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Cabango joins forces with Lesotho Rugby Academy to promote important messages about healthy living

Community | 31st May 2024

On Tuesday, June 4th, at the Pack Bar at the Cardiff Arms Park, Former Ysgol Plasmawr and Ysgol Glantaf student, and now Cardiff Rugby player Theo Cabango will be announced as the Welsh Ambassador for the Lesotho Rugby Academy.

Lesotho Rugby Academy trustee Steve Lloyd welcomes everyone to what should be a great event but please let Steve know if you’re coming or wish to receive more information on how to get involved, contact 07999 843838.

This rugby based charity aims to use rugby to promote information about HIV/Aids, healthy lifestyles, and gender equality to young people of Lesotho.

Lesotho is the fifth highest country in the world, with the highest point being the 3,428m peak of Thabana Ntlenyana, and many of its villages can only be reached on horseback. The former British protectorate is surrounded by South Africa and heavily depends on their neighbours for employment opportunities.

In September 2014, the Lesotho Rugby Academy was launched. It works with schools to introduce pupils to the wonderful game and, in doing so, delivers important messages about healthy living in Lesotho.

The country itself is a desperately poor but beautiful nation, and 1 in 4 of the population is HIV positive. This charity can helps children feel a sense of togetherness by being a part of the team whilst working with them on health issues and how to combat them.

A 10-week programme delivers young boys and girls important messages of the importance of not just HIV/Aids but also gender equality, good nutrition and how to live a healthy and responsible life.

The programme is in partnership with Dolen Cymru (the link between Lesotho and Wales), and one of their aims is to produce top-quality players and to place Lesotho rugby on the Rugby World map.

On top-quality players and to see whether the academy has been a success, look no further than Sekhola Phate, who, at the age of 13, found a passion for rugby whilst studying at Phomolong High School.

Sekhola has proudly represented his national team, playing in countries such as Mauritius and Botswana.

Lately, the teenager’s achievements have not gone unnoticed, as South African rugby team Cheetahs Rugby has invited him to enrol in a three-year sports management course in Freestate. The utility back line player but preferably 10 or 15 has become the first male player from Lesotho to achieve this.

It’s not even just Sekhola’s success story; players have gone from begging for rugby posts in the early days to becoming an associated member of World Rugby. Five female players have also played in the South African rugby pro leagues.

Trained in HIV awareness, gender and health, Coach Roy Nyasha Zhou has been coaching rugby in the Kingdom since 2012. Roy established the Maseru Warriors rugby club and is one of the co-developers of the Academy syllabus and delivers programmes to over 50 schools. He is a World Rugby Level 2 qualified coach and coaches the Likoatola.

One of the men behind the establishment of this charity is Dan Aylward, a former Hackney RFC player and Oxford University graduate and is one of two people who set up the rugby academy whilst working with the Lesotho government. All he wanted to do whilst living in the country between 2011 and 2013 was to play a game of rugby.

In an interview with the Sun in 2018, Aylward stated: “I sent an email to the expat community asking if there were any local clubs- and I got two replies.

“One said there was one across the border 30km away in Ladybrand, and the other said sometimes he saw guys chucking a rugby ball around on the tennis courts at the gym.”

It started out with teaching the six rugby novices on a tennis court in the capital Maseru.

Things then quickly spiralled into high-level government meetings, before the incredible formation of Lesotho’s national side.

Litsitso Motseremeli, the other founder of the charity who took up rugby in 2011, is now the director of the academy programme after finding a passion for the sport.

He started volunteering full-time for the charity and is now the ambassador and the country director for the Academy programme. Litsitso has received a Commonwealth Beacon award for working with young people.

Going back to the huge night at The Cardiff Arms Park on June 4th, the start time being 18:45, there will be a performance by the Cardiff Arms Park choir as the Blue and Blacks' family along with the Welsh rugby community comes together to welcome Cardiff winger Theo Cabango into his new role as Welsh Ambassador of the Lesotho Rugby Academy.

Please inform Lesotho Rugby Academy trustee Steve Lloyd whether you will be present at the event. He can be contacted on 07999 843838. If you can’t make it on the night, you are welcome to get in touch if you wish to get involved in fundraising.