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International barred from using Setsoto

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…as Gov’t waits to be officially given its stadium

Chris Theko

Government through the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation(MGYSR), says it is still waiting to be officially handed its own facility at the Setsoto stadium thus denying international athletes a chance to prepare for global competitions including Commonwealth Games.

Speaking to this publication, the MGYSR Media Officer Maqalika Matsepe, said there is yet to be an official hand-over of the stadium to the ministry as it is still in the hands of the AUSC Local Organising Committee (LOC).

“The stadium is yet to be handed over to the ministry by the AUSC region 5 Local Organizing Committee (LOC) and that can only be done in an official hand over that will be announced,” Maqalika said.             

Some of the top Lesotho athletes are not happy with government’s support in sports, as they have nowhere to train and prepare for upcoming competitions.

‘Neheng Khatala-Seutloali told Newsday Sport that she has delayed her preparations for the 2022 season due to the closure of the stadium with no clear indication of when the stadium will be open. 

“I honestly don’t know what to say in regards to my preparation because firstly I delayed to start training because the stadium has been closed,” Khatala-Seutloali said. 

She stated that she had to make a plan which saw her having to travel to South Africa and back to Lesotho as means to not sabotage her career. 

The stadium was initially closed after the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) condemned it for hosting any FIFA fixtures since May 2021. It was then upgraded for the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games, though only the tartan track was mainly attended to ahead of the games.

Over half a year later, the stadium is still not in working order up to the FIFA required standards, a development also forcing the national senior soccer team to seek refuge in neighbouring South Africa for their upcoming home fixtures.

However, it would be expected that the athletes would be allowed to utilize the tartan track as it has been brought to the international standards but that is not the case.  

“Together with some of my fellow athletes, we tried to get answers as to why the stadium is not available for us to use and we did not get any answers.

“As means to help myself after trying to find out why the stadium is closed, I then decided to keep training in South Africa. So I go to South Africa to train with my coach for three weeks then come back home for at least two weeks,” Khatala-Seutloali said. 

She further mentioned that the biggest challenge with her trips to South Africa is that her passport runs out quickly due to the back and forth arrangement.   

The athlete has been scheduled to go compete in the World Athletics Championships set to take place in Oregon, United States of America from 15 to 24 July 2022. She said her goal is to secure a spot in the top 20 when she competes so that she can be able to compete in World Majors such as Boston Marathon, London marathon, Chicago Marathon amongst others. 

Echoing the similar sentiments, Lesotho triple jumper, Lerato Sechele said it is a stressful situation that they are faced with of having nowhere to train in the country. 

“It is such a stressful situation if you are to wait for things to be opened when you are not being told reasons why it is closed in the first place. 

“Our authorities don’t seem to care about us, they don’t see our potential. In April it will be just two months before Commonwealth Games and we are struggling yet when we don’t bring good results it will be our fault which is unfair on us.

“I only just started training after deciding to come join up with my coach in Bloemfontein and I only spend two weeks here and another two weeks in Lesotho,” Sechele said.

Sechele is in Bloemfontein, South Africa where she is currently staying and training at the University of Free State (UOFs). Her trips and stay in UOFs are fully funded by the National Olympic Committee (LNOC). 

Meanwhile, for their part, the LNOC through the High-Performance Coordinator Likeleko Lepitla, said they have been doing all within their power to get the stadium opened with no success.

“We have been pushing to get the stadium opened and even asking why it is closed in the first place but we are not getting clear answers as to why,” Lepitla said.

She added that their support towards the athletes is limited to what the national federations have submitted.  

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