DUST billows as stallions gallop through the roars of exultant men and ululating women. Each is cheering for their favourite jockey.
This is not the internationally celebrated Durban July horse race but the annual Semonkong race in honour of King Letsie III’s birthday.
The scene is fantastic, complete with a relic dirt track and beautiful blue mountains, set in a small town some 1 000 metres above sea level.
Hundreds of spectators have come from surrounding villages to watch this Saturday presentation of horse racing and their joy becomes obvious when a tripling contest starts.
This contest involves a unique mix of frolicking and racing.
Tripling is a prancing style in which the front and hind legs on the same side of the horse work together. It is not a gallop and it is also not a trot.
Riders are welcomed on to the track by men shouting poems and songs. They are waving sticks, blowing whistles and wearing beautifully designed blankets.
When the tripling contest starts, the horses are immediately engulfed by clouds of dust. They stride purposefully, vying to prove their worth while jockeys and spectators alike bellow their names.
About 30 seconds before the finishing line and having tripled 900 metres, a stallion by the name of Khang proves its mettle as it out-sprints seven other competitors.
Khang’s jockey is Moholi Adoro, a shy boy of 15 years.
Adoro does not recite praise poems for his horse as jockeys are normally wont to do.
Instead, it is Khang’s admirers that gleefully recite poems as they cheerfully pat the brown stallion and run their hands down its shiny black mane.
The riders here are mostly trainers or owners.
Some are herdsmen who would normally be mounting their horses to travel to cattle posts in the mountains. None are professional jockeys.
The competitors have come from all over.
The wealthier have hired horse boxes; others have loaded their stallions into bakkies.
After the tripling contest is another competition – the gallop.
This time around spectators place bets.
Stallions on watch are Khang and Jerusalema. Both are renowned in these parts for their speed. One mineworker bets M1 000 on Jerusalema because he has seen it in a previous race. He swears no stallion can outrun Jerusalema.
Another, who recites poems for Khang, also bets M1 000 saying both the stallion’s name and its reputation on the track are a sure sign it will beat Jerusalema.
Khang is a Sesotho word meaning dispute and this enthusiastic fan believes his favoured horse will win this figurative dispute.
He is proved right.
As in the tripling contest, Khang is the victor of the gallop.
Another star is also catching the eye – the 15-year-old boy jockeying the champion horse.
Adoro has now ridden two wins and he has done it with the confidence of a master.
It is as if he has been doing this for years.
After this latest win, thepost tracks down Adoro, a Form B student at Lithabaneng High School in Maseru. He is shy, only giving short replies.
“I have been riding horses for the past four years,” he whispers. “I don’t race every year. Last year I didn’t take part but then this year I decided to come back again.”
Adoro says his family owns horses. His brother also rides.
The Semonkong race, he explains, has been challenging even if his display didn’t betray it.
“It was not easy, but it was enjoyable,” he says. “What was more difficult is that I was riding against people I don’t know. It was my first time seeing them here. It was difficult to prepare because I didn’t know who they were.”
Adoro says jockeying is his passion. He hopes to make it his profession.
“I would like to ride horses on professional basis and earn money from it,” he declares. “Today I got M750. We put a bet that the horse that wins takes all (the money) and I am happy I won.”
Adoro soon finds out he has gained M4 000 for guiding Khang to victories in the tripling and gallop events. In total, that is M4 750 for his day’s work and Adoro understandably goes home with a beaming smile.
The Semonkong horse race in honour of King Letsie III has been organised by Semonkong Lodge with financial support from the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC).
In total, the sponsorship amounts to M10 000.
The race is a success; it has even attracted visitors all the way from France.
They are here to shoot a documentary about Basotho culture and the importance of horses to Lesotho.
LTDC spokeswoman ‘Manchafalo Motšoeneng says the Semonkong horse race is now an integral part of their calendar of events.
“The LTDC sponsored the event with M9 000 and the other M1 000 comes from the Semonkong Lodge. We are promoting domestic tourism and international tourism,” Motšoeneng says.
She adds: “People who will watch this documentary will want to visit Lesotho in future. This activity is for everyone and we are trying to bring it to the attention of Basotho that tourism lives. As we always say, know your country first.”
Echoing her words is Semonkong Lodge owner Jonathan Halse who has been living in Lesotho for two decades.
Halse says his years in the country have taught him horses are not just a form of transport but central to local culture.
“I have been into horse racing for over ten years now, I think. Ever since I came here I have learnt that horses are very important and we are trying to promote tourism in Lesotho by using horses,” Halse states.
“The lodge is linked to the horses. I think we have about 50 horses that belong to the community that stay at the lodge. Some horses are bred here in Semonkong while others are coming from outside,” he says.
As the dust and cheers slowly subside, the departing throng already murmurs on what to expect at next year’s Semonkong showpiece for the King.
All and sundry have clearly enjoyed the spectacle, a day celebrating Lesotho, its beautiful culture and its horses.
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:
LDF Ladies 1-1 Ntopwa
Double Action vs. LDF Ladies
Green Buffaloes vs. LDF Ladies
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.
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.
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