Rubbing shoulders with a high-powered Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) delegation at the football grassroots festival recently held across the Senqu River was a once in a lifetime opportunity for kids from the rural village of Tebellong, Qacha’s Nek.

The LeFA outfit that facilitated the august event was spearheaded by the Secretary General, Mokhosi Mohapi and the Technical Director, Leslie Notsi.

Like in many other rural settlements across the length and breadth of the Kingdom of Lesotho, the residents of Tebellong also endure a generally hard life on a daily basis.

Access to education, healthcare and transport facilities is a nightmare, with small rowboats as the only mode of transport from the village to the outside world, across the Senqu River.

The hold-up, could however not inhibit the soccer governing body from hosting the essential grassroots festival for the young residents of the generally struggling community.

Just like everybody else, the LeFA delegation also travelled to Tebellong by boat, across the river.

Lucky enough for the team that had travelled 224.7 km from Maseru by road, water levels in the river normally plummet to their lowest in winter, making it relatively easy to ferry both passengers and goods in the rickety boats, across the freezing cold waters.

“We have a country with very rugged terrain in both highlands and lowlands, even in the towns and cities. Our highlands are usually extremely remote and at times one must cross rivers using boats to get to such isolated areas,” Mohapi said.

“Football development is not only about addressing those that are in the cities or towns. It is also about going out to find talent right out there in the remotest of all places and during these past weeks, we have been all over the country.“We went to Tebellong, which is right in the heart of the mountainous district of Qacha’s Nek, across the Senqu River. It was our first time to visit that place, where we undertook a programme called grassroots festival. We saw potential, real, real potential and that raw talent is what LeFA President, Advocate Salemane Phafane has instructed the technical director’s office to go out and get.”

Grassroots programme was introduced by the Federations of International Football Associations (FIFA) to help member associations in setting up their grassroots level development programmes, while also training local coaches-educators to their specifics of teaching grassroots football for boys and girls from the age of six to 12.

The programme also covers the organisation of festivals for children to participate and provide equipment for the coaches and the children.

Since football activities were given the greenlight to resume after they were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LeFA has visited districts including Mokhotlong, Qacha’s Nek and Butha Buthe for grassroots programmes, which were described as a big success by the association’s Technical Director, Notsi.

“The grassroots programmes are working out to be a success through the good work being done by our Grassroots Coordinator, who has teamed up with the District Football Associations (DIFAS), district coaches, schools, and coaches of developmental teams in the districts.“The initiative has also been welcomed by parents in different communities, who have shown support by going to the sports grounds to cheer up their kids, which has been a big motivation to the department to continue giving boys and girls from the age of six to 12 the platform to play football.

“This will help revive the passion for sports among the kids throughout their childhood. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in football, as long as they participate in sports activities, we are happy.

“Of course, we would love to retain most of them in football but our emphasis is on installing the passion to participate in sports from an early age,” Notsi explained.

For Ramatlali Ramatlali, a Broadcasting and Journalism graduate from the Limkokwing University, who was born and bred in Tebellong, the visit by LeFA to his home village will go a long way towards reviving the passion for the beautiful game among the youth in his community.

“We have been highly motivated by the visit. It was the first time that we had a delegation from LeFA to bring the grassroots programme to our community, even DIFA Qacha’s Nek has not been here in a long time,” he said.

“We feel special and confident that the project will make a huge impact towards reviving the passion of football in our community, especially among the young generation. We will not wait for LeFA to return with another grassroots programme as we have already started our own programmes to keep the kids, both boys and girls busy with football activities. They are all loving and enjoying it.

“I also want to appeal to DIFA Qacha’s Nek to host such programmes at least once a year to keep us motivated. It will further give them an idea of the challenges we face because already the lack of equipment especially soccer balls is our biggest problem to sustain the project and our plea to DIFA Qacha’s Nek and LeFA is, please keep providing us with soccer balls,” Ramatlali also said.