Accuses association of neglecting athletes during COVID-19
MASERU – Athletics guru, Mokete Chaplin Mpomane has accused the sports ministry, Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) and the Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association (LAAA) of neglect and failure to help out athletes since the beginning of the COVID-19 national lockdown. The country was put on lockdown on March 29 and going into various levels of restrictions, with then Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane promising government would set up a relief fund for several sectors that would be affected by the lockdown.
The Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) became the first sport federation to apply for assistance from the relief fund on behalf of local elite Econet Premier League clubs, but not much has come forth in that respect. And with the Ministry of Sports, the LAAA, the LSRC as well as the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) silent on assisting athletes under their watch and ascertaining whether they too would be beneficiaries of the fund, Mpomane took the task upon himself to fight for the welfare of the athletes.
The former Lesotho international runner took to the media to air his disappointment with the LSRC, LNOC and the LAAA administrators. It was following his media comments that the LAAA was asked to provide a list of names of the athletes who were affected by the lockdown; this was in April, but until now none of the athletes has received any benefit from the fund. “They asked us to submit the names of the athletes, which we did; and later on asked us to also submit the names of the officials and coaches…which we also did. But until now not even a single athlete has been helped out,” said Mpomane in an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday.
“Instead, you see politicians handing out gifts and helping out people in different villages but forgetting about the athletes as if they are not voters in this country,” he continued. Mpomane said the athletes were mostly affected by the lockdown by the suspension of sport activities, and as a result competitions in which they compete to earn money and make a living halted. Just like the runners, football clubs are also suffering as local teams get money from gate takings during football matches for them to pay their players. LeFA’s First Vice President Khiba Mohoanyane last week said they last submitted a list of the clubs which have been affected by the lockdown to the Ministry of Sports, but that they were still waiting for a response from the ministry.
“The athletes I am talking about are now suffering since there are no competitions because of the lockdown due to the COVID-19. My other point is that apart from the promised relief fund, our sport federations get subventions every year from government and since there are no competitions they are hosting now it can only be prudent for them to use the same subvention towards assisting the athletes in this difficult period,” proposed Mpomane. Mpomane further said: “They only know these athletes when it comes to representing the country in international platforms, making them their tickets to attend international competitions from which they get hefty allowances for doing nothing.”
He said the athletes were not only suffering financially but also psychologically, adding “but even the ministry is silent about the welfare of the athletes.” LSRC’s Public Relations Officer, Teboho Rakhomo, confirmed that the Commission has indeed received a list of names of athletes to be assisted through the relief fund. “We have since sent the submissions to the ministry for them to forward them to wherever they are needed,” said Rakhomo. While the politics continue behind closed doors, it is still not clear when government intends to ease the lockdown and authorise the resumption of sports activities in the country.