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Phamotse continues to shine in volleyball

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. Contact us today: News: [email protected] Advertising: [email protected] Telephone: +266 2231 5356

Leemisa Thuseho

LEPERENG Olympafrica Centre (LOC) and national volleyball team middle-blocker and outsider-hitter, Relebohile Phamotse, is undoubtedly destined to be Lesotho’s next volleyball star.

At just 18 years of age, the lanky starlet has already achieved so much in the game and proved to be a future volleyball great.

Born and bred in Ha Abia in Maseru, ‘Relo’, as Phamotse is popularly known in local volleyball circles, did not know due to her towering height of 1.8metres, she could be a good volley-baller and Lesotho’s treasure of the game.

However, her teachers at Lithabaneng High School were smart enough to spot her volleyball potential and advised her to join the sport. Relo has not looked back since those early days and has now committed her life to the sport that she now so dearly loves.

Yet it was not difficult for her to settle fast in volleyball as she was already into sport, playing netball while still at Holy Innocent Primary School.

However, Phamotse told the Lesotho Times, she was unaware of her volleyball talent until one of her high school teachers encouraged her to take up the sport.

“I was a netball player when I was at primary school. It was only when I reached high school that one of my teachers, Letlatsa Putsoenyane, said my height was suitable for volleyball, and then advised me to join the school team, which I did in 2019. That’s where it all started and I’ve never looked back since,” Phamotse said.

That decision marked the beginning of a fairy-tale, medal-laden career as Phamotse helped her school, Lithabaneng High, win a gold medal in the 2019 Lesotho Institutes Sports Associations (LISA) Ball Games.

The same year, she played a pivotal role as her club, LOC, won the Lesotho Volleyball Association (LVA) B Division league.

Although her teachers helped her realise her volleyball potential, Phamotse also credits her coach at LOC, Khotso Mahloko, with contributing to her overall growth as both a person and sportswoman.

“The person who made me love volleyball more is my current coach, Khotso Mahloko. He made me feel volleyball is the best sport among the others,” she said.

Phamotse, who is in Grade 10, earned herself a Keba Mbaye Scholarship for sport and academic improvement in 2019. The scholarship is offered by the Keba Mbaye Foundation, through the assistance of the International Olympafrica Foundation, to children with the potential of doing well academically and in sport.

As testament to her progress in volleyball, Phamotse in December 2021,became one of the top performers during the African Union Sport Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games held in Lesotho.

The Lesotho volleyball team won a gold medal in the games, and Phamotse topped this up by winning the event’s best attacker award, as well as most valuable player (MVP) of the tournament award.

That was the first time volleyball was part of the AUSC Games and Lesotho’s volleyball team became the first local side to win a gold medal in the continental tournament.

Last year, she was part of the Lithabaneng High School volleyball team, which won a gold medal at the LISA Ball Games. Also in 2022, Phamotse was in the Lesotho team which won a silver medal in the AUSC Games in Malawi, and she also won the best blocker and MVP awards.

This year, Phamotse received her first senior national team call-up and played in the 2023 African Nations Championships in Yaoundé, Cameroon, last month. That was the first time the Lesotho female team participated at this level of the game. However, the team finished last among the 12 participating countries.

Due to her outstanding and promising talent, Phamotse also received a scholarship from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in South Africa, which is paying her school fees, among other benefits.

She also played a vital role in helping her club, LOC, finish second without losing any game in their debut season of the LVA A Division League last year.

In July this year, Phamotse went to eSwatini with LOC where they won silver at the Bob Cats International Tournament in Matsapa. Phamotse was named best attacker and MVP of the tournament.

Phamotse says her ambition is to get an athletics scholarship abroad where she would combine playing volleyball and her academic studies.

As young as she is, Phamotse understands the importance of education, hence she would like to combine it with her sporting career.

“I love volleyball the same way I do love my studies… sport and education go together. I know if I fail academically, I am also not going to do well in sport, which is why I always strive to balance the two,” she said.

Phamotse, has however, lamented lack of sponsorship for local volleyball, citing teams’ struggles each time they have to play outside the country.