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Five countries which are members of Zone VI region will battle for the prestigious 'Lesotho 2008 Confederation of Southern Africa Netball Association (COSANA) Under 21 Challenge which started on Monday.

The four-day tournament commenced with a procession from the Lesotho College of Education (LEC), where the athletes are staying and ended at Lehakoe Recreation Centre, where the games will be staged. The procession was led by a military band.

Lesotho's athletes clad in Blue, Green and white stripes of the national flag were prominent among the other four countries Botswana, Malawi and South Africa as well as Swaziland.

Officially opening the tournament, the Director of Sports, Mrs. Puisano Ts'osane, said netball is one of the biggest sport predominantly played by females.

Mrs. Ts’osane said the tournament is played at the time when Lesotho receives its first rains, after a long period of dry spell.

'This is an indication that this morning showers indicate that God has blessed the tournament.'

On the other, the representative of International Federation of Netball Association (IFNA), Mrs. Joan Smit thanked the government of Lesotho through the Lesotho Sports and Recreation for supporting the initiative to hold COSANA tournament.

Speaking at the same occasion, president of COSANA, Dr Keba Hulela said there are challenges facing the sport like acquiring finances for the development of netball and producing role models for the up and coming women.

She noted the importance of women engaging in netball, saying it will help them become strong both mentally and physical.

The Lesotho Sports and Recreation (LSRC) representative, Mr. Teboho Tolo also welcomed the participants and wished them enjoyable games and promised them warm hospitality from Basotho as a nation.

Being the host nation Lesotho has two teams campaigning in the tournament; one is the competitive team, while another is a development side and will also open their account with a tricky assignment against neighbours, South Africa.

The match that is expected to draw much attention is the one between Botswana and Malawi together with South Africa as the favourites to win the netball challenge.

COSANA U-21 Netball challenge is held annually and South Africa is the reigning champions.

The objectives of the tournament are to encourage exposure and competition for young athletes in the Zone VI region and to promote friendship amongst member nations.

Source: LENA 06/10/2008

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