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FIFA boss sweeps into town

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…Heaps praises on Lefa for developing football…

MASERU – FIFA president Gianni Infantino has congratulated the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) on the work it is doing to develop football in the country.

Infantino was speaking on Tuesday at LEFA’s Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena headquarters on his first-ever official visit to Lesotho.
The FIFA boss was in Lesotho with a delegation that included CAF president Ahmad Ahmad, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura, France World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff and legendary Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o.

The FIFA delegation arrived in the country on Tuesday afternoon and met with His Majesty King Letsie III at the Royal Palace where they stayed for about 20 minutes and presented the King with a jersey, pennant and took pictures.

Infantino then left to meet Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane at the Government Complex where similar pleasantries were exchanged.
From there the convoy headed to Setsoto Stadium to meet Econet Premier League champions Matlama and their coach Charles Manda at a training session before Infantino headed to Bambatha for a meeting with LEFA’s executive.

“I am really happy with my delegation to be here in the Kingdom of Lesotho and the first thing I would like to say is something that I want to say three times because it is so important and it’s simply: thank you, thank you, and thank you. Thank you for living football, like we do; thank you for offering your time, energy and your passion to make our children (and) your children dream, smile and to give them hope,” Infantino said.

“Thank you for making your country and the whole of Africa shine because it is true that we came in a difficult moment; it is true that we increased solidarity programmes, it is true that some people were saying we will run straight into bankruptcy but it is true that today FIFA is as strong as it has never been before.

“We have been investing five more times in football development including here in Lesotho. We are launching some very exciting projects and, in spite of our increased investments, FIFA is solid as ever. We have more than doubled the amount of reserves that we had when I started as FIFA president which gives more funds to re-inject into the game including in Lesotho,” he said.

Infantino was elected FIFA president during a FIFA Extraordinary Congress in 2016. He was in Lesotho as part of a tour of several African countries.
Infantino said FIFA is working on several projects and programmes in conjunction with CAF to raise Africa’s profile on the global stage.
“We have to make Lesotho (and) each country here (in Africa) shine in the world, this is our job,” Infantino said.

“We are today with two world champions. Youri Djorkaeff (is a) world champion from France in 1998, Samuel Eto’o (was a) world champion with Internazionale Milan in 2010. But, of course, as we know, every now and then there is one world champion but FIFA has 211 members. 211 countries and one world champion; does this mean that the 210 other are not equally worse?

“It doesn’t because we have 211 world champions. Our World Cup is each smile of each child who can play football and our job is to give to our children hope and smiles. This was the message that we exchanged with His Majesty the King earlier, with your Prime Minister, with your (LEFA) president and executive committee, with the whole football community of Lesotho,” he said.

Infantino commended Lesotho’s strides.
“Lesotho is a proud country which is football crazy and it has to continue like this and it is up to us to foster it,” he said.
“You been drawing to Sierra Leone, you have been losing but fighting to Nigeria, one powerhouse of African and world football. The size of Nigeria is about 20 times the size of Lesotho but football makes us dream,” he added.

“You are investing, we are investing in girls’ and women’s football and that’s normal because that is 50 percent of our population. Your (sports) minister together with the association is doing a fantastic work and we are proud to work together with Fatma Samoura, with Ahmad Ahmad, with all of you to make football shine even more.

“So, I will just like to conclude by again thanking you all because we are all part of the same team and without your work, without your dedication, without your passion, FIFA would not be successful. So, the success of FIFA is not the success of the FIFA president, the success of FIFA is your success because FIFA is each and every one of you,” Infantino said.
LEFA president Advocate Salemane Phafane thanked Infantino and his team for stabilising FIFA and restoring the federation’s integrity when people were starting to lose faith in the organisation.

When Infantino was elected FIFA was reeling from a major corruption scandal in 2015 which forced Sepp Blatter to resign as president.
“Mr President when you took over the reins of FIFA (in 2016) there can be no doubt that the name of football, the name of FIFA itself was going through the hardest patch in its history,” Phafane said.

“You took over at a time when the integrity of FIFA as well as football as a whole was at stake; in fact, it was a time when some countries in Europe, if I recall well, were beginning to contemplate walking out of FIFA because it was losing integrity and reputation at an alarming rate,” he added.
Phafane credited Infantino for “transforming FIFA.”

“We are pleased to confirm Mr President that within a short period of time you have transformed FIFA. You have restored the integrity, the respect and the image that FIFA once enjoyed and you are moving at a very fast rate in taking FIFA to a higher level, perhaps a level which it has never been before in its history of over 100 years and this you are achieving at an alarming rate Mr President and your team. We thank you so much,” Phafane said.

“When you took over Mr President with your team and you announced support that you are going to give to member associations,” Phafane continued.
“A lot of people said this president is going to render FIFA bankrupt in no time; suffice to say you increased the support by more than five times as soon as you took over and we are very proud that we have a president who loves, who lives football like you do.”

Tlalane Phahla

 

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Women rugby stars picked by Free State

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Two Lesotho women’s rugby stars, Thato Moeti and Mookho Lesoetsa, have been selected to the Free State senior team for the 2024 season.
The duo have been selected after their sterling performances for Lesotho in the on-going Free State Women’s Rugby League in South Africa and now Moeti and Lesoetsa can look forward to competing in the Cheetahs League, which marks a major step in their rugby careers.

Moeti told thepost yesterday that she is “very grateful for the opportunity” to be part of the Free State squad.

“It has always been my wish to be selected and, finally, I made it in the eyes of the Free State management,” Moeti said.

“I believe that if (Lesotho rugby) players can play with heart and spirit, and if they show their talent in the league, they can also be selected next season,” she added.

The management of the Free State women’s team scouted players from Lesotho to join in their squad last year as well.

12 months ago, it was Palesa Pitso, Mosongoa Monaheng and Nthabeleng Lebetsa who were picked, and they remain with the squad.

The selected players sign yearly contracts with the Free State team and Lesotho’s contingent at the club is now up to five.

The team manager of the national women’s rugby team, Tumelo Phenya, said Lesotho’s players seem to improve and “become very competitive” when they compete across the border because everyone wants the exposure and opportunity to compete outside the country.

He said being part of the Free State Women’s Rugby League allows Lesotho’s players to showcase their talent and opens doors for them to be selected for the Cheetahs League the following year.

“We are very lucky that South Africa recognises our players, especially because rugby in South Africa is at a high level. It shows progress for us as a country that we can produce players that can be competitive internationally,” Phenya said.

Phenya said he aims to see Lesotho compete at the Women’s Rugby Cup one day.
The showpiece is held every four years and the next tournament is next year in England.

Phenya said Pitso, Monaheng and Lebetsa, who have now gained experience and exposure outside the country, are excellent products to promote rugby in Lesotho.
Pitso also happens to be the team manager of the Lesotho men’s rugby side.

“When we go to schools with them, students fall into the sport because they want to be like them. Even Pitso’s title says a lot to students, they see growth in rugby,” he said.

Unfortunately, rugby, especially the women’s game, is hamstrung by a lack of finances and support.

As a result, Phenya said there are many tournaments and invitations Lesotho fails to honour because of no funds.

Phenya pleaded with Basotho and local companies to invest in their sport so that women’s rugby can grow and improve.

Lesotho is currently part of the Free State Women’s League that kicked off last month and will end early in May.

The national side played two games.

Lesotho beat Spartans 34-12 and lost 34-7 to Central University of Technology (CUT).

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Seema speaks on good run

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Lesotho legend Lehlohonolo Seema has spoken on Sekhukhune United’s impressive run in the DSTV Premiership since taking over the reins at the Polokwane-based outfit in December last year.
“Babina Noko”, as Sekhukhune are affectionately known, were in 12th place when its management appointed the former Likuena captain as its new coach last year, but the team has since ascended to third position.

Seema joined Sekhukhune from Polokwane City, who were then in sixth position but now find themselves in 10th position since the Lesotho mentor left them for their rivals from the same province.
Speaking exclusively to thepost following a run of five victories which includes a 2-1 win over former club Orlando Pirates and Tuesday’s 2-2 draw against Cape Town City, Seema attributed the impressive run to the hard work his team has been putting on the training ground.

“I’m not surprised by the way the players responded to my way of doing things since I took over the reins. On beating Pirates, it’s not even about Pirates, it’s all about collecting points,” Seema said.
“Beating a big side is always a bonus and giving yourself a chance to finish in a better position. There was nothing personal, but we are taking it one game at a time. We are happy as a club to collect the three points because competition is tight, and the margins are very close, and we just want to collect as many points as possible.

“Remember this team was playing in the Confederations Cup though it was not doing well in the league, but they have shown that they won games in the continent in countries like DRC to have made the group stages of the continental competition,” he said.

Seema believes being together in their camp has also worked wonders for his team to be the most inform team in the DSTV Premiership at this juncture.
They are now in third position behind defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns as well as another surprise package in Stellenbosch FC.

“There is no secret honestly in the form that we have been enjoying as a club, but just hard work on the training pitch, having a common goal, respecting each other, and listening to each other,” Seema said.

“We have remained humble on and off the field as a team, we have made it easy for players to work with us by asking questions on the training ground and we give them answers to come up with solutions for problems that we have as a team.

“Credit must go to the whole technical team, the analysts, fitness team, medical team because since I arrived here, we have had a very tough schedule and we don’t have a big squad, but they have managed it very well.

“The analysis team has been doing a magnificent job giving us everything we need on time to plan on our team as well as the opponents and our team has coped with all the challenges thrown at us,” he said.

Seema also opened up on Lesotho international, Teboho Letsema, who was registered by Sekhukhune in the January transfer window.

“Letsema is our player, we have signed him but could not register him because we already had five foreigners but because we could not miss out on such a talent, we had to get his signature,” Seema said.

“We managed to loan him out to Orbit, who are in the Motsepe Championship and competing. It’s good for him and he is a player to watch next season,” he said.

Mikia Kalati

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Lioli captain says job not done yet

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Lioli captain Mafa Moremoholo insists the job “is not done” in the race to claim the Vodacom Premier League crown.

Last weekend was a game-changer in the title chase and Lioli are now firmly in the driver’s seat to lift the league trophy after results went their way in dramatic fashion.

The drama started last Saturday when recently crowned People’s Cup champions Matlama were stunned 3-0 by Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).

24 hours later, Lifofane held fellow title rivals Bantu to a surprise 1-1 draw and the weekend ended with Lioli five points clear at the top of the table after ‘Tse Nala’ overcame Liphakoe 1-0.

Although Lioli, with 56 points from 24 matches, have played a game more than Matlama (51 points) and Bantu (49 points), points in hand are better than those still to gain.

Furthermore, if Lioli win their remaining six matches, they will be crowned champions regardless of other results and that has uncorked joy in Teyateyaneng (TY) with some fans already planning festivities for when Lioli end their eight-year title drought.

List of champions since 2010:
2010 Matlama
2011 Lesotho Correctional Service
2012 Lesotho Correctional Service
2013 Lioli
2014 Bantu
2015 Lioli
2016 Lioli
2017 Bantu
2018 Bantu
2019 Matlama
2020 Bantu
2021-22 Matlama
2023 Bantu

Moremoholo however warned against any premature celebrations and insisted Lioli have not reached the levels the club’s players and coaches want to attain.
The stalwart defender said the gap the TY giants have established at the top means nothing because they still have six crucial games to play.

“As for being the champions of the league, I cannot comment on that because we are on a serious journey,” he said. “The title can be missed by an inch, so we do not want to praise ourselves now.”

Moremoholo pointed out that the league’s intensity has picked up in the second half of the season, and even though Lioli won 1-0 on Sunday, Liphakoe’s performance surprised him.
It was night and day from the first round clash in November when Lioli won 2-1, he said, this time Liphakoe were prepared and ready to fight.

It is going to be that way in every game for the remainder of the season because all teams want to improve their league position, Moremoholo added.

“Our games with Liphakoe are never easy because we have our own fight over our (similar) logos. We are birds of the same feather,” he said. “They approached us in a different way from the first leg, which surprised me. They gave us pressure and we had to fight. We still need to improve how we approach our games.”

As one of the leaders of the team, a lot of that responsibility will fall on Moremoholo.

So far, the skipper has led with aplomb and has been the epitome of consistency while marshalling a defence that has conceded just 13 goals in 24 games. Only LMPS (11 goals conceded in 24 games) have a better defensive record.

Moremoholo’s leadership has duly been recognised around the league and ‘Tse Nala’ coach Motheo Mohapi called him Lioli’s best player after their win over Liphakoe.
Mohapi said the defender’s efforts as captain and his willingness to work to lift his team has been key to their success.
Moremoholo preferred to praise his teammates, though.

“It is through the hard work of the team for someone to be recognised. I really appreciate my teammates for setting the spotlight on me to be recognised (by Mohapi),” he said.

The Lioli skipper added that the club’s targets extend beyond this season – they want to see ‘Tse Nala’ recognised in continental competitions in the next two to three years, and their focus is not on just winning the league.

For them to become a competitive fixture in CAF competitions, Lioli will need to continue their noticeable improvement under Mohapi.

Last season they finished eighth place in the league with 42 points, 26 points behind eventual champions Bantu. Lioli have already shattered that points total in Mohapi’s first season in charge and Moremoholo believes there is more room to grow.

He said the core of Lioli’s players are still young which gives them a chance to improve and reach their goal of future dominance while the presence of Mohapi as coach is another reason Moremoholo sees a bright future for the team.

“Most of our players are still young, they are early in their 20s, and they will hold the team for some years while they gain experience. I also appreciate (Mohapi) for being part of our team and holding our hands to return the dignity of the team,” he said.

The club’s collective efforts have manifested the return of Lioli fans to grounds this season and that vociferous 12th man, which was key to Lioli’s successful title-winning teams in the past, will again be crucial in their next game on Sunday against Lijabatho.

“Seeing supporters at our games lift our spirits and it gives us hope to win every game,” Moremoholo said.

“(The Lioli fans) should never give up on us because through their presence, we get motivated.”

Weekend fixtures:
Saturday
Bantu vs Liphakoe
Manonyane vs Likila
Lifofane vs CCX
Lijabatho vs Lioli
Sunday
Machokha vs LDF
Naughty Boys vs Matlama
LMPS vs Linare
ACE Maseru vs LCS

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