Although one of the major facilities to be used in the upcoming African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games – set for December- the Setsoto National Stadium is yet to be upgraded, the sports ministry believes it will be able to make the cut in terms of time.
According to the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation Information Officer Maqalika Matsepe, with two months to go, the country is almost ready for the continental sporting showbiz.
In an exclusive interview with Newsday Sports on Wednesday this week, Matsepe stated that the country is well on course with preparations for the hosting of the games. He said the biggest challenge was that of the renovations at the Setsoto Stadium.
“The truth is at this point renovations have not started but are soon to start. We have been in talks with the people appointed to head that and they have assured us that things will get going anytime soon.
“The biggest challenge is the renovations to take place at Setsoto Stadium because that’s where the major work will take place. Other facilities such as Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena are already in good conditions,” Matsepe said.
The Setsoto Stadium was said to be closed for renovations from 1 August 2021, however, that has not been the case to date.
In early August there was an inspection by the AUSC Troika of Ministers that met in Maseru. The decision was to reconvene in Lesotho after 30 days to assess the delivery of the regional games to be held in December.
According Matsepe, that meeting happened virtually last week and no verdict was made on the progress because for the meeting was not physical.
“The ministers have been engaging continually on the matter but that has been virtually, they have decided to wait for such a time this month when they will be coming to have a look at the progress,” Matsepe said.
He alluded that although there is only two months left, there is no immediate threat to the games not going ahead as planned and that the country will host the games.
“We will be ready on time, it might appear that we are not ready currently but two months is a long time to get the renovations going,” he said.
Matsepe said that the only thing that could possibly pose a major threat to the games is the Covid-19 pandemic which has been a major threat to sports and other gatherings all over the world.
National sports federations have already selected their teams but due to lack of funds and the prevailing suspension of sports in the country the athletes’ preparations are yet to start.
According to the AUSC Region 5 Games Head of Mission Caswell Moru, the federations submitted their programmes as far back as June 2021 and have been waiting for MGYSR to release funds for the camps.
“We are hopeful that we will receive the funds and maybe start conducting weekend camps because most of the athletes are still in school,” Moru said.
Meanwhile Matsepe said the funds have been received by the ministry for the games but would be released once all procedures have been completed.
Lesotho is expected to host the games with athletes from Botswana, eSwatini, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique. The countries will be competing in athletics, boxing, basketball, gymnastics, netball, football, judo, swimming, taekwondo and volleyball.