Makwala’s worth much more than gold
When Isaac Makwala stepped up for the 400m race inside drenched Carrara Stadium at Gold coast Australia, he probably knew this was his last attempt to deliver home a medal from the global stage.
Distance memories of the 2017 World Championship games failure came flooding in the minds of those who doubted the ability of the 31 year old runner. After running a solo race, catching the attention of the athletics world, Makwala could not storm to the podium finish when he chose to run the 200m (instead of 400m) race alongside the company of South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk, who happens to be the race record holder.
But at Australia in the 21st edition of the Commonwealth games, without Van Niekerk, without Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner and without Kirane James of Granada, the roar was not the same. This time around, the melodious cheers of Tuesday afternoon carried a more meaningful weight than before. After so many years of failure, Makwala had a life and death opportunity to rewrite his name in the world athletics folklore. This is the same sport he has, from time immemorial, electrified with a burst of sheer speed and joy.
At Australia, few athletes knew more about time than they actually knew about Makwala. Even with the upcoming talent of Baboloki Thebe, it was no exception. And after so many attempts of failing to chase this ‘time’ down and probably exploding it into pieces, when Makwala eventually caught up with it, he tore it apart. He stormed into the finishing line alone with a time of 44:35. For all the good reasons, the eyes of the world were glued on this Botswana born runner. He came into this race as the overwhelming favourite. His eyes and body language told a simple short story of intent.
No doubt that in so many ways he had seen his final crowning moment coming. It was the one attitude- gracious winner-that he punctuated the victory with his trademark push ups. A race performed with as much aplomb came to a staggering end just under 44 seconds.
“I am so happy that I have finally won what I want; I have trained hard for this. I am actually happy for Southern African countries, like Botswana and South Africa, they have now started to show dominance,” Makwala was quoted as saying after the race.
Statistically, Makwala came to this year’s Commonwealth games as the 8th fastest runner of the 400m race, but when the curtain finally fell down on his illustrious career, he was catapulted to the third spot in the history of the race. That was coming! On his heats and semi-finals, the Tutume born runner showed command and glimpses of dominance. He was never beaten; no runner on these preparatory races raised his hand to upset the phone book in the finals ahead.
One of the many things that Makwala has brought to this race of all sporting dramas is a sense of unfolding narrative. Because of his size, he has routinely started before his competitors, and then inexorably ran them down, but unfortunately too slow in the last 200m. What used to happen at the last half of the race, however, this time didn’t quite happen. For the first time, as he neared the line, relaxation showed on his face, he did not look like all the others. But the expression was quickly replaced by a broad smile of gratitude and relief.
At 32, Makwala’s career has never been much about to break records, but about proving himself as the flawless competitor who deserves worldwide attention. He is now the first Motswana runner of the 400m race to deliver gold. It could not come at a better time when he has rumoured to be eluding doping tests enroute to Australia. But for all the medals and the records, it is fun in its broadest sense, the indomitable overflow of pleasure, for which Makwala is now remembered for. He has dramatised all that human bodies might be capable of, and done so in a spirit not of “focus” but of celebration.
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Itâ€™s do or die for Zebras
The senior national team, the Zebras, is currently in Equatorial Guinea to for an African Cup of Nations Qualifiers tie. Before they departed, the team’s coach, Mogomotsi Mpote, had his troops train in Morocco. This was through the agreement between the two countries.
The agreement between the BFA and the FĂ©dĂ©ration Moroccan Football Association states that the two nations will work together to organize friendly matches between their respective national teams. It also allows the establishment of football camps for the youth categories (U-15, U-17, and U-20), this includes women’s national teams.
The national team has played over 180 minutes in its two qualifying matches against Tunisia and Libya. Currently, the Zebras, Lesotho and Liberia are the only teams that haven’t scored yet in the competition (this is correct by press time on Friday).
Before the match against Equatorial Guinea match, the local boys who were once known as the whipping boys of Africa in the early 2000s, were languishing at the bottom of the log standings in group J. They lost their first match away to Libya on June 1, 2022. However, they managed to salvage a point against Tunisia last year.
Before the team left for Equatorial Guinea, coach Mpote urged his players to focus on keeping their hopes of making a return trip to the AFCON finals alive after an 11 year absence since the maiden appearance in 2012. He noted that they would not allow their opponents to score and would ensure that they would get a draw.
Despite the various changes that have occurred in the two countries’ football landscape, the two teams have only met once before. In 2010, the local boys defeated the Equatorial Guinea team in a friendly match, which ended in an emphatic win for the visitors. Since then, the two sides have realised different fortunes in FIFA rankings, with Equatorial Guinea ranked 51 places above the Zebras.
Meanwhile, in their last six games, Guinea has only managed to win one of them. They drew with Rwanda and Togo in September 2022 friendlies. They have found the back of the net just twice in their six games. On the other hand, the Zebras, won one match against Zambia and lost four on their way to finishing at the bottom of the group with four points. At the conclusion of their previous AFCON campaign, the local boys traveled to Zambia and secured a draw.
Despite the recent results of the Guinean team, which have only managed to draw with Rwanda and Togo in their last six matches, coach Mpote is still confident that his team will perform well against the hosts.
According to the head coach, the local boys have the necessary skills and resources to perform well against any country. He noted that the team’s coaches have been studying abroad to gain a deeper understanding of the various aspects of football.
“Tactically they should also be ready. We need your (Botswana fans) usual support, when we come back from Equatorial Guinea, we will go to Francistown, and we will need you. You are our 12th player, and you are very important to us.”
OBED ITANI CHILUME STADIUM CERTIFIED
This week, the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Tuelo Serufho revealed that the Obed Itani Chilume Stadium will host the return leg of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between the local boys and Equatorial Guinea. The venue had initially failed an inspection test conducted by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). However, following the completion of the necessary works, the stadium was allowed to host the match.
According to BNSC Chief, Tuelo Serufho, the various requirements that the stadium must meet included having a designated parking area for the media and spectators, as well as having signage that will guide the spectators. He also noted that the venue now has a world-class media area.
Jagdish Shah rejects Rollers society
Township Rollers, one of the countryâ€™s most decorated football clubs with 15 premier league titles, is finding itself in a precarious situation as its long-term chief financier, Jagdish Shah, threatens to dump them if the society does not bow down to his demand of forfeiting their 20 percent interest in the company.
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Orange injects P350 000 into Phikwe marathon
Mobile network Orange Botswana is committed to supporting the development of local sport. Through its sponsorship, the company will be able to promote and market the sport. According to Maano Masisi, the company believes that sport can unite people from different backgrounds.
He stated that through the sponsorship of the marathon, the company will help promote healthy lifestyles and unity among the people of Selebi Phikwe.
The Selebi Phikwe Marathon is scheduled to take place on July 29, 2023. It is expected that it will attract international, regional, and social runners. A total of P216 000 has been allocated for the prize money for the first ten places in the 42.2 km race. For the 15km and 10km races, the LOC will give away prizes to the first five places.