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Destined for the boxing ring



MASERU – FROM a young age, Moroke Mokhotho seemed destined for the boxing ring — and his childhood friends can bear testimony.

“My journey to boxing was influenced by the beastly instinct I harboured as a young lad,” said Mokhotho, a former Lesotho national team boxer who as a young boy used to pummel his age mates whenever they irritated him.

Yet, it was defeat in a makeshift ring that pushed him into professional boxing.

Initially, his real love lay in football like the majority of boys in Lesotho and he had even bought a pair of soccer boots as he was intending to take the sport to a more professional level.

On closing day in December 2008, a classmate at Leqele High School made a suggestion that changed all that.

“We were just wandering around the class waiting to be officially dismissed when an idea struck one of my friends to engage in a boxing match. The boxing gloves were readily available so we quickly improvised a boxing ring by arranging desks into a circular shape in the classroom,” he recalled.

From that day, he exchanged his soccer boots for boxing gloves and that was after he had received a thorough beating from an opponent. One after the other, the boys took turns fighting and in no time Mokhotho’s turn came.

“I had initially undermined my opponent but the boy gave me the beating of my life. He mesmerised me with tricky jabs and I was left appalled by those spectacular fist displays,” recalled Mokhotho.

Outclassed, Mokhotho didn’t hesitate to congratulate him but yearned to know how the boy managed to fight so well.

“That was when I discovered that he was actually training in boxing at the Makoanyane Barracks.”

Mokhotho decided to follow suit and began to train professionally, although he didn’t take the sport seriously at first despite receiving a warm welcome from the coach, Moses Kopo.

After a week of orientation training, Mokhotho gave up and continued with football…until a week later when he bumped into the boxing lad, on their way to training. They criticised him for surrendering so early and convinced him to continue.

“Upon my re-union, things had taken a wrong turn and everyone took turns sparing with everyone around. Our captain Koko Lepaneng had instructed all round sparing. I suffered severe beatings that I could hardly breathe.

However, I persisted to train rigorously in order to be at par with my counterparts,” he said.

Two months later, Mokhotho was now ready to get into the ring and face his opponents.

In March 2009, he went on to battle in the National Championship, a tournament organised to select national team squad members for upcoming international games.

He defeated his first two opponents but lost the third battle and settled for a bronze medal.

“From there, my confidence soared that I earned my first national call up in 2011 where I went to represent the national team in Maputo, Mozambique for the All Africa Games and managed to win a bronze medal,” Mokhotho said.

The following year, he was meant to represent the country in the Olympic Games in London but missed a flight at OR Tambo International airport in Johannesburg.

With his exceptional boxing talent, he has since travelled extensively across the globe, earning awards and representing the country in countries such as Brazil, Congo, Thailand and Australia.

“My most memorable fight was in 2016 at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Cameroon. I managed to fight in the semi-finals with one hand since my shoulder was dislocated,” he said.

Nonetheless, he has also faced tough opponents and he recalls Oteng from Botswana and one Evaristo from Zambia.

Locally, he also had tough battles with Tlotlisang Matsepe from Mafeteng in 2010 and 2011.

Mokhotho has just resigned from elite boxing and has turned his attention to the administration side of the sport.

“Now, I am a chairperson of the Athletes Commission and by virtue of being a chairperson I am a member of the Lesotho National Olympic Committee Board. I am also an executive member of the Lesotho Boxing Association with the same portfolio as well as the Lesotho Badminton Association Ethics Chairperson.

“I have enrolled in the African Boxing Confederation Officials Committee as a newly appointed member, that means I am in the continental body that runs boxing in Africa,” Mokhotho said of his new roles.

He says boxing taught him discipline.

Professional boxers are well trained experts and are governed by a code of conduct that stipulates that they must at all odds strive to refrain from engaging in violent acts with members of society.

Mokhotho has highlighted the importance of professional boxers living in harmony with the rest of the public and maintaining their cool in all respects.

“Boxers should not get involved in physical confrontations outside the ring, and also they should reject any act of harassment, sexual or otherwise, bullying and domestic violence,” said Mokhotho, who is now pushing for more female involvement in the sport.

“As the boxing fraternity, we are trying to lure women to take part in the sport as that would mean the growth of it. I would like to assure them and allay their fears that boxing is for everyone. The golden rule in boxing is that if you work hard at training, the fight will be easy in the ring,” he said.

Mokhotho said boxers need to work on their speed, accuracy and defence skills to be able to be effective in the ring.

“In training, it’s very important to set goals and work on techniques to become a better boxer. Above all, boxers should have unbending determination in whatever they do,” he said.

According to Mokhotho, the challenge that boxers face in the country is the lack of tournaments.

“This simply deprives boxers of enough exposure and experience. The challenge we have when we face international opponents is that our boxers don’t have regular competitions, so lack of frequent game time kills our local boxers’ morale,” Mokhotho said.

Calvin Motekase

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Mohlolo rescues point for LDF Ladies



A last-gasp strike by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies striker ‘Maseriti Mohlolo rescued a point for the Women’s Super League (WSL) champions against Malawi’s Ntopwa in the opener of their CAF Women’s Champions League COSAFA Qualifiers yesterday.

Mohlolo’s goal keeps LDF Ladies in contention to progress to the next round with two teams from the four-team group set to qualify for the semi-finals.

Although LDF Ladies were not outplayed in the game, they missed many chances and their set-pieces left a lot to be desired.
Maybe that can be attributed to a last minute coaching change that saw Pule Khojane replace Lengana Nkhethoa as head coach of a side that won the WSL unbeaten last season.

Speaking after the game, Khojane said even though he realised early on that the Malawian team were tough physically, he still wanted LDF Ladies to play their normal passing game.
In the end, Khojane was left to lament the number of chances his side created but couldn’t convert.
Khojane said that will be a point of emphasis before LDF Ladies step onto the field again tomorrow against Botswana’s Double Action.
Tomorrow’s tie is probably a must-win with the group’s other team being defending champions Green Buffaloes of Zambia and LDF Ladies will need to convert their chances.

“We play with four at the back but with two attacking full backs, most of the time if a team plays long balls like (Ntopwa) we struggle a lot but we don’t change our game. We want to play; we want to go forward.
“That’s why sometimes we made a lot of mistakes when the ball was played high behind our backs but we still wanted to play our game and win. We were just unfortunate not to score more goals but we were playing (well),” Khojane said.

LDF conceded a late goal in the first half and were perhaps lucky to go into the half time break just a goal down.
Before Ntopwa took the lead they were awarded a penalty for a reckless foul in the box but they missed the chance to open the scoring.
LDF recovered in the second that but could not find a way into the goals.

It looked as if Lesotho’s representatives at the regional showpiece would begin their campaign with a defeat. However, Mohlolo rescued the Lesotho champions when she latched onto a poor back pass from a defender. She stole the ball and levelled matters with less than three minutes to go.
There was no time for the LDF to get a winner and they had to settle for a point in their opening group game.
They will now be looking to improve and sharpen their scoring boots for tomorrow’s showdown against Double Action of Botswana.

LDF Ladies fixtures:
August 30
LDF Ladies 1-1 Ntopwa
Double Action vs. LDF Ladies
Green Buffaloes vs. LDF Ladies

Tlalane Phahla

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Makepe quits Likuena duty



Likuena captain Basia Makepe has retired from international football after leading the senior national team to silver at the recent COSAFA Cup tournament held in Durban, South Africa.
This was the first time since 2000 that Likuena had reached the final of the regional tournament where they lost 1-0 to Zambia.

The Leribe born defender will go down as one of the most decorated defenders in the country having represented his country 87 times and winning several accolades in the process.

Makepe’s leadership skills were spotted from a young age, where he was appointed captain of the national U-20 team, Makoanyane XI by Leslie Notši.
He led by example as Makoanyane XI qualified for the CAF Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in 2011, which in those days was knowns as the African Youth Championship, where the side eliminated countries like Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya to qualify for the tournament.

Makepe won his first Likuena cap in a 2-1 victory over Eswatini during an international friendly match played at Setsoto Stadium in October 2012 and went on to make the squad for the 2013 COSAFA Cup in Zambia.
However, Makepe was an unused substitute at the tournament as Notši went for the tried and tested defenders such as Moitheri Ntobo, Tlali Maile and Thabo Masualle as Likuena reached the semi-finals.

He would later be appointed the Likuena captain as coach Moses Maliehe went for a younger generation at the 2016 COSAFA Cup in Namibia, where Likuena won all their group stage matches but were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Shakes Mashaba-coached Bafana Bafana.
Makepe has not only enjoyed success with the national team but won several domestic trophies at Lioli, where he was also handed the captaincy after joining from boyhood club and now defunct Joy FC.

After leaving Lioli, he joined the police outfit, LMPS FC, where he is employed as a police officer and believes he still has a few years left in his tank playing for Simunye, as the police outfit is affectionately known.

“I think I have had a career that you can say was decent and can be accepted as satisfying to the football fraternity,” Makepe said.

“For me I can say it was a good career that has had challenges here and there as well as successes here and there, which started way back with the Under-20 team.

“With Makoanyane XI, we became the second team to qualify for the Africa Youth Championship and fortunately I had the honour of being the captain of that team.”

The 32-year-old, who has come up against the best forwards on the continent from the young Mohamed Salah during the 2011 Under-20 Africa Youth Championship to the likes of Victor Osimhen, Riyad Mahrez, has singled out former Burkina Faso striker Jonathan Pitroipa as the most troublesome opponent he has faced.

“I have come up against the best from this continent from the likes of Salah and others, but I think Pitroipa of Burkina Faso was the most troublesome forward I have come up against,” he said.

“I think the successes with the senior team especially as the captain are many having reached the COSAFA semi-finals a number of times with Likuena and twice going unbeaten in the group stage in Zambia 2013 and Namibia 2016 respectively.

“Being the captain of the team was the cherry on top and getting bronze medal in 2018. I end my chapter with Likuena having played a role in helping the team get to the final for the first time in 23 years,” he said.

Makepe admitted that the 2016 edition of the COSAFA tournament was very special for him as it was the first he captained the side and they won all their group stage matches.

“The COSAFA tournament in Namibia in 2016 stands out for me especially that game against South Africa, which unfortunately we lost on penalties, but it was a good tournament overall,” he said.

“All in all, I think it was a very satisfying career with the national team though you always want more as a player. I’m happy to bow out having helped Likuena re-write history. It’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.

“I’m very grateful to all who have supported me throughout my career, my teammates, coaches, administrators and the supporters, who were always by our side and of course the Lesotho Football Association for giving me the opportunities to lead the national team,” he said.

Mikia Kalati

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Notši picks squad for Ivory Coast tie



Lesotho interim coach Leslie Notši has named a provisional 27-man squad for the side’s final 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Ivory Coast which is scheduled for September 9.
By virtue of being the hosts of next year’s showpiece, Ivory Coast have already qualified for the tournament while Likuena no longer have a chance of joining them after back-to-back defeats with Zambia in June.

With nothing to play with but pride, Likuena can draw inspiration from their performance when the sides met in their first Group H encounter last June which ended in a goalless draw.
The match was played in Soweto and Lesotho’s memorably dogged display against their much more fancied opponents is something Notši’s charges can look to for inspiration.

Several new faces could feature in that return game in Ivory Coast.
Fresh off last month’s COSAFA Cup final display, Notši has called up some fresh blood to bolster the squad such as Khubetsoana Kamela, Tšeliso Botsane and Teboho Letsema who have each represented Lesotho’s junior teams but are yet to make the leap to the senior side.

Notši’s squad also includes the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) trio of Morena Moloi, Lebesa Lebesa and Victor Ferreira who have been called up to the national team set-up for the first time in their careers.
The most surprising inclusion is perhaps that of Ferreira who spent the majority of last season making cameo appearances from the LDF substitutes’ bench.

Speaking with LEFA’s media team, Notši said the new faces are intended to give him depth going into the 2024 African Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifiers which start in September and are reserved only for locally based players.
It means the handful of Likuena players plying their trade outside the country will be ineligible to play. The first round of the 2024 CHAN qualifiers is set to begin from September 22 to 24.

“We all know that AFCON qualification is out of our reach and the bigger picture is to prepare the team for the CHAN qualifiers, which are coming very soon,” Notši said.
“Most of these boys have come through the ranks playing for our junior national team and it’s the association’s investment that needs to be given a chance to grow,” the Lesotho mentor added.

The 27-man Likuena squad will be trimmed down to a manageable size towards the side’s departure to Ivory Coast, but the core of the players that went to the COSAFA Cup in July are expected to retain their places in the team.
Likuena have a busy schedule ahead with the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers also in the pipeline this year. Notši needs to have as strong a team as possible to compete in all the competitions.

Likuena provisional squad:
Sekhoane Moerane, Teboho Ratibisi, Mosoeu Seahlolo.
Rethabile Senkoto, Motlomelo Mkhwanazi, Mohlomi Makhetha, Rethabile Mokokoane, Rethabile Rasethuntša, Lebesa Lebesa, ‘Mellere Lebetša.
Lisema Lebokollane, Khubetsoana Kamele, Tšeliso Botsane, Lehlohonolo Fothoane, Thabo Lesaoana, Tumelo Makha, Koenehelo Mothala, Tšepang Sefali, Victor Ferreira, Tshwarelo Bereng, Teboho Letsema, Neo Mokhachance, Tšepo Toloane, Morena Moloi.
Thabiso Mari, Jane Thabantšo, Motebang Sera, Katleho Makateng.

Tlalane Phahla

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