THE government has approved the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation’s budget of M31 million to be used for the preparations of the 2020 African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games.
Sports Minister Mahali Phamotse said this during the welcome ceremony for the athletes who recently returned from the just ended Africa Games in Morocco from 15 to 30 August.
Lesotho was represented by 28 athletes who competed in athletics, boxing, tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting and cycling.
The country however, only managed one medal from the games won by Michelle Tau in taekwondo.
Phamotse said while she understands Basotho’s frustrations, she is also happy with the commitment that local athletes showed. She said she also now understands the importance of timely preparations and added that the M31 million would go a long way in preparing the athletes for the forthcoming games.
“We expected you all to win just as every other country expected its own athletes to excel and this is the reason for which Basotho are frustrated that most of the athletes did not win,” Phamotse said.
“However, I am happy that I was there and I learnt that preparing early is crucial, so now we are starting the preparations for next year’s games and the 2022 games. Since we are hosting the two editions, we have to win a lot of medals.
“The government has approved our M31 million budget which will go towards preparation of athletes for next year’s games.
“I am expecting our team to have about 800 athletes for next year’s games, so national federations and associations should start giving me their plans on how they intend to recruit players and prepare them for the games so that we can get the money. I need those plans immediately.”
Phamotse said there was a need to start working with athletes who would be ready to win next year.
“We need to start our preparations now and if we build a team of 800 athletes that will compete next year, it means those are the same athletes who will be used for the 2022 Games and for the next Africa Games as most of you here will not be able to compete in those two coming competitions.
“We must have continuity hence there is a need to come up with a proper succession plan. The money is available but it can only be accessed when we have clear plans on what we want to do. Let officials in the associations who are not working be warned that I am going to fire them.
“We must work together if we want to get results and people should not feel entitled just because they have high positions in associations. I am serious when I say that I am going to fire people,” Phamotse said.
Phamotse expressed gratitude to all the athletes who represented the country in Morocco for their commitment.
“I am not happy that we lost but I am happy that we were better this year than at last event where we got one bronze medal. However, we still have to improve, work hard to at least make it to the top-five in Africa. You showed so much commitment and I thank you, I also thank Michelle for bringing us that silver medal.”
On her part Tau said the seven months camp she had in Germany at Taekwondo Competence Center (TCC) Friedrichshafen helped her immensely.
“I achieved all this because of the work that I put in while I am also grateful to my mother for sponsoring my stay in Germany for the past seven months.
“The training gave me exposure as I have taken part in different competitions with different opponents who are highly ranked in the world. The girl I lost to in Morocco ranks second in Africa and 16th in the world, so I think I did my best although I still hoped to win the gold medal,” Tau said.
She also emphasised the need to finically support local athletes to help them get exposure.
“We need to be exposed. Our government needs to support us because if we take part in many different competitions, we won’t get stage fright but due to lack of exposure we are always nervous. It doesn’t help that I go a competition this year and stay home for next the four years before I compete again. That needs to change,” Tau said.