and Algeria, among the big guns sent packing in the group stages of the tournament.
The poor performance of the Black Stars and the Dessert Foxes led to both Chris Hughton and Djamel Belmadi agreeing to step down as the coaches of the West and North African countries respectively.

Morocco is another country that was tipped to contest for the AFCON title, but they also failed to come to the party in their last 16 encounter.
Bafana Bafana won the match 2-0 to book a place in the quarter-finals.
Bafana Bafana have proved a hoodoo for Morocco, who many people thought would win the continental showpiece after their exploits at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, where they became the first African country to reach the semi-finals.

Their struggle against Bafana Bafana is nothing new as it dates to the days of former African Footballer of the Year, Mustafa Hadji.
Bafana Bafana’s opponents in the quarter-finals, Cape Verde, have been the surprise package of the tournament. The Blue Sharks’ remarkable journey in Cote d’Ivoire saw them win a group that had both Egypt and Ghana.

They have since inked a milestone in the history of their country winning a knockout match for the first time after beating Mauritania to set up a showdown against South Africa in the quarter-finals.
Mauritania themselves punched above their weight to have made it to the last 16 at the expense of a powerhouse like Algeria, who they beat 1-0 in the group stage. I have been impressed by their coach, Amir Abdou, who is making a name for himself as one of the best coaches in the continent having achieved a similar feat with Comoros in the previous edition of the tournament.

The one team that was under the microscope going into the tournament for unconvincing performances is Nigeria.
They eliminated Cameroon in the last 16. Their talisman Victor Osimhen has lived up to the billing of having recently been crowned African Footballer of the Year.
He has been the main man for Nigeria so far in the tournament by not only scoring goals, but also providing assists. His attitude and commitment in the field of play has been second to none.

I must say, the Super Eagles looked ordinary without Osimhen as they struggled to get their groove in matches played before AFCON where they were held by Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa have all looked very solid in their last 16 matches and I have a feeling they all have a very good chance of making it to the semi-finals. My gut feeling tells me that the AFCON trophy is going to remain in West Africa with Nigeria or Cote d’Ivoire winning it.
I really think that they tournament has lived up to expectation both on and off the field. Credit goes to the continental football body CAF under the leadership of Patrice Motsepe and Cote d’Ivoire as the host country, for putting so much effort to make the tournament a success.

To the government of Lesotho, this is yet another lesson of how football can be powerful when it has the support of its government as witnessed with countries like Mauritania and Cape Verde, who were deemed as minnows but are making strides in major continental competitions.
I have managed to visit some of these countries as well as others like Comoros, who have also qualified for AFCON tournament in recent years. Their governments have invested hugely in football infrastructure hence they are able to go pound for pound with some of the best in the continent.

Mikia Kalati

 

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