…as it emerges that Setsoto stadium could be out-of-bounds as venue of option
The African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games could be in limbo as track and field soccer activities face a threat of no-show on the basis of no available venues to cater for the sporting codes less than two months before the games are set to begin.
This comes at the revelation at news that the Setsoto national stadium has been ruled out for the hosting of the games because it might not be ready in time for the start of the December tournament because of non-payment of fees due unto the contractor currently working on the upgrading project.
The games are set to take place in Lesotho’s capital Maseru from 3 to 12 December 2021 following a last year postponement at the back of the global Covid-19 pandemic which set the world into mayhem and pushed a halt to economic activity inclusive of sports.
According to a source inside the ministry of Sports, the plan is to engage in serious conversation the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) to ask for the permission to use the newly renovated Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena.
“The situation changed for the worse when the company contracted to rehabilitate the tartan track at the stadium decided to stop working due to not being paid since the commencement of work at the stadium,” revealed the source who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The stadium has been earmarked as the primary venue for the hosting of athletics activities as well as the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies.
The track replacement is being undertaken by a South African company, CK Industries. CK industries is an agent for Conica AG, a Swiss high-end sports facility developer.
The source told Newsday Sport that the company was only dealing with the track while another company was to come in later to replace the turf.
“The company that was to replace the turf was expected to come in after the games have been concluded in January because the time that is remaining before the set date was not enough for it to be properly done,” said the source.
Meanwhile, for his part, Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation Information Officer Maqalika Matsepe dismissed as untrue claims that there was a spanner in the works in the revamping of the country’s main stadium adding that all is on course for the use of the stadium.
“Those reports are false, the stadium is still going to be used for the AUSC Games as it is currently under renovations and expectation is that it will be ready on time,” Matsepe said.
He however, confirmed reports that the ministry had initiated talks with LeFA for the availability and use of the Bambatha grounds for soccer games, claims that could not be confirmed by LeFA.
According to Mokhosi Mohapi, LeFA’s Secretary-General, until yesterday, his office had not received any reports of any correspondence with the ministry for intended use of the venue.
“I don’t want to say much on the issue, however my office has not received any communication on the availability of Bambatha ground,” Mohapi said as he shied away from being drawn into saying whether Bambatha could be available should due communication from the ministry eventually reach them.
“May I not respond to that” he said.
In May the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) ruled out the Setsoto Stadium for hosting any fixtures especially international showpieces, as it was said to be in a deplorable state. The announcement was made by the Confederation of African Football Associations (CAF), which pointed out that the stadium did not meet the standard required by the international football governing body.
The Setsoto stadium was said to be closed for renovations from 1 August 2021 in order to prepare it, inter alia for a timely delivery of the Games.
Over a fortnight ago, in an interview with this publication, while Matsepe had mentioned Bambatha as one of the possible facilities to be used for the games, LeFA’s President Advocate Salemane Phafane had said the facility would not be ready by the time the games start or anytime this year.
“We have had five projects running as far as refurbishment of our premises here at Bambatha and another installation of turf at the Mohales Hoek DiFA stadium, three of these projects are nearing completion.
“However, until all of them are finished and the contractor has given us the keys and left our premises, we cannot use any of those that are said to be finished. It is not permissible. I am saying this because I have learned that there are conversations about the possibility of Bambatha hosting some of the AUSC games.
“We would have loved to be part of the hosting grounds but it is not permissible to use the facility while the contractor is still on site, so we can’t do that,” Phafane had said then.
The spectator seating at Bambatha ground is yet to be finished while the administration building at the football headquarters is to be demolished and rebuilt afresh.
Efforts to get a comment from the AUSC Region 5 Games Local Organizing Committee (LOC) were unfruitful until the time of going to print last night. However, the LOC Chief Executive Morake Raleaka, told the press a few weeks ago that all had been arranged for due availability of funds to ensure the successful hosting of the Games and to ensure that all bills are timeously paid to ascertain that there were no hurdles in the preparing Setsoto in time for the tournament.
Lesotho is expected to host athletes from Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, eSwatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe for the Games, in sporting codes including basketball, boxing, gymnastics, netball, football, judo, tennis, swimming, taekwondo and volleyball.