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MASERU– How do we define failure at the Olympic Games? Is finishing in the top twenty success to be celebrated?

Should a position in the top 100 earn an athlete a national pat on the back?
Is the mere act of crossing the finishing line enough to earn an athlete accolades?

These are the questions many are asking after Lesotho’s performance at the Tokyo Olympics. Public opinion is divided between those who see a glass as half empty and those who see it as half full.

The government and the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) think it’s half-full.

‘Neheng Khatala and Khoarahlane Seutloali – Lesotho’s two Olympians at Tokyo 2020 – were given an official welcome by the Minister of Sports, Likeleli Tampane, on Tuesday.

The pair’s outing at the just ended Olympic Games in Japan is being hailed as a success, especially for Khatala who finished 20th in the women’s marathon which was the best-ever finish by a Lesotho athlete in any event at the Olympics.

Khatala and Seutloali went into the Games with uncertainty over how they would fare because their preparations were hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic and Khatala’s top 20 finish is being celebrated.

For a small country with little development and resources, this should be looked at as a step forward and something to build on, but the aim should be to go further and possibly push for podium places in the coming years.
Seutloali was the first of the athletes to qualify for the Games when he did so in 2019.

He had to wait almost two years to compete in Japan after the Olympics were postponed last year and he finished in 67th place in the men’s marathon with a season’s best time of 2:25.05 hours.

When taking into consideration the circumstances surrounding the team, Lesotho’s performance was respectable but improvement is needed. There is however concern that the number of athletes qualifying for the Olympics keeps dropping.

This year’s tally of two was Lesotho’s lowest since the first Olympics the country entered in 1972 and it is something that needs to be looked at.

Obviously, the pandemic did not help, but when Covid-19 hit Seutloali was the only athlete who had qualified and if the Games went ahead in 2020 as scheduled, it is possible he would have been Lesotho’s sole representative in Japan because Khatala only booked her spot in a last-gasp effort in May this year.

With athletes around the world improving, the Olympic qualifying path is not going to get any easier.

Success at big events such as the Olympics is judged mainly by medals; the more medals you win, the more successful you are. But, for Lesotho, success is judged differently. Qualifying for the Games is success on its own first and foremost, and then comes the performance.

Former Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association (LAAA) spokesperson Sejanamane Maphathe said now is the time to build on Khatala’s showing and develop more athletes and prepare them for the international stage.

It starts locally with well-organised competitions for them to compete in and then trying to send as many athletes as possible to compete overseas for them to gain exposure to higher levels of competition.

These competitions include the global IAAF Diamond League series, but for that to happen the LNOC and LAAA need financial support from the government.

The government, however, has shown time and time again that sport is not a priority for them.

“Some teams have had to wait for 70 years to win (an Olympic medal), and they are only starting now, we have been working well but we just have not been in the top three because to get a medal you need to be in the top three,” Mapathe said.

“However, if you look at the qualifying, we are sending athletes to the Games who have qualified and that on its own is a success, you can’t say it isn’t,” he added.

Mapathe said Lesotho’s athletes need to be competing on the international stage regularly in order for them to improve.

“To get near the top we need to be more competitive, our athletes have to get used to competing with the best in the world, not only in these big Games,” Mapathe said.

“We should have athletes in these big marathons overseas, there are many (races). There are track events, if we can get used to competing at the highest level, it will decrease the tension when you get to these big games. If you are well exposed you will not have excuses,” he added.

Maphathe said scouting of athletes should also be the core mission of the country to unearth more talented athletes.

He said the responsibility of developing those athletes and preparing them for the big stage lies at the feet of the country’s sports federations.

The journey to the 2024 Paris Olympics has to start now for Lesotho and the aim should be to get more athletes to qualify.

Long distance runners remain the country’s greatest hope to make it to the Olympics and, perhaps, that is where the bulk of resources should be directed.

Tlalane 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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