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 lacklustre 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!