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Likuena in dreamland



MASERU – Just when it seemed Lesotho’s hopes of a first-ever trip to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) had vanished, the country has a lifeline and is daring to dream again.
On Sunday, in front of a pulsating Setsoto Stadium, Likuena muscled their way back onto the qualification path thanks to an impressive 1-0 win over Tanzania courtesy of Nkau Lerotholi’s second half header.

The win means Lesotho controls its destiny with a victory in the final group game against Cape Verde next March guaranteed to book a ticket to the 2019 AFCON finals in Cameroon next June.
One goal does not give the whole picture of Lesotho’s win.
Moses Maliehe’s charges were dominant against the visiting Taifa Stars and could have scored more goals were it not for some wayward finishing from Tumelo Khutlang and Motebang Sera in particular.

Nobody cares about ‘could have’ this time though; it is the three points that mattered most and Likuena held on to claim their first victory of the AFCON qualifying campaign.
The win came after Maliehe had an emotional talk with his players last Wednesday at their Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena training base during which he reminded his squad of what it means to represent their country.

Maliehe also encouraged the players to fight for themselves and the country.
The talk had the desired effect and Sunday’s victory was commendable given Maliehe had some of his key players out – namely, first-choice goalkeeper Likano Mphuthi and South African based striker Masoabi Nkoto.

Their absences didn’t matter this time because between the sticks Sam Ketsekile stepped in and kept Lesotho’s first clean sheet of the qualifiers while Thapelo Tale worked tirelessly as the spearhead in his first competitive appearance for Likuena in over a year.
Lesotho’s resultant three points throw the race for Group L’s second qualifying berth wide open with leaders Uganda having already advanced to the finals.
Uganda have 10 points after five games.

Lesotho has leaped into second place with five points and is ahead of Tanzania due to a superior head-to-head record after a 1-1 draw in the sides’ first meeting last June in Dar-es-Salaam.
It means if Lesotho and Tanzania were to end on the same number of points in Group L, Likuena would finish ahead of the Taifa Stars regardless of goal difference.
So it will now go to the final matches of the group on March 23, 2019 when Tanzania will host Uganda and Lesotho will travel to Cape Verde to determine who will travel to Cameroon.
Qualification, of course, could have been sealed had we converted our chances against Cape Verde in September.
That 1-1 draw at Setsoto looks costly for Likuena but now it is time to rally behind the team because a win away in Cape Verde would see Lesotho make history, regardless of the result between Tanzania and Uganda.

There will be some improvements to make for Maliehe’s side.
Sunday’s performance was not perfect by Likuena despite dominating most parts of the game.

Tanzania also had their chances to score and perhaps even win the game were it not for the resilience of Lesotho’s defence.
Likuena will also have to improve its recent record away from home with Lesotho suffering recent let-downs in continental qualifiers away to Uganda, Comoros and Seychelles.
When the qualifying draw was made for the 2019 AFCON, every Mosotho that follows football and the national team felt Likuena had a chance to qualify.

Those hopes were dented by last month’s back-to-back losses to Uganda over a span of four days but Sunday’s win changes the mood and is the team’s biggest sign of progress in recent times.
Lesotho has had good performances at the regional COSAFA Cup in recent years including successive semi-final appearances in the past two tournaments and a bronze finish this year.
However, questions were starting to be asked about the team’s ambitions and direction, and whether Likuena would ever qualify for the AFCON if it missed out on this year’s golden opportunity of qualification group that didn’t include any of the continent’s powerhouses, as had been Likuena’s ill luck in recent years.
Lesotho has never come this close to making it to the AFCON. Finally, there is a real chance to make our own history, a chance to believe again.

Luciah Phahla

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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.

Tlalane Phahla

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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.

Tlalane Phahla

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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:
Saturday (Bambatha)
Lijabatho Ladies vs. LDF Ladies
LMPS Ladies vs. Kick4Life Ladies

Tlalane Phahla

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