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Team Lesotho shocker ahead of Region 5 opening ceremony

Business

…as players on the floor and on chairs

Chris Theko

As the country waits in great anticipation for the official opening of the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Maseru Youth Games today, controversy already surrounds the continental showpiece on the logistical front of the competition.

Lesotho might be playing host for this tournament but questions of unpreparedness are already glaringly emitting from all quarters as depicted by ill-treatment on the team.

Wednesday, was Team Lesotho’s send-off ceremony which was also kick-off for the initial games in the soccer code ahead of today’s (Friday, December 03, 2021) official opening ceremony.

The send-off activity was held at the ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru, a do which became a platform for the show of incompetency on the part of the Local Organising Committee (LOC).

The tournament was initially supposed to have been hosted last year but was moved by a whole year at the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Be that as it may, as if the Games came about by some accident, when the send-off ceremony ended, there was no transport to take the clearly ready athletes to the respective athletes’ village, and according to the team Lesotho chef-de-mission (CDM) Caswell Moru, this was a blunder from the LOC. 

“What happened is that Team Lesotho had a send-off ceremony last night (Wednesday) and the athletes were to be driven to the athletes’ village at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) in Roma afterwards but the buses were nowhere to be found. 

“We tried everything to find an alternative transport but it proved unfruitful so the only option was for the athletes to sleep in there,” Moru said.

“The handling of transportation for all the teams is the responsibility of the LOC and they failed us. What I learned from our inquiry is that the bus drivers were not allocated accommodation hence they left to go to their respective homes” he added.

Moru stated that on the morning of Thursday the CDMs of the participating countries had a meeting with LOC to put forward their grievances. He said this is when he was made aware that the chairperson of the transport department in the LOC has been changed. 

For his part, Mohale Majara, LOC Media Liaison person said the issue of athletes not having transport had not been reported to him but he would look into the matter and have it solved. 

“The matter has not been reported to me but I am going to see to it that it is solved as soon as possible and if the incompetency came from us (LOC) we shall deal with the person responsible correctly,” Majara said.

At the time of going to press last night, he was still yet to revert back to this paper.

Meanwhile, this publication learned that team Lesotho was without on and off the field attire for the games until the eve of the opening ceremony (yesterday). However, Moru told this paper that they were expecting that the merchandise would be delivered by yesterday as all the necessary payments had already been made.

“The attire was paid for in two instalments, where the first was made early last month (November) and we managed to pay the balance this week. The merchandise was ready but the supplier was waiting for the remaining balance. We are expecting the full attire today,” Moru said.           

On the other hand the leadership of the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) expressed its disappointment with the shambolic final preparations that the national Under-17 team had to endure since it was handed over to the organizers of the Region 5 games.

“On the eve of their opening match against Zambia, Bahlabani were yet to receive their playing kit, leisure wear as well as their camping allowances from the organisers of the games, who are responsible for the welfare of all athletes in the Lesotho team for the regional youth games,” a statement from LeFA said on Wednesday.

According to the local football governing body, the association had to dig deep to make sure that the team has a playing kit as well as leisure wear for the players and technical staff.

In the statement it is further stated that the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation (MGYSR) owes the LeFA over M800,000 that the association spent preparing the team for the Region 5 AUSC games.

“We are confident that our boys will rise above this shambles. We wish Coach Motolo Makepe and his charges well in their opening match on Wednesday.”

Meanwhile, Bahlabani started their campaign on the back foot losing 0-2 to last year’s finalists Zambia, at Setsoto stadium on Wednesday. 

The ministry could not be reached until the time of going too press.

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