Lebopo slams government, sports admins

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Moorosi Tsiane

MARATHONER Mabothile Lebopo has slammed the government for failing to support local athletes.

Lebopo said this during the funeral of fellow long-distance runner Tšepang Mathibelle in Ha-Masiu, Mafeteng last Saturday.

Mathibelle succumbed to tuberculosis on 18 January 2020 at Teyateyaneng Government Hospital.

The 29-year-old runner was twin to Olympian Tšepo, who represented the country at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics.

Lebopo, who is also a coach, said the government has failed to prioritise sports.

“For a long time, athletes have fought with national federations to improve our welfare but the government has not done anything,” Lebopo said.

“If you see us (athletes) with houses and cars; it is because of the opportunities we get in South Africa because the country’s government has made things simple for them. Tšepo represented this country in two consecutive Olympics and today his brother, who is also an athlete has passed on but those in charge couldn’t even offer transport other athletes to his funeral. We are seriously struggling and we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for South Africa.”

Lebopo said the government’s failure has condemned athletes to poverty.

“Most of us come from less privileged families and God has given us talents which can change our lives. Sports have changed the lives of athletes the world over and have also helped economies but our government does not prioritise sports.

“None of our governments has ever cared about athletes. We used to fare well in Taekwondo even on international stages but we have gone down. We must emulate countries like Kenya and Brazil whose economies are benefiting significantly from sports,” he said.

He also said Tšepang’s death should be a wake-up call to the powers that be to ensure that sports improve the lives of athletes.

“Tšepang’s death should be a wake-up call to the government to create an environment where athletes can sustain their lives through their sports. We cannot go on like this,” Lebopo said.

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