MASERU — Leribe district coach Nkuebe Makhalemele has accused the Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association (LAAA) of neglecting talent at the grassroots level.
Makhalemele, who has been coaching short distance runners for the past 12 years, said Lesotho’s top athletes were retiring early because they felt neglected by the association.
“We are always working hard as district coaches to identify, groom and develop talent but as soon as the athletes leave high school, they end up idle,” Makhalemele told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday.
He said the athletes end up sitting at home because the LAAA did not have any permanent programme designed for athletes who have left school.
“LAAA simply does not care for the best short distance runners that we have produced for many years now,” Makhalemele said.
“There is no special programme that the LAAA has put in place to accommodate these athletes soon after leaving school.”
He said the LAAA must design a permanent programme specifically for athletes after high school.
“Young athletes are well taken care of at both primary and high school level because they are under school and district coaches.
“It is however different when they complete their high school education because they are forced to be on their own and as a result we lose great athletes,” Makhalemele said.
He added that the LAAA must come up with a plan to accommodate such athletes and continue to give them chances to improve their careers.
Districts would be able to continue keeping the athletes under their wings if there were facilities.
For instance, funds being used for the Vision 2020 games could be used to develop recreational centres in the districts.
“If each year M2 million is spent for these games only, the government can instead use the money to develop a recreational centre in each district.
“That way we will be able to take care of athletes even after school because there will be recreational centres in each district where they (athletes) will be taken care of,” Makhalemele said.
LAAA spokesperson Sejanamane Maphathe said Leribe must establish district clubs and stop shifting the blame to his association.
“There is no truth in everything that these people are saying, it’s a pure lie,” Maphathe said.
He said Leribe must start by establishing district clubs if they want to see their athletes being taken care of after high school.
“They must establish district clubs and stop accusing us of these things. Other districts like Maseru have well established clubs,” he said.
He said Leribe’s performance had deteriorated for the past three years because of lack of such clubs.