Lesotho taekwondo received a major boost on Monday with a kit donation worth an estimated M250 000 from the South Korean government and the KUKKIWON (World Taekwondo Headquarters), South Korea’s governing organisation for taekwondo.
The equipment was received by the Minister of Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation Mathibeli Mokhothu at a ceremony at Setsoto Stadium.
It is hoped the equipment will enhance the performance of local fighters during training and in their preparations for international tournaments in a quest to return taekwondo to its hey-days.
Taekwondo competed admirably in the 1990’s and early 2000s and became Lesotho’s most successful sport.
The sport’s string of successes included Likeleli Thamae winning gold at the All Africa Games in 1996 and 1999 while Lineo Mochesane was African fin-weight champion in 2003.
However, the last time taekwondo qualified for the Olympic Games was in 2004.
The equipment given to the Lesotho Taekwondo Association (LTA) includes Adidas training shoes, head gear and other fighting equipment which the association estimated at around M250 000.
The donation comes on the heels of Lesotho taekwondo’s failure to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics after unsuccessful African Taekwondo Union qualifiers in Morocoo last month.
South Korea has been a long-time partner to Lesotho in taekwondo and in 2014, South Korean coach, Du Khwi Lee, arrived in the country to oversee Lesotho taekwondo.
Addressing the ceremony, Mokhothu applauded the South Korean government for always lending a helping hand.
“This equipment is going to help the fighters prepare well for international tournaments and to also strengthen the relationships between South Korea and Lesotho,” he said.
Mokhothu added he was ready to invest in taekwondo at grassroots level.
“I am requesting the (taekwondo) association to submit its development programme for primary and high schools. We have to make sure kids play taekwondo at an early stage because that’s the core development of the sport in the country,” he said.
The minister also hailed LTA president Moshoeshoe Molapo for his commitment and efforts to improve the level of taekwondo in the country.
The LTA recently received equipment from Ireland which came through contacts Molapo made during trips abroad.
“Taekwondo is not 100 percent dependant on the ministry. The president (Molapo) goes all out to seek help from his counterparts unlike other associations. I hope they will follow in his footsteps,” Mokhothu said.
Mokhothu said he wishes to see taekwondo return to its past glories. He said the sport produces disciplined players and “makes people who are smart and can make decisions quickly”.
However, Mokhothu said the government alone cannot meet the needs of all the sporting codes in the country which is why he sought help from abroad last year.
Mokhothu visited the embassies of Kuwait, Japan, Georgia, Ukraine, Australia, Canada, Kenya, Brazil and Argentina last November and also spoke with Algeria.
He said he will embark on trips after April 1 to sign memorandums of understanding (MOU) with countries that have pledged their help.
“Because the government cannot satisfy all the sporting codes we started going out to seek help from different countries like Brazil, Argentina, Kuwait and others. Some have already promised to help Lesotho. We started last year and after the 1st April we will be having many trips to the embassies again to sign the MOUs with them,” Mokhothu said.
Last month, the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation was allocated M82 million in the government’s budget for this year.
Mokhothu said the Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) will be given M7 million to split amongst its 24 affiliated sporting associations, including taekwondo.
“As the ministry we are planning to build a Leribe Sport Complex which will cost us M720 million and we were only given M82 million (in the government budget),” Mokhothu said.
“We cannot build that stadium on our own, that’s why we need to go out to our counterparts and ask for help from them.”
Why LCS boss resigned
MASERU – Former Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) head coach Shalane Lehohla said he is taking a break from coaching until the end of the season after parting ways with LCS last week.
Lehohla said he felt he could no longer make a difference in the team and decided to resign and leave.
LCS played their first game without Lehohla on Saturday against Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and lost 1-0.
Lehohla would not reveal what he meant when he said he could not change the team but said he did not want to stay at a place where he could not make a difference.
His resignation was accepted by the club’s management who first tried to come up with solutions and not lose a coach mid-season.
However, the two sides were unable to reach a compromise and LCS had no choice but to accept Lehohla’s resignation, according to the club’s spokesperson Kofa Rantai.
Lehohla said the coaching journey is not an easy one and that leading people is difficult.
He said sometimes people no longer see things the same way.
“I am going to rest, if I go back to coaching it will be next season. For now, however, I will try to think about new things, learn and try to improve where I can,” Lehohla told thepost.
At the beginning of the season, there were reports that Lehohla wanted to leave ‘Masheshena’ and he aired his concerns to the management. The issues appeared to have been fixed because he stayed.
However, in December, LCS were 35 minutes late for their final game before Christmas when they played Lifofane in Butha-Buthe.
Lehohla cut a frustrated figure on the touchline in the game against Lifofane which ended in a 1-1 draw and when asked about LCS’s lateness, Lehohla directed the question to the team’s management.
After a promising start to the season, LCS are fourth in the Vodacom Premier League, ten points behind leaders Bantu after 16 games.
In the interim ‘Masheshena’ will be led by Moitheri Ntobo who is working alongside Poloko Mohale, Lawrence Molengoane, as well as goalkeeper coaches Sam Ketsekile and Daniel Jousse.
Rantai said the club will not be bringing in any new players during this January transfer window except Kananelo Maoela who is returning to the club.
“Coach informed the team he could not continue anymore, and the management tried to sit-down and find a resolution but when that could not be found, they had no choice but to accept his resignation,” Rantai said.
Meanwhile, struggling Swallows have sacked head coach Teele Ntšonyana after a 2-0 loss to Matlama on Sunday. Ntšonyana joined Swallows last season when they were on the brink of relegation and miraculously saved them. The Mazenod based side are 14th on the log and have managed to collect just ten points from 16 games.
They are level with Naughty Boys and Galaxy who are also swimming in the same relegation pool.
Many Swallows supporters have voiced their disappointment at management’s decision to fire the beloved Ntšonyana and feel the players have been responsible for the team’s poor results.
Rabale bags more accolades
MASERU – Lesotho women’s team captain Boitumelo ‘Queen’ Rabale continues to bag more accolades in South Africa after a scintillating season helping Mamelodi Sundowns retain their Hollywoodbets Super League title.
The talented attacking midfielder played a starring role netting 27 goals in all competitions for ‘Banyana Ba Style’, who also reached the final of the COSAFA qualifier and the CAF Champions League.
Rabale was in December crowned the Hollywoodbets Super League Player of the Season, walking away with M50 000 cash, after helping Sundowns successfully defend their league title, where she scored 24 goals.
The 26-year-old Mehalalitoe star was at it again over the weekend winning the Most Improved Player award at the Mamelodi Sundowns award ceremony for their male and female teams.
She as the top goal scorer of the women’s team along with Namibia’s Peter Shalulile, who is the top goal scorer in the male’s team, were the only players handed awards on the day.
Rabale’s impressive campaign also saw her make the CAF Women’s Champions League team of the tournament having scored three goals as Sundowns failed to defend their title losing to AS Far from Morocco in the final.
The Sundowns star, who came through the ranks playing for the boys’ teams in the dusty grounds of Qoaling is now in contention to win the South African Football Journalist Association (SAFJA) Women’s Footballer of the Year award.
She is contesting for the award against the likes of Mpumi Nyandeni of JVW, Amogelang Motau of UWC, Busisiwe Ndimeni of TUT and Lonathemba Mhlongo of UWC.
“Sundowns recently held the awards for its senior teams in the male and female categories. The only awards that were handed out on the day are those that went to me and Peter Shalulile as the most improved players from both the male and female teams, who also happens to be the top goal scorers from the two teams in the 2022/2023 season,” Rabale said.
“My attention has now shifted to the SAFJA awards because I’m confident of taking it as well. The just ended season was meant for me and I’m very excited.”
The Mehalalitoe star stated she gets to interact a lot of with Sundowns players playing for the male’s team such as Shalulile.
“I interact a lot with Shalulile and he is my biggest critic when I don’t perform well. He will be telling me that I’m lazy, but he is always there supporting and pushing me to perform to the best of my abilities,” Rabale said.
“To be honest, the rest of the Sundowns male team have been very supportive including the coaches and they were all super proud of what I achieved with the club this past season.
“It is always good sharing the platform with them and it was good that I and Shalulile were rewarded because we worked hard for it. It was well deserved for both of us,” she said.
Kolokotoane dreams big
MASERU – It has been a decade since ‘Mathabo Kolokotoane started her winding journey in football refereeing.
Being a woman in a profession dominated by men has made the ride all the more challenging and, unsurprisingly, Kolokotoane’s journey has been one filled with many ups and downs.
It has been worth it, though. Today Kolokotoane is one of two Lesotho women, alongside Nteboheleng Setoko, who are on the FIFA list of international referees.
The annual list, which was released earlier this month, represents the highest level of achievement in refereeing and is a golden chance for match officials to showcase themselves on the international stage, on and off the field.
The FIFA list also includes two other local women, Puleng Mahomo and Polotso Maapara, who are included in their capacities as assistant referees and they regularly fly Lesotho’s flag abroad alongside Kolokotoane.
Just last September, Kolokotoane took charge of the 2022 COSAFA Women’s Championship final in South Africa which demonstrated the esteem in which she is held within refereeing circles.
It is more than Kolokotoane could have dreamed of when she started her basic refereeing courses back in 2012 when her goal was just to become a referee.
Today she is one of the most recognised referees in the country. It is a Friday afternoon when thepost meets her at Setsoto Stadium where she trains to keep fit.
It is two days before all match officials are due to undergo the Lesotho Football Association’s (LEFA) fitness checks which they go through at the beginning of every year before the second round of the league season starts.
Kolokotoane is understandably busy but she is able to spare a few minutes to speak to thepost and take a deep dive into her decade in refereeing.
Kolokotoane says she could not have imagined her staying-power in a male dominated industry and her experiences – good or bad – have never deterred her from dreaming big.
“It has not been an easy journey, especially when you are a female officiating men’s games, but I was able and I am still able to do it,” she says.
“A lot happens on the football pitch,” Kolokotoane adds.
“Sometimes it’s just (men) underestimating you (and saying) that ‘it’s a woman, she is not going to be able to do it’. You know, there are some things we say as Basotho that have to go in one ear and out of the other because they are not nice. Even if I enjoy the game on the field, spectators will always say what they want. It’s life.”
Kolokotoane had to overcome professional lows as well.
In 2020, she was invited to the boys’ COSAFA Under-17 Championship. It was a trip she was looking forward to but it never materialised because she failed a fitness test and was removed from the FIFA panel.
It was a crushing blow to a referee who had become renowned locally and was already enjoying a stellar career which included regular appointments at regional championships.
However, Kolokotoane did not let her removal from the panel define her, instead she used the setback to work hard to meet the required fitness levels needed to return to the FIFA panel.
In 2022, she regained her spot and retained it in the recent list released by FIFA.
Before the season resumes for the second round, referees run a fitness test in January to determine their fate. It is, therefore, important to stay in shape and maintain a certain level of fitness required for referees.
Failure to meet the standards has repercussions. For international referees, for instance, they could be removed from the FIFA panel. For Vodacom Premier League referees, they could be demoted to the second division.
Before moving into refereeing, Kolokotoane was an Under-17 girls coach in Mafeteng.
Born in Ribaneng in Mafeteng’s rural outskirts and with a few opportunities, she jumped from one sport to another while at school. Kolokotoane tried her hand at volleyball, netball and even shot-put and although she says she always had basic knowledge about football, it is one sport she hardly played.
Adjusting to a male dominated field like refereeing was not easy and, indeed, it is easy for any woman to quit.
Kolokotoane says such instances have presented themselves but she has persevered to become one of the well-known names in refereeing.
It is not just the supporters she has to deal with, it is coaches’ antics on the touchline and players who think they know better, but these are things she has come to accept as part and parcel of football.
As a woman working with men, she also has to deal with men who are always proclaiming their undying love for her. She says it is easy to be put off by such behaviour if one is not strong mentally.
“I am not someone who likes to lose,” Kolokotoane adds.
“When I see a man do something I say I can do it as well; if it needs physical ability, I can use my mind.”
The perks of being a top referee also keep her going.
“You realise there are a lot of benefits especially when you are an international referee so you get the urge to work hard,” she explains.
“I remember my first trip abroad; I was like I am going to take an airplane and was wondering what it’s like inside an airplane.”
“You realise they just need you as a referee. You don’t know how much it costs; all you know is that it will take you back home again. So, once you go, you get the urge to work hard to go back again and even the games become even nicer and you get to enjoy more,” she says.
Since 2014 when she became an international referee, she has been to several COSAFA championships at national team and club level. Her most recent tournament was the COSAFA Women’s Championship in Port Elizabeth last September.
Kolokotoane went all the way to the final where she took charge of Zambia’s high stakes win over hosts South Africa.
There are light-hearted moments on the field as well. Kolokotoane is often laughing with the players because either one has cracked a joke or called her Mr Ref.
It is a genuine oversight from players which she finds quite funny and says she is now used to.
“It’s nice inside the pitch, we are friends. The players will say jokes and some players will even say when this game is over ‘I am marrying you’. They call me Mr Ref, and I respond. It’s one of the funny things that happen on the pitch,” she says.
“One thing though, every woman who officiates now is ‘Mathabo and I tell them you are going to be in trouble because if ‘Mathabo made a mistake in the past games, once they see a woman, they are going to be saying ‘Mathabo this and ‘Mathabo that,” she laughs.
While Kolokotoane is happy to be climbing the ladder and carving out her own legacy in refereeing, she says helping those coming behind her is something that is close to her heart.
She says her wish is to see more women get into football and officiate big games.
“I am willing to help anyone who wants to be here; I want to also see myself officiating the likes of Matlama and other big clubs,” Kolokotoane says.
“I am ready to do so but one thing they have to know, it is not easy, you cannot be doing it just because so and so is doing it, there are so many challenges that can discourage you.”
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