Catching them young

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Catching them young
Catching them young

Africa-Press – Lesotho. FOR most children in Tebellong in Qacha’s Nek, each day can be a hard slog. Like many other rural settlements across the length and breadth of the Kingdom of Lesotho, most of the children in Tebellong have to endure grinding poverty and deprivation.

Life here can be short and brutish. Access to basic services such as quality education and health facilities is very limited. Transport facilities are antiquated with some villagers enduring the nightmare of rowing in small boats across the mighty Senqu River.

Tebellong’s isolation, however, could not stop the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) from hosting a grassroots football festival for the struggling children.

It was a trip that will live long in the minds of all football lovers at LEFA. The LEFA outfit that facilitated the event was spearheaded by secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi, and the technical director, Leslie Notsi. And like everybody else, the LEFA delegation also travelled to Tebellong by boat across the Senqu River.

Lucky enough for the team that had travelled 224.7 kilometres from Maseru by road, water levels in the river plummet to their lowest in winter, making it relatively easy to ferry both passengers and goods in the rickety boats across the freezing cold waters.

“We have a country with a very rugged terrain in both the highlands and lowlands, even in the towns and cities.

Our highlands are usually extremely remote and at times one must cross rivers using boats to get to such isolated areas,” Mohapi said. “Football development is not only about addressing those that are in the cities or towns.

It is also about going out to find talent out there in the remotest of all places and during these past weeks, we have been all over the country,” Mohapi said.

“We went to Tebellong, which is right in the heart of the mountainous district of Qacha’s Nek, across the Senqu River. It was our first time to visit that place, where we undertook a programme called grassroots festival.

We saw real potential and that raw talent is what LEFA president, Advocate Salemane Phafane, has instructed the technical director’s office to go out and get.

The FIFA Grassroots Programme was introduced by football’s global governing ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to help member associations set up their grassroots level development programmes.

The programme also aims to train local coaches-educators to their specifics of teaching grassroots football for boys and girls from the ages of six to 12. The programme also covers the organisation of festivals for children to participate and provide equipment for the coaches and the children.

Since football activities in the country were given the green-light to resume last month after they were suspended in January due to the Covid-19 pandemic, LEFA has visited several districts including Mokhotlong, Qacha’s Nek and Butha Buthe for grassroots programmes. The visits were described as a “big success” by the association’s technical director, Leslie Notši.

“The grassroots programmes are working out to be a success through the good work being done by our Grassroots Coordinator (Mojese Matamane) who has teamed up with the District Football Associations (DIFAS), district coaches, schools, and coaches of developmental teams in the districts,” Notši said.

“The initiative has also been welcomed by parents in different communities, who have shown support by going to the sports grounds to cheer up their kids, which has been a big motivation to the department to continue giving boys and girls from the age of six to 12 the platform to play football.

“This will help revive the passion for sports among the kids throughout their childhood. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in football, as long as they participate in sports activities, we are happy.

“Of course, we would love to retain most of them in football but our emphasis is on installing the passion to participate in sports from an early age,” Notsi said.

For Ramatlali Ramatlali, a broadcasting and journalism graduate from Limkokwing University who was born and bred in Tebellong, the visit by LEFA to his home village will go a long way towards reviving the passion for the beautiful game among the youths in his community.

“We have been highly motivated by the visit.

It was the first time that we had a delegation from LEFA bringing the grassroots programme to our community, even DIFA Qacha’s Nek has not been here in a long time,” he said.

“We feel special and confident that the project will make a huge impact towards reviving the passion of football in our community, especially among the young generation.

We will not wait for LEFA to return with another grassroots programme as we have already started our own programmes to keep the kids, both boys and girls busy with football activities. They are all loving and enjoying it. “I also want to appeal to DIFA Qacha’s Nek to host such programmes at least once a year to keep us motivated.

It will further give them an idea of the challenges we face because already the lack of equipment especially soccer balls is our biggest problem to sustain the project and our plea to DIFA Qacha’s Nek and LEFA is, please keep providing us with soccer balls,” Ramatlali said.

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