LESOTHO Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC) Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mofihli Makoele, has seen it all from playing bare-footed in the dusty streets of Butha Buthe as a young boy to being part of the all-conquering Rovers side of the 1980s and 1990s.
Makoele (MM) this week spoke to Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Mikia Kalati, about the transition he made from playing to coaching and administrative roles with the LSRC and the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA).
LT: How did you, a former footballer, end up working for different sporting associations including basketball?
MM: My love for sports was developed at Christ the King High School in Roma. Being in a boarding school meant that I had to be involved in different sporting activities. We had volleyball, tennis, basketball, soccer and horse shoe. That is how I ended up knowing and participating in different sporting activities.
As for Basketball, I’m a founding member of the sport in the country but I never quit football. I went to basketball and came back to football and worked as a coach.
LT: Schools played a big part in producing talent in the past. What has gone wrong?
MM: When I was a teacher at Sefika High School we had a very strong school football team that could even beat some premier league teams. We once played against a Lerotholi Polytechnic side that was in the premier league then and we gave them a tough time because a number of our players had been signed by big teams in the country.
We have a structure that is in charge of school sports and while they must be given a chance to grow, they need to improve their management and invest in coaches.
The schools must also train their teachers so that they have proper qualifications and can coach different sporting codes not just soccer.
We know the effort that teachers put in to make sure that somebody is perfect with something. We are all where we are today because of teachers. I ended up as a soccer player and a coach because of the influence one of my teachers had on me.
I also ended up as a mathematics teacher because of him. One of my former coaches is Ntate Monaheng ‘Doc’ Monyane, who was also a teacher and that is why he was a good coach. (Monaheng Monyane is the only coach to have led Likuena to the final of the regional COSAFA Cup in 2000).
So the teachers must undergo coaching courses. Coaching courses enable people to improve and understand tactics.
The sports associations should also work closely with schools as this will go a long way in reviving the competitiveness among the schools.
But at the moment we have a problem because you still find many coaches still talking about level one and two as their only qualifications.
It is very rare to hear about coaches with level five qualifications in Lesotho.
Soccer is the only sport that has a bigger pool of coaches with A level coaching badges.
We also have coaches with proper qualifications that were trained in Cuba in taekwondo, basketball and boxing but they are not being utilised and we are suffering.
LT: What is your response to claims that there is maladministration in some of the sports associations in the country? It is said there is little or no accountability for poor performances and yet the associations continue to receive funding from LSRC as the mother body.
MM: I found in my research that we have a problem in sports management. If a sport is not managed properly then even the best coaches will not succeed. But if management functions properly and coaches get the support they need to execute their role, they are likely to succeed.
Our main role as the LSRC is to ensure that athletes are given the platform to hone and showcase their skills. It is our job to ensure that sports associations are administered well.
We have a development office that sees to it that the associations have development structures and they do not just come to us to ask for money to hold their annual general meetings.
We expect the associations to give us their short and long term strategic plans.
We also want to make sure that the administrators respect the constitutions of associations.
We encourage limits to the terms that anyone can serve at the helm of an organisation so that those who are not running the associations effectively can make way for others who will do better.
We want the associations to be clean. We want what is good for sports.
LT: How would you describe your experiences so far in sports administration and how can that benefit LSRC going forward?
MM: I have been unfortunate in that wherever I have tried to make a contribution, I have not been able to achieve my objectives. When I was at LNOC, I did not understand the direction that we were taking and I quit because even our best project of preparing a team for the Beijing Olympics failed.
I felt there was no reason to cling on when a project I was leading failed.
But I think it is easier being at the LSRC than at the LNOC because they work with elite athletes but here we work with the athletes from an early age.
We have the Podium Performance Project which is about identifying and developing young talent to be a success story on the world stage.
We have identified sporting codes where we are likely to achieve more success as a country including boxing, tennis, athletics and taekwondo. I think we can achieve success in four years if we prepare the athletes well.
LT: Lastly, what is LSRC planning going forward, given the recent disappointments the country has suffered on the international stage?
MM: I wish we had a clear working relationship with LNOC. That way we would have a clear programme of preparing for the 2024 Olympic Games. I cannot say we are even ready for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (in Japan) because by now we should have started preparations for those games.
I cannot speak about the 2019 All Africa Games because there is still no communication from the hosts, Equatorial Guinea, as to the sporting disciplines that will be part of the games.
Going forward, we need to have information on time about different competitions to prepare properly.
We have been doing well in taekwondo and I hope that we do well in Equatorial Guinea since we now have an international coach.