VISA rejection frustrates cycling team

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – Chile’s refusal to grant local cyclist Kopano Matobo a visa to compete in the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Red Bull Pump Track World Championships Fed Cup this Sunday is only the latest disappointment suffered by the country’s cycling federation – the result of continued administrative mishaps that have marred the federation in recent times. Matobo was going to be Lesotho’ sole representative at the global Pump Track Championships.

Only last month another local cyclist, Kabelo Makatile’s application for a travel permit was rejected. Makatile failed to get a visa for a two months’ stay in neighbouring South Africa for a camp at the World Cycling Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, in preparation for the 2025 Road World Cycling Championships to be held in Kigali, Rwanda. This led to the cyclist leaving Maseru late for the camp, he only managed to join the World Cycling Centre in Cape Town last Saturday. The two incidents have left the Federation of Cycling Lesotho’s (FCL) preparations for cyclists’ training and competitive races muddled.

The FCL’s public relations officer, Malefane Morie, told Public Eye that Makatile eventually joined the camp after a month because he would no longer require to have a VISA to stay in Cape Town since he is now going to spend only a month in the city. “Makatile was initially set to leave for Cape Town on October 15 but he ended up leaving the country late for the camp because he could not get the two months’ visa required to be in South Africa for such a period,” said Morie in an interview with Public Eye on Monday this week. “He only managed to leave for Cape Town last Saturday because he was no longer required to have a visa since he is now going to spend only a month at the World Cycling Centre.”

Morie said unlike in Makatile’s situation, the rejection of Matobo’s visa application shocked the cycling federation because he is going to miss one of the biggest cycling episodes in the world. “Apart from the fact that Matobo’s visa application was not successful he also received a message informing him of the rejection very late,” Malefane said. “He was scheduled to leave for Chile last Saturday but he only knew about the visa rejection a day before he was supposed to leave.” Morie said Matobo had applied for a visa through one South African agent, and he said by the time he knew about the rejection that agent had already left for Chile as he was also going to the UCI Red Bull World Championships. Matobo was going to make his first appearance at the UCI World Championships.

Morie further revealed that Matobo was not Lesotho’s first cyclist to qualify for the global Pump Track Championships. “We previously had Mosito Mohapi and Khothatso Leuta who both qualified for the UCI World Pump Track Championships in 2019,” Morie said. The 2019 World Pump Track Championship was held in Koniz-Oberried, Switzerland, with the USA duo, Tommy Zula and Payton Ridenour crowned champions. It was the second edition, after the maiden edition which was held in Springdale, Arkansas, USA in 2018. Switzerland duo, David Graf and Christa von Niederhausern were crowned the 2018 champions.

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