MASERU – The promise of bigger and better things for Lesotho cycling shines bright following the announcement of Lesotho Flour Mills as the sponsors of the Sky Cycling League.
The Sky League is a fledgling national mountain bike (MTB) championship that was launched last November.
The league is divided into three categories which are pump track, cross country and marathon and is open to male and female riders of all ages, starting from as young as Under-14.
For the past three months the Sky League has held monthly stage races which are building up to the crowning of an inaugural overall champion in September – Lesotho Flour Mills’ sponsorship just so happens to come at the perfect time with this month’s racing set for Saturday in Roma.
The much-welcomed sponsorship is another feather the cap of Lesotho cycling which, right now, can rightfully claim to be the country’s most successful sport.
Not only is Lesotho ranked second in Africa in the mountain bike discipline only behind South Africa, its numerous achievements also include having local star Tumelo Makae based full-time at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland.
Lesotho Flour Mills is the latest in a growing number of companies to join the MTB party and it is sponsoring the Sky League with a yet to be disclosed amount that will go towards prize money for racers.
The company will also hand out mealie-meal and other products to the league’s winners.
With the Lesotho Flour Mills sponsorship in the bag, Lesotho Sky Events founder and Sky League boss Christian Schmidt said the next challenge is to host regular events and expand the league into other districts.
Until now, the Sky League has hosted events only in Roma, Maseru.
“One of the goals of the Sky Cycling League is to identify safe spaces and platforms for cycling to grow,” Schmidt said.
“Lesotho is growing, Maseru is growing; there is more traffic (and) it’s getting busier, so it is important for riders to have a safe space to practice their sport and this is why we launched the Sky League in Roma where we have a convenient space,” he added.
Another aim, Schmidt said, is to get more children and their families involved in the sport.
Schools are the obvious starting point and Schmidt pointed to success in South Africa where many schools have added cycling to their sports programmes.
Schmidt is pushing for that to happen in Lesotho as well.
“We want to find the next cycling superstar from Lesotho,” he said.
“Success is never based on luck; success is based when preparation meets opportunity so we want to try our best at Sky League to prepare athletes, businessmen, and mechanics to grow the industry of cycling in Lesotho.”
The pinnacle of the mountain bike discipline in Lesotho is to join and compete for the African Dream Team which is now one of the continent’s top MTB teams and competes regularly on the international stage.
The star-studded squad is masterminded by founder Mark West and includes 2016 Olympian, Phetetso Monese. It is where Makae’s talents were spotted and is the springboard from which he leaped to Europe.
“We want to feed into the African Dream Team,” Schmidt explained.
“(It is) Lesotho’s only professional mountain bike team, the trainer and founder ntate Mark is here. He has been a huge inspiration to us and the team is doing exceptionally well racing around the world. We want to train Young Rider’s boys and girls to do well,” he added.
Schmidt also revealed dreams to found a cycling academy in Lesotho.
Those ambitions, however, will only be possible with more support and Schmidt made a point to thank all of Sky Events’ sponsors such as Sky Gate Tours and Adventures.
“We will be receiving support from Lesotho Flour Mills and without it wouldn’t be possible for the Sky League (to grow). Most importantly, we have a very important partner in Sky Gate Tours and Adventures. They have been a part of Lesotho Sky for a very long time now, assisting with a variety of different tasks at Lesotho Sky,” Schmidt said.
Lesotho Flour Mills managing director Charles Williams, for his part, applauded the Sky League and the work done by African Dream Team founder Mark West.
“I think the aim is to buy into the local community and also make sure that we support Lesotho communities and make sure that we have local companies also buying into this global dream of Lesotho Sky,” Williams said.
“I also know there has been lot of work done by Mark and his team to go forward and up, and I think this is a good opportunity for Lesotho,” Williams added.
An indication of Lesotho’s growing standing in the MTB world will come next month when the country hosts its leg of the Red Bull Pump Track World Championship qualifiers in Roma.
The top three male and female racers from the event will go to South Africa in July to compete in the continental qualifiers for a chance at a trip to the World Championship final set for September or October.
“The Red Bull World Championship is a very interesting event for us and this is the second year Red Bull is coming to Lesotho,” Schmidt said.
“Red Bull has identified Lesotho as a least developed country and they have offered support for our athletes.”
“Pump tracks like ours (in Roma) currently exist in 22 countries worldwide so each country hosts its own qualifying event and the finalists of each country will get a chance to go the world final. We are not yet sure where the world final will be or which country and city (it will be hosted). The date will be September or October this year,” he explained.
Schmidt added: “South Africa has two pump tracks, one in Durban and one in Pretoria. Red Bull would like to see more athletes from Lesotho partaking in pump track racing globally so we have received an offer to take the top three boys and top three girls from Lesotho to the qualifying race in South Africa which will be in July.”
“The conditions are simple: any female and male rider from Lesotho of the age of 16 and above can enter.”
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.
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.
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:
Lijabatho Ladies vs. LDF Ladies
LMPS Ladies vs. Kick4Life Ladies
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