We can do bet­ter in 2016!

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

THE on­set of a new year al­ways comes with the ex­pec­ta­tion of bet­ter for­tunes, and sim­i­larly, I am hope­ful that 2016 will be a good sport­ing year for Le­sotho.

In 2015, our lo­cal ath­letes failed to de­liver, es­pe­cially dur­ing ma­jor sport­ing events.

Over the course of last year, ath­letes from Le­sotho com­peted in var­i­ous tour­na­ments such as the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions ( IAAF) World Cham­pi­onships in Bei­jing, China in Au­gust and All-africa Games in Brazzaville, Congo in Septem­ber. How­ever, they came back home with noth­ing to show for their trou­bles.

The na­tional foot­ball team, Likuena, also had a busy 2015 which only elicited dis­ap­point­ment for long-suf­fer­ing sup­port­ers.

Likuena crashed out of the 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers at the hands of Co­moros in Oc­to­ber, who are con­sid­ered min­nows in the game. The na­tional team was also sent pack­ing in Oc­to­ber by Zim­babwe dur­ing African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship (CHAN) qual­i­fiers.

Likuena’s sham­bolic per­for­mance in May dur­ing the Coun­cil of South­ern Africa Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tions (Cosafa) tour­na­ment in South Africa was yet an­other low point in lo­cal foot­ball af­ter they lost two of their three group stage matches to Swazi­land and Mada­gas­car.

To say the re­sults were dis­ap­point­ing would be an un­der­state­ment con­sid­er­ing that in 2013 Likuena reached the semi-fi­nal of the re­gional com­pe­ti­tion which was held in Zam­bia.

What makes the de­feats all the more dis­con­cert­ing is that we dis­patched our best team to South Africa com­pared to the other coun­tries which sent their un­der-20 and un­der-23 sides.

Likuena’s lack­lus­ter per­for­mances in 2015 cost then-in­terim coach, Seep­hephe Matete, his job in Oc­to­ber. He was re­placed by Mat­lama men­tor Moses Maliehe.

Maliehe’s coach­ing cre­den­tials will be put to the test in March when Likuena takes on Seychelles dur­ing the 2017 Africa Cup of Na­tions qual­i­fiers.

The na­tional team has al­ready lost their two open­ing matches against Ethiopia and Al­ge­ria and a lot will be ex­pected from Maliehe to turn the ta­bles.

To his credit, Maliehe is not a novice as far as the na­tional team is con­cerned, as he has coached a num­ber of ju­nior teams dur­ing var­i­ous con­ti­nen­tal tour­na­ments over the years.

An­other ma­jor sport­ing event com­ing up this year will be the 5 – 21 Au­gust Olympic Games in Brazil. Lo­cal ath­letes have al­ways come up short at the Olympics.

To com­pete against the world’s best at the Olympics re­quires a lot of prepa­ra­tion.

Sprint king, Mos­ito Le­hata, has al­ready qual­i­fied for the global sport­ing ex­trav­a­ganza in the South Amer­i­can na­tion and, as usual, the hopes for any sil­ver­ware for this coun­try will rest on his shoul­ders.

Since reach­ing the fi­nal of the 200-me­tre race dur­ing the 2014 Com­mon­wealth Games held in Glas­gow, Scot­land, the star sprinter has been plagued by in­juries. As a re­sult, Le­hata was below par at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships and All-africa Games last year.

In my dis­cus­sions with some ath­let­ics ex­perts re­cently, they were of the view that Le­hata had what it took to bring home medals at ma­jor events. How­ever, they ar­gued that it could only hap­pen if he had ac­cess to bet­ter train­ing fa­cil­i­ties than those at his dis­posal in Mau­ri­tius.

They said Mau­ri­tius was not a sport­ing pow­er­house and Le­hata would be bet­ter placed in such coun­tries as the United States of Amer­ica, Ja­maica or even South Africa where he would ac­cess bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties and com­pe­ti­tion.

I think their ar­gu­ment makes sense if the per­for­mances of ath­letes from South Africa are any­thing to go by.

Their star per­former dur­ing the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships, Wayde Van Niek­erk, had to leave his home in the East­ern Cape for Bloem­fontein’s Man­gaung Train­ing Cen­tre which has bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties. Lit­tle won­der then that Van Niek­erk won a gold medal dur­ing the tour­na­ment.

Le­hata’s reg­u­lar com­peti­tor, Anaso Jo­bod­wana, also hails from the East­ern Cape and is now based at the same fa­cil­ity in Bloem­fontein. His steady im­prove­ment is tes­ta­ment of the fa­cil­ity’s pedi­gree.

Le­hata’s ca­reer would be soar­ing only if the lo­cal ath­let­ics ad­min­is­tra­tors had the best in­ter­ests of our ath­letes at heart.

Lerato Sechele is in a sim­i­lar co­nun­drum in Sene­gal where she has failed to make any mean­ing­ful progress and per­formed poorly at the All-africa Games when a lot was ex­pected from her.

Af­ter all, the ath­letes are ben­e­fi­cia­ries of schol­ar­ships ac­quired through the Le­sotho Na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (LNOC). In my view, the LNOC should have done their home­work to en­sure our ath­letes end up in coun­tries where they can not only im­prove, but thrive.

Happy New Year folks!

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