Likuena, Tjoka light up sporting scene

MASERU — Matlama’s Vodacom Soccer Spectacular penalty shootout win on Sunday was an exciting way to end 2011.

High notes haven’t always been all-around this year but it has been a year of progress.

One of those came in athletics with the end of the long-running saga between Lesotho’s top athletes and the Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association which began after the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The issue was resolved by giving the athletes permits that would allow them to compete from July 2011 to June 30 next year.

Caf African Youth Championships

The Makoanyane XI’s performance at the Caf African Youth Championship was a disappointing one.

They finished bottom of Group A after losses to Egypt and South Africa and a meek draw with Mali.

The team was outclassed and played like a group of amateurs.

One of the few positives was the performance of the side’s captain, Basia Makepe, who had a truly eye-catching tournament.

The Joy defender was an outstanding and consistent performer throughout the championships.

Kick For Life opens

The fifth Football for Hope Centre in Africa opening brought a much needed world-class community facility to Lesotho.

Lesotho’s Football for Hope Centre is one of 20 projects to be set up around Africa by Fifa as part of the legacy of the 2010 Fifa World Cup that was held in South Africa.

The centre in Maseru was the seventh after those in Cape Town, Windhoek, Nairobi, and Bamako.

It was inaugurated at a ceremony that was graced by the presence of former South Africa captain Lucas Radebe and Lesotho’s Lehlohonolo Seema.

The project is run in partnership with Kick4Life, a UK registered charity which uses football as a tool for promoting health education and awareness in the developing world.

The M2 million centre has an artificial turf, floodlights and a fence and also has an adjacent office.

It is hoped the fruits of this project will be enjoyed by many within the community in which the centre is situated.

Fifa Goal Project

The world football governing body approved the establishment of a Fifa Goal Project in Maputsoe.

The facility will be a major boost for the Leribe district and the country as a whole.

“It’s a very positive development. It shows that we are slowly getting there in terms of facilities,” Lefa’s media officer, Mikia Kalati, said.

Funds for the project will mostly come from the Fifa Goal Project grant.

The first Fifa Goal Project was the building of the Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena in 2002 which now serves as Lefa’s headquarters and main training camp for national soccer sides ahead of international matches.

Athletics

Mosito Lehata reaching the semifinals of the IAAF World Championships was one of the top stories of the year.

Lerato Sechele won a silver medal at the African Junior Athletics Championship held in Botswana in May this year.

Lineo Mochesane, Selloane Tšoaeli and Moroke Mokhotho each won bronze medals in taekwondo, athletics and boxing respectively at the All Africa Games in Mozambique.

Although Lesotho failed to improve on the four medals (one gold and three bronze) won at the previous continental Games, which were all won in taekwondo, the nation could still take comfort in that this time around, the accolades were in three different categories.

The country’s athletes competed in five sporting codes, namely athletics, paralympics, boxing, taekwondo and lawn tennis.

The Passing of a Football Legend

Lesotho football lost an icon of the game when former national football coach April ‘Styles’ Phumo died earlier this month after a long battle with cancer.

Phumo, who was 74, died at a private hospital in Bloemfontein.

The football fraternity described Phumo as a “man who revolutionised Lesotho football during his time with Arsenal in the late 80’s and early 90s”.

“He was a great coach, friend, mentor, comedian . . . he touched so many lives in so many ways. He will be dearly missed,” Thabane Sutu, a former player under Phumo’s at Arsenal and Likuena, said.

The rebirth of Likuena

Lesotho had not played a match since September 2009 and in that time had fallen to a world ranking of 178.

Leslie Notši, assisted by Lehlohonolo Thotanyana, initially picked a preliminary squad of 40 players which trained at the Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena for six weeks.

Notši confirmed the emphasis would be to build on the promise of the Makoanyane XI squad but added that youth would be fused with experience. The talented crop of players who became Lesotho’s first team to qualify for the 2005 African Youth Championship in Benin would get a chance as well.

The remedy worked a treat as Likuena beat Burundi 3-2 in a two-legged World Cup preliminary qualifier in November to give Lesotho their first ever win in a Wold Cup qualifier.

Bantu revival

Despite their loss to Matlama in the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular final on Sunday, Bantu have arguably been the team of the year.

The Mafeteng giants’ secret weapon has been their ambition.

Bantu’s target for the coming season is to win the Vodacom Premier League and with Ntebele Taole at the helm that is still possible.

Taole has built on the work that was done by previous coaches Bafokeng Mohapi and Tšehla Lerotholi.

Bantu claimed their first trophy in fine style in the Independence Cup. Their run to the final was similarly impressive.

Tlali Mali, Tefo Maipato, Mosiuoa Boseka and Likano Teele are all in the national team.

Bantu became the first local team to be given a licence by the Lesotho Football Association after meeting all the registration requirements.

Off the field they are doing well too led by president, Leuta Leuta.

Bantu also opened a branch in Qacha’s Nek, their seventh, and have Metropolitan and Sentebale as official business partners.

The club’s supporters meanwhile have been a shining example this year.

Fans

Speaking of supporters 2011 was also the year that the football fans continued the return to the grounds.

There is still a need for facilities to be improved. The Vodacom Soccer Spectacular was well attended.

Athlete of the year

Mamoroallo Tjoka produced another great display by winning the Soweto Marathon for a record sixth time in November.

The 27-year-old then added the Mokhotlong High Altitude Summer Marathon earlier this month.

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