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Sunday, 28 July, 2002, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK

Selection row boosts Lesotho

By John Haughey
BBC Sport Online in Manchester

Lesotho's boxers have overcome the mother of all selection rows to emerge as a force in these Commonwealth Games.

Lightweight Koloba Sehloho's 24-16 victory over the splendidly-named Ghanian King Abbey made it four wins out of four for a southern African nation which has only won two Commonwealth medals across all sports in its history.

Sehloho's victory was greeted by the most entertaining crowd support at Wythenshawe Forum over the weekend.

According to Sehloho afterwards, the whoopers and hollers included the country's Minister for Sport Mrs Malepono who wasted no time after her recent appointment to make sure she made the trip to Manchester.

But Sehloho is one of eight boxers from Lesotho who are delighted that they merely made it to Manchester in the first place.

"The boxing officials are mad now"
Teboho Mafatle

The boxers competing at the Games were selected by the country's Olympic committee after Lesotho's amateur boxing authorities had earlier picked a much different squad.

Only two members of the eight-strong squad were in both lists.

The Olympic committee asked Sehloho's coach Teboho Mafatle to take over the duties of preparing and looking after the squad in Manchester.

Mr Mafatle, who fought in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul chuckles that his already bad relationship with the association took a decidedly bad turn for the worse after that.

"The boxing officials are mad now," he laughs.

"I found out in April that I was coming here.

"Before that I definitely didn't look like coming here because I'm not in the good books of the association," adds the coach.

His charge Sehloho then insists on butting in that his coach is the reason why Lesotho are making such an impact in these Games.

"This man is my boxing hero," says Sehloho.

"The Olympic committee are looking after the sport well now. The boxing association were not running the sport too well," he adds.

After a disappointing performance in the regional Southern African Championships in March, Mafatle, after his installation, quickly decided to bring his squad to get in some badly needed contests in South Africa and Botswana.

Sehloho, who competed at the last two Commonwealth Games without winning a medal, claims he is capable of taking gold - although Jamie Arthur his Welsh opponent in the second round on Sunday may not agree.

"I am a good coach and having the skills"
Teboho Mafatle

"I haven't competed in an Olympic Games but I am ready to qualify for the Olympics at the next All Africa Games."

If Sehloho ever has moments of self-doubt, all he has to do is to listen to the words of wisdom from his super-confident coach.

"I know all the fighters and how to get through to them and motivate them.

"I'm a good coach. I have the skills".

After Sehloho disappears to the dressing-room, coach Mafatle whispers to look out for the progress of his flyweight Sebusiso Keketsi and light-middleweight Lehlohonolo Snyman during the remainder of the Games.

"They are fighting on the 29th. Both fights will be knock-outs".

Australia's Romesh Fernando and Namibia's Ali Nuumbembe - be warned.


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