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Coaches speak on AUSC games postponement

Leemisa Thuseho

LOCAL coaches have welcomed the postponement of the 2020 African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games to next year saying they would now get more time to prepare.

However, they said they were also worried that the athletes they had already selected for the games would no longer qualify for the games come December 2021.

The games were initially scheduled for 4 to 13 December 2020 but were last week postponed to next year. The postponement was announced after the Region 5 ministers’ troika meeting. The meeting was held virtually.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Lesotho’s preparations were already behind due to financial changes and delays in the construction of facilities for the games.

The ministers decided to postpone the games on the back of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which has disrupted respective countries’ preparations for the games.

Although their preparations were behind, volleyball coach Tšepo Raletooane said if wasn’t for the Covid-19 pandemic, he was confident that his team would achieve good results. He is however, worried that some of his players would not be eligible for the games next year.

“It is true that we were behind with our preparations but I was confident of getting good results,” Raletooane said.

When sporting activities were suspended mid-March, most sporting codes were still scouting for athletes.

Raletooane already had a team in place and he feels the postponement is a blow for some of his players.

“The postponement is bringing uncertainty for my team because some of the players may not be eligible next year. This means we may need to start scouting again.”

Raletooane is hoping to maintain the core of the team and says he is now awaiting to hear from the organisers if they would be allowed to use the players in their current team.

“What is key in preparing for the games is the availability of players but due to Covid-19, that is still going to be a challenge because most of the players are from schools and their schedules are likely to change.

“For now, I think it is crucial to prioritise the games over local leagues… all efforts should be directed to the games,” Raletooane said.

For his part, basketball coach, Phakoa Moiloa, believes the postponement will give them adequate time to prepare their teams as the Covid-19 pandemic started while they were still in the early stages of the preparations.

“When sporting activities were suspended, we were still scouting while other countries already had teams that they have been working with since last year,” Moiloa said.

He said they are now looking forward to resuming preparations once they are allowed to resume activities.

Although taekwondo had a pool of players, they were yet to select a team and coach Khothatso Lekanyane feels the postponement will give them another chance to improve their planning.

“Some years back we used to have camps from which players would go to school straight from the camp and come back to the camp after classes. Now that we have enough time, I think such an arrangement can work,” Lekanyane said.

Netball coach Munyaradzi Shanduka said while the postponement was a blessing, it was also a setback as most of the players would no longer be eligible for the games next year.

“The players had already been exposed to international netball and had gained the much need experience. I was confident that would perform better than any other previous team.

“Half of the players I had earmarked for the games will no longer qualify by December 2021. This leaves a big gap which calls for serious attention.

“The decision to postpone the games was the best in order to protect everyone from the disease. However, we must use the time wisely because there is so little time,” Shanduka said.

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