MASERU – On Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro said sending two athletes to the Tokyo Olympic Games in August “did not fit very well” with a proud country like Lesotho.
Majoro said ‘all of us’ were a little surprised only Khoarahlane Seutloali and ‘Neheng Khatala made it to Japan as he addressed the United Kingdom (UK) diaspora meeting held on the eve of the Conference of Parties (COP26) in Scotland.
The meeting was held to address challenges faced by Basotho living in the UK as well as other issues of national interest and that is where the question of the country’s performance at the Olympics came up.
When Majoro said ‘us’ it was unclear if he was talking about the entire nation or the government because the country’s sporting fraternity was not surprised.
I was not surprised Lesotho only had two athletes in Tokyo. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Covid-19 pandemic that forced the Games to be postponed by a year, only one athlete would have qualified.
Sending two athletes to the Olympics should not come as a surprise to a government that invests nothing but empty promises in sport.
The United Kingdom Diaspora meeting lasted for two hours and 45 minutes and the prime minister spent a grand total of three minutes talking about sports and nothing he said made sense.
It should not come as a surprise to the government that only two athletes went to Japan when it has killed sports in schools where it is now difficult for kids to participate in sports because the curriculum does not allow them to.
I have two nieces who are both in primary school, I know. It is funny because Majoro mentioned that Seutloali and Khatala have been running since they were in primary school, so why has government killed school sports? School sports is not the same anymore.
One can only wish the prime minister could have elaborated more on what he meant when he said sending only two athletes to the Olympics did not fit well with a proud country like Lesotho because if he had been following the country’s previous Olympic qualifications, he would have realised the numbers were steadily decreasing.
Majoro said speaking with Seutloali and Khatala made him realise that, like Ethiopia and Kenya, Lesotho is on the right track.
Those two countries boast the world’s top performers in marathons and Kenya has produced arguably the greatest marathoner ever in Eliud Kipchoge. Ethiopia and Kenya dominate marathons around the world. Whether it is London, Berlin or New York, they have written their names in the history books and won several gold medals at past Olympics. Where is any shred of evidence that suggests Lesotho is on the same trajectory as those two countries? Is it Lesotho’s high altitude?
Of course, it was mentioned.
“I met the two athletes and talking to them it became very clear that like Ethiopia (and) like Kenya, Lesotho is on the way there,” Majoro said.
“Why? Because Kenya and Ethiopia have been successful because of the natural contribution of the high altitude of which Lesotho already has.”
Numerous studies have been done regarding the success of Kenyan athletes and high altitude has been mentioned as one of the reasons. Studies show that most Kenyan athletes were born and raised at high altitude.
The body produces more red blood cells at high altitude and this increases oxygen delivery to muscles and boosts performance. However, it is not the only reason Kenyan runners are dominant in marathons, there are several other factors in play as well.
Normally, when people speak about marathons, high altitude is always mentioned as an advantage for our athletes but it has become lazy reasoning, really. Ask any athlete why they are not performing well at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, or even the African Championships and the real reason is lack of support from the government and the fact that Lesotho’s athletes are not exposed to international events as they should be.
A lack of investment in youth sports and development as well as a failure to nurture talent early is another reason. Running in South Africa where Lesotho does well is not enough.
It has been 23 years since Lesotho captured a gold medal at the 1988 Commonwealth Games when Thabiso Moqhali won the marathon in Kuala Lumpur in a time of 2:1915 hours. Since then, nobody has come close to winning a gold medal for Lesotho at a major international event.
When discussing the country’s failures at international events, Majoro said that in a few years “we will have world-class” athletes, not only in the marathon but in cycling as well because the sport is promising. However, the prime minister admitted it would take investment from the government.
“I am sold, I am convinced that we have to invest a lot more in our young kids, so we are looking at how we can support this. Personally, as Prime Minister I have to engage and provide leadership in what we should be doing,” Majoro said.
“The two people that went to Japan started this thing at primary school and through high school, so they can’t remember a point when they were not running,” the prime minister added.
“But look, just to merely qualify to go to the Olympics was a major feat.
Their qualification times were actually better than what they were able to perform in Japan, let’s do all we can to support them” Majoro said.
With the natural advantages Lesotho has, just qualifying should not be regarded as a major feat.
It is also interesting to hear the prime minister talking about investment because the government does nothing for sport in this country, yet they talk about investing and making sport a profession that athletes can earn a living from.
How and when they are going to do this, nobody knows.
It was disappointing Majoro did not mention the African Union Sport Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games which will be held in the country next month and whose preparations have been shambolic.
From the various preparations of Lesotho’s teams to the preparation of infrastructure, things are in an embarrassing state, yet the government had more than three years to prepare.
The AUSC Games are the perfect example of the government’s negligence which is typified by the fact that the country is in a race against time to get Setsoto Stadium running track ready with a month to go.
The football pitch? Forget about it.
Setsoto Stadium has been banned by CAF and it cannot host international matches because it does not meet the continent’s required standards. How is a government that cannot maintain existing facilities going to invest in sport to produce ‘world-class’ athletes?
Likuena and Mehalalitoe’s humiliating performances over the past year were not mentioned by Majoro.
How government plans to help the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) build strong national sides by investing in the grassroots and helping to establish development academies was not mentioned either.
It is time to stop talking about the need to invest in sport and to start doing it.
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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