A year to remember!

 

Mikia Kalati

A great sporting year is coming to a close—a year in which Lesotho came so close to rewriting the history books.

However, a loss of focus in the closing stage of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers saw Lesotho’s dream of making a maiden appearance in the biennial championship, going up in smoke.

Below are more details of this piece of bad news as well as some of the notable sporting events that took place in Lesotho in 2014.

January: Leslie Notši resigns as national team coach, alongside his assistant, Lehlohonolo Thotanyana. The pair join South African First Division side Garankuwa United. Notši had led Likuena, as the national football team is popularly known, to fourth-place at the regional Cosafa tournament held in Zambia in December 2013, while the team had finished that year on a high note after beating Sudan 3-1 in Khartoum in their last 2014 World Cup qualifier. Likuena finished third in the qualifying group behind Ghana and Zambia.

February: Likhopo owner and coach, Bishop Molatoli dies after a short illness, leaving the football fraternity in shock. Molatoli played for Matlama and after founding Likhopo, produced some of Lesotho’s finest talent such as Bokang Mothoana, Katleho Moleko and Thapelo Tale.

February ends with Lioli winning the first tournament of the year, beating Linare 3-0 at Setsoto Stadium to lift the LNIG Top 8 trophy and pocketing M40 000 in the process.

March: The Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) appoint Seephephe Matete the senior national team interim coach, as Likuena were preparing for the 2015 Afcon qualifiers.

April: Sprint King, Mosito Lehata, makes headlines at his Mauritius base as he prepares for the 2014  Commonwealth Games held three months later in Scotland.

It was also in April when crack long distance runner, Lebenya Nkoka, won  Cape Town’s Two Oceans Marathon, and taking home the first prize of M100 000.

Also in April, Lefa second vice-president, Lebohang Thotanyana, quit his position following a controversial presidential election that he lost to Salemane Phafane.

May: The 2013/14 Vodacom Lesotho Premier League season comes to a close, with Bantu ending their 87-year wait for their first league title. Kick4Life and Likila United also won the A Division Southern and Northern streams respectively, to gain automatic promotion to the Premier League.

June: Likuena begin their 2015 Afcon campaign, eliminating Liberia and Kenya to qualify for the group stage of the campaign. Lesotho were then put into Group C alongside Angola, Burkina Faso and Gabon. During the qualifiers, local fans saw, for the first time, the talents of Jane ‘Sunny’ Tšotleho, who is based in the United States. Tšotleho left the country as a 13-year-old and had been playing his football in the American third-tier league with Wilmington Hammerheads FC, when he was called up for national duty.

July: The national under-20 team, Makoanyane XI, embark on their 2015 African Youth Championship qualifiers.

The Moses Maliehe-coached side eliminated Swaziland in the first round, before knocking out Angola in the next, but failed to honour their third round fixture against Nigeria. Lefa said the team could not travel to Nigeria for the match due to an outbreak of the Ebola virus in the West African nation.

The Commonwealth Games also kicked-off in Glasgow, but Team Lesotho had nothing to show for their participation as the athletes came back empty-handed.

However, the highlight of the Games, from a local perspective, was when Mosito Lehata reached the final of the 200-metre race, but sustained an ankle injury which saw him narrowly miss out on a medal as he ended the event in fourth position.

August: Lefa announce they are broke to finance Likuena’s Afcon group stage matches and the team ends up leaving for the opening match against Burkina Faso without proper training and subsequently lose the tie 2-0.

August also saw the 2014/15 Vodacom Premier League season get underway.

September: Standard Lesotho Bank and Metropolitan Lesotho announce improved sponsorship for this year’s Independence Cup tournament.

The tournament was then played in October with Lioli winning it 11-10 on penalties in the final, against Matlama. Bantu, who were the defending champions, had lost in the semifinal to Matlama. This was the second title of the year for Lioli, who had won the LNIG Top 8 trophy in February.

November: Likuena end the 2015 Afcon campaign with three back-to back defeats following a bonus row with Lefa.

The same month, Notši left Garankuwa United following a string of poor results. Local athletes also failed to make a mark at the Soweto Marathon with Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, the highest-placed, only managing second place in the male category. Seven-time winner of the race, Mamoroallo Tjoka, did not take part in the event due to injury.

December: Tjoka and Lebenya Nkoka win the 2014 High Altitude Summer Marathon, each walking away M100 000 richer.

The first round of the Premier League also ended this month, with Lioli at the top of the charts, and enjoying a seven-point advantage over defending champions Bantu, who are in second spot.

A Division side Liphakoe also ended the year on a high after winning all their nine first-round matches. The team only conceded one goal in those nine matches.

The Lesotho team which took part in the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Games held in  Zimbabwe also did fairly well, bringing home 12 medals from the under-20s event.

 

 

 

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