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Likuena steps up preps

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MASERU-The national team Likuena is already in camp preparing for next month’s final two 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.
The path for Likuena to reach Cameroon is narrow and largely dependent on the results of the other teams in Group L, even if Likuena do win their games.

Lesotho face Sierra Leone at home and then group leaders Nigeria away in the final qualifier. But despite a tough road ahead for the team, Likuena head coach Thabo Senong remains positive and optimistic about the upcoming games and believes everyone in the group still has a chance to qualify for the 2021 AFCON finals slated for Cameroon.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Likuena are in bio-bubble camp and have had more than four training sessions in preparation for the games.
Senong and his technical team have a mountain to climb, not only has the virus made it difficult for him to fully assess players performance for their respective clubs, they are working on trying to up the fitness level of the group.

Lesotho is one of the few countries where sport is totally banned and Likuena are up against countries that are active and would not struggle with any match fitness.
Despite the challenges, Senong said while this is a first-time experience, it is one that one has to learn from and come up with solutions.

“We prepare with the intention to win, so is Nigeria and Sierra Leone they play to win. The positive thing is that if we can get a win, the table is still mathematically open, everyone has a chance of not qualifying even Nigeria. If you win you have a chance,” he said.

Senong said going into the games, Likuena does not have any advantages they can count on. However, a game always presents a new opportunity to win, the level of motivation for the team even for the opposition. The technical team is working on getting players ready for the battle and he said the players’ attitude has been good.
One of the few positives for Likuena is that they have not conceded a lot of goals in the four games they have played.

Senong’s side have let in six goals with four of those coming in a single game against Nigeria, the strongest team in the group.
Defensively, Likuena have improved and are better now, but they are also not scoring goals, not creating enough chances and not converting the ones they get.

It is a problem Senong is very much aware of and has talked about it.
“We don’t concede a lot of goals but also don’t score a lot of goals, maybe we are not creative enough but defensively we have improved. Let’s make sure we don’t concede, but also make sure we score, increase creativity and create chances,” Senong said.

Few players that were dropped from the Benin squad last year are back in the provisional squad Senong called two weeks ago, while it is yet to be determined whether they will make the final cut selection.
Tšoarelo Bereng was a notable absentee from the team that travelled to Benin and the one that played a return leg at Setsoto Stadium, he is now back with the team.

At the time, Senong said the door is not closed on Bereng or anyone that missed out, their return is a testament to that.
He said the door will never be closed on anyone and that call ups are simply a reward of what one does for their club.

Another name that has come up a lot in Senong’s press conferences was that of former Kick4Life striker Thabiso Brown who is in Bolivia and he has been called for the first time by Senong.
Brown is one of the players who are still actively training with their clubs and his fitness is probably better than locally based ones who have been inactive for over a month now. Senong said they are trying to find balance in terms of fitness from those that are still training with their clubs and the squad.

The players that are in training at the moment are locally based with the exception of Morapeli Lesoetsa whom Senong said has family commitments. Players based outside the country are expected to join in later on.

With the two points Likuena has, the maximum they can get to is eight if they win their two remaining fixtures. Asking Likuena to beat Nigeria away is not impossible but seems improbable.

Likuena 2021 AFCON Qualifiers journey
November 2019
Lesotho 1-1 Sierra Leone (A)
Lesotho 2-4 Nigeria (H)
November 2020
Lesotho 0-1 Benin (A)
Lesotho 0-0 Benin (H)
March 2021
Lesotho vs. Sierra Leone (H)
Lesotho vs. Nigeria (A)

Tlalane Phahla

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Rabale eyes Champions League glory

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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

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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

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

Tlalane Phahla

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