Team Le­sotho must de­liver

Lesotho Times - - Sport - Mikia Kalati Mikia Kalati

Na­tional Bas­ket­ball as­so­ci­a­tion (NBA) star, Fes­tus EzeliN­du­lue, ar­rived in the coun­try on Mon­day this week and pro­ceeded to hold coach­ing clin­ics at le­hakoe Club.

the Nige­rian — a star with amer­i­can NBA team Golden State War­riors — also shared his jour­ney to the top of the world’s great­est pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball league with young­sters who lapped on his ev­ery word and fol­lowed his ev­ery move dur­ing what is ar­guably le­sotho bas­ket­ball’s finest mo­ment.

Ezeli-ndu­lue (25) told the young play­ers and in­vited guests that he left Nige­ria in 2004 know­ing noth­ing about the bas­ket­ball — only for his pas­sion to de­velop upon his ar­rival in the United States (US) where his par­ents had sent him to live with his un­cle soon af­ter com­plet­ing his high school ed­u­ca­tion. the clock is slowly tick­ing to­wards the all-africa Games set for Congo-braz­zav­ille from 4-19 Septem­ber and ex­pec­ta­tions are very high that team-le­sotho would do our coun­try proud.

From a dis­tance, the team looks very bal­anced and com­pet­i­tive be­cause it is a group of young and ex­pe­ri­enced ath­letes who have done well in dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tions in re­cent years.

the fact that the le­sotho Sports and Recre­ation Com­mis­sion has also come out say­ing gov­ern­ment has set aside over M4 mil­lion for the team’s prepa­ra­tions and par­tic­i­pa­tion means our ath­letes should go all-out to jus­tify why the coun­try should con­tinue to in­vest such big monies in sport.

head-of-del­e­ga­tion Mme Moipone Mashale is brim­ming with con­fi­dence as the team fine-tunes prepa­ra­tions for the Games and that, for me, is a good sign be­cause if the leader is up­beat, then this op­ti­mism passes on to the rest of the squad.

We have not done that well in ma­jor sport­ing events such as the all-africa, Com­mon­wealth and olympic Games and i hope the sit­u­a­tion will be dif­fer­ent this time around.

But with big names in the team such as 100 and 200 me­tre spe­cial­ist Mos­ito le­hata, i be­lieve our for­tunes, as a coun­try, are go­ing to change in the Congo Re­pub­lic.

“i left this con­ti­nent for bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties; it was hard at the be­gin­ning, but study­ing in the US opened op­por­tu­ni­ties for me through bas­ket­ball,” Ezeli-ndu­lue said.

“i man­aged to study at col­lege, so i will have some­thing to fall back on at the end of my bas­ket­ball ca­reer, which is why it is im­por­tant to tell young­sters about the im­por­tance of aca­demic stud­ies. Com­bin­ing sport with ed­u­ca­tion is very im­por­tant.”

Ezeli-ndu­lue said he was happy

le­hata was le­sotho’s shin­ing star at last year’s Com­mon­wealth Games held in Scot­land and i hope he takes that splen­did form, which saw him nar­rowly miss on a 100me­tre bronze in Scot­land due to in­jury, to the cen­tral African na­tion next month.

While le­hata is yet to win a ma­jor race since re­cov­er­ing from in­jury sus­tained at the very same Glas­gow Games last year, he re­mains the coun­try’s best hope when it comes to ath­let­ics and I am con­fi­dent he will live-up to ex­pec­ta­tions and help Le­sotho do well in Braz­zav­ille.

one good thing about le­hata is he has a big heart and is never happy to be sec­ondbest, hence my op­ti­mism that he will make us to be in africa and also fea­ture in the NBA’S first ex­hi­bi­tion game at El­lis Park, Johannesburg last Satur­day. Ezeli-ndu­lue played for team africa against team World, with the for­mer los­ing 97-101 be­fore a roar­ing and spilling El­lis Park arena.

“this trip made sense to me; i needed to come here and celebrate my suc­cess with my peo­ple,” said Ezeli-ndu­lue.

“My big­gest rea­son for com­ing here is not about play­ing bas­ket- proud in Braz­zav­ille.

Apart from Le­hata, there is also boxer Moroke Mokhotho, who has also shown a lot of prom­ise over the last two years.

the 24-year-old was among a few of our ath­letes who man­aged to taste vic­tory at the Glas­gow Games although he was later beaten in the quar­ter-fi­nals. How­ever, I’m sure he will go be­yond the quar­ter-fi­nals at the con­ti­nen­tal show­case, also con­sid­er­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence at this com­pe­ti­tion. Mokhotho won a bronze medal at the last edi­tion of the fouryearly tour­na­ment in Mozam­bique in 2011 and gets yet another plat­form to show­case his tal­ent.

our taek­wondo team has also given us hope over re­cent weeks, win­ning 25 medals in South africa against ath­letes from other south­ern african coun­tries.

Moku­lu­bete Makatisi is yet another ath­lete who has been tipped for great­ness by his peers.

the 20-year-old run­ner al­ready has a num­ber of ac­co­lades un­der her belt, in­clud­ing a gold medal at last year’s african Union Sports Coun­cil Re­gion Five Games held in Zim­babwe and i’m sure she will also be an ath­lete to watch in the Congo as far as our coun­try is con­cerned.

le­sotho has al­ways done well when it comes to box­ing, taek­wondo and ath­let­ics, so I’m con­fi­dent the same stan­dards will be main­tained in Braz­zav­ille or even get bet­ter. ball but to share my road with the youth of this con­ti­nent; to tell the kids that i’m like them, i’m an african son.

“i came here to in­spire the young­sters and tell them that they can achieve what i have achieved.”

Ezeli-ndu­lue said bas­ket­ball­hope­fuls should al­ways work hard to achieve their dreams.

“Right from the start, my par­ents would tell me there was noth­ing i could not do if i re­ally worked hard. i was told i could not make it when I first started play­ing bas­ket­ball in the US, but at the end, i was the only one from my high school who grad­u­ated to col­lege­bas­ket­ball.”

Mean­while, Econet tele­com le­sotho Re­tail Man­ager, Ma­phunye Put­soa — whose com­pany spon­sored Ezeli-ndu­lue’s two-day trip to le­sotho — said the rea­son for bring­ing-in the NBA star was to in­spire the youths through sport.

“We are ex­cited to be here to­day with some­one of Fes­tus’ cal­i­bre. Econet tele­com le­sotho’s tagline says ‘ in­spire to change the world’ and that’s what we are do­ing to­day — we are chang­ing le­sotho as far as bas­ket­ball is con­cerned,” said Put­soa.

“the beauty about sport is that it tran­scends all bar­ri­ers; it tran­scends bar­ri­ers of gen­der, race, you name it. We may not speak the same lan­guage but sport unites us.

“We are here to celebrate with bas­ket­ball-lovers and young bas­ket­ball-play­ers as Econet has de­cided to do a first for this coun­try by bring­ing a star who plays in the big­gest bas­ket­ball league in the world.

“like i have men­tioned, all we want is for the youth to dream big­ger and achieve the high­est level that is there to be achieved. We want them to dream big and grow be­yond le­sotho or africa the way Fes­tus has done.”

Sekhoane Moshabe­sha, who spoke on be­half of the le­sotho Bas­ket­ball as­so­ci­a­tion (lba) dur­ing Mon­day’s ses­sion, ex­pressed grat­i­tude to Econet for bring­ing the NBA icon to the Moun­tain King­dom.

“I would like to ex­tend my heart­felt grat­i­tude to Econet for this his­toric day. You have inspired kids to be cham­pi­ons with what you have done to­day. the lba will never for­get this day and we hope it’s the be­gin­ning of a long-last­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween our two or­gan­i­sa­tions,” said the lba vi­cepres­i­dent.

Mean­while, Put­soa noted the LBA would ben­e­fit by hav­ing bas­ket­ball equip­ment val­ued at over M40 000 that was bought for

NBA star Fes­tus Ezeli-ndu­lue (left) hold­ing one of the coach­ing clin­ics at Le­hakoe Club on Mon­day.

Mos­ito Le­hata

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