THE Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) introduced national sports awards late last year to recognize outstanding athletes and raise standards.
The inaugural Lesotho Annual Sports Awards (LASA) ceremony is scheduled for 18 March 2017, with nominees selected on the basis of their performances in different fields from January to December 2016.
Sunday Express (SE) sport reporter Moorosi Tsiane caught up with LSRC Development Manager Mofihli Makoele, who is also the awards ceremony coordinator, to discuss about LASA and other related issues.
SE: Can you start by explaining about LASA?
Makoele: First of all, I want to start by clarifying the reasons for the postponement of the award-giving ceremony from 25 February to 18 March at the same venue AVANI Maseru Hotel. The reason for the postponement is that during that initial date, the commission and other key stakeholders will be attending the Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 strategic plan development meeting in Angola.
That also means that the deadline for nominations has been moved to the last day of this month.
Getting back to your question, the national sports awards are meant to reward outstanding and clean athletes. They are also meant to boost morale in our athletes and different stakeholders in the sport sector.
Through the awards, we are saying to our athletes that we care for clean effort; they should do their utmost until they reach their ultimate best which will be winning an Olympic medal. And we are driving them to push to their level best and of course without using any banned substances.
SE: How many categories do you have in these awards?
Makoele: The nominees will be drawn from various categories including Junior Female and Male Sportsperson of the Year, Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, Sportsman and Sportswoman of the year with Disability, Newcomer of the Year, Administrator of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, National Federation of the Year, Sports School of the Year, Sports Team of the Year, Coach of the Year, Umpire or Referee of the Year, Sports Journalist of the Year, Sports Show of the Year, Sports Legacy Awards and Sports Star of the Year.
SE: In many award ceremonies there have been complaints of bias during the nominations process, with a notable example being last year’s Sports Legacy Awards. How will the LSRC make sure there is fairness in this awards? Who is doing the nominations and who will be voting for nominees?
Makoele: The truth is it is not everyone who will be satisfied. People will always look for something to complain about, but we are trying as much as we can to ensure there is fairness.
Our different national federations, sports journalists, clubs/teams, LSRC, Lesotho National Olympic Committee, National Paralympic Committee of Lesotho will be doing the nominations while we also have an evaluation panel.
On top of that, we have certain categories where the nation at large will be given a chance to vote using sms lines.
SE: You talked about these awards being a source of motivation for athletes. Is that all you are aiming to achieve?
Makoele: It came to our attention that we have not been documenting or following up on our athletes. So, we are trying a different approach as awarding players who have been exceptional will help us keep their records.
We had so many outstanding athletes in the past who just vanished into thin air because we failed as sports administrators to follow their progress or lack thereof.
Now we have young athletes such as the 12-year old Manqabang Tsibela who won gold medals in both AUSC and Confederation of School Sport Associations of Southern Africa (COSSASA) games last year. Those are the athletes we need to focus on, and that can only be achieved if we follow up on what they are doing.
SE: So what exactly is the commission aiming to achieve with these awards?
Makoele: Like I have already stated before, we want to motivate athletes to keep working hard. Recognising their efforts will spur them to push harder and also we are hoping this will improve the level of competitiveness in our teams, leagues, and athletes in general.
You will find that a player will be faring well at the primary school level and suddenly disappears as soon as they get to high school. Keeping track of them has not been easy in the past but we are hoping that will be yesterday’snews.
It will also be helping us to identify athletes for the Podium Performance Program (PPP) because the aim is to keep players for a long time together where they are easily accessible. If we manage to keep their track record, then it will be easy again to be following on their progress through their different respective associations or federations.
SE: Last year the Sport Legacy Awards were given to legends and pioneers of sports in the country. So what is going to happen to those awards now that LSRC is introducing new ones?
Makoele: Legacy was just the beginning and was meant for legends in different categories such as refereeing, administrators, pioneers, coaches, athletes etc.
But, unfortunately, it seems like we didn’t manage to reach all of our legends, so we have included about 16 of them for this year and we will continue to include them until we are done with them I think. We have also asked the national federations to submit names of their legends whom they believe have been left out. But at the end, we will be the ones who decide whether such people qualifiers for the categories they have been selected for.
SE: How are the preparations so far?
Makoele: We have been hard at work with the rest of the team and so far we have identified the evaluation panel. We have managed to get sponsorship for trophies and for the hall.
We are already in talks with the company that will be providing the sms voting lines and some of companies we have sent proposals to have committed. So I think the preparations are really at an advanced stage.
SE: Any challenges that you can maybe pinpoint when it comes to preparations?
Makoele: It has not been an easy road because there is a load of work here but we are trying our best with the rest of the team.
The biggest challenge has been of acquiring sponsorship because we all know that sport administrators have been portrayed as people who misuse sponsors’ money. So it is quite a challenge to convince the corporate world otherwise.