There is no way to escape the Botswana Chess Federation’s mesmerizing organizational prowess and of course the smart performances recorded by chess players. Like a true Knight, the Chess Federation has become a special code at the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Awards.
In the three of the last five years, one of the best organized sport codes in the country has seen three of its administrators bestowed with the Best Sports Administrator Award at the prestigious BNSC Awards. One thing about Chess is that it is a very small community which generally has individuals of high or impeccable profiles. According to former Chess Federation president, Tshenolo Maruatona, the latest conquer in the Administrator of the Year award, “All the former and current chess players wield very impressive academic and professional profiles and these are individuals who generally are never lost to the game.”
It was a spectacular weekend for the Chess body, it started with one of their former president, Tshepo Sitale being elected as Senior Vice President of the highly contested Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC). Sitale is one of the pioneer administrators of chess who propelled the Federation to recognition, his election this past weekend as BNOC Senior Vice President was a crowning moment of hard work and meticulous organisation.
Currently the chess elders who are the guide to the committee among others include Dr Marape Marape (former chess player and father to Naledi Marape), Dr Jerome Mafeni (the Chief Executive Officer of ACHAP); Mr Mboki Chilisa who is a practicing lawyer and a passionate chess player; Tshepo Sitale, a former Chess president and chess player. According to Maruatona, the list of advisors is endless. “In my opinion, these parents to a larger extent attribute their academic achievements and discipline to chess and they all want to see their kids following on their tracks. Hence their full involvement in the game. In the past 4 years, Botswana Chess Federation has managed to raise over P250 000 coming as sponsorships only from chess adults,” observed Maruatona.
Maruatona further observes that Chess players cannot imagine their life outside chess. He opines that it is a very intriguing game, very addictive and all they want to do is play chess. “So in essence chess players or enthusiasts will never engage in any activity that can put the game into disrepute. They have their differences but they protect the game at all cost. This is very important for any code. Chess players always want to see the game being played and the guard it with everything,” said the BNSC Administrator of the Year.
Just like in the chess game there is a Desperado, where a piece is captured anyway so it can "sacrifice" itself at the highest cost, chess players sacrifice their personal interests for the good of the game. If there is to be a Woodpusher among the chess family, that is a duffer or weak chess player, the team players will always support that person in the interest of the sport. Therefore, Maruatona shares that the success at chess is not automatic, there is a method to their madness.
The BNSC Administrator of the Year further observes that the chess sport has all the intellectual resources within own pool. “For instance, the chess strategy was crafted by a former national team chess player, Mr Tefo Mogasha; our website was designed and made by our chess players; our life broadcast of games in Botswana was initiated and is being technically supported by our national team player, Phemelo Khetho.” As he cites this examples, Maruatona punctuates his rhyming examples with this statement: “So clearly there is a lot at stake and imagine the calibre of these individuals, they all want to see everything succeed. This is a select group of "nerds" like some people want to say, though we don’t think we are nerds. So in that context, the bar is not at mediocre level.”
According to Maruatona, Chess has been very successful to some extent in getting sponsorships and maintaining the existing ones. He says this could be attributed to how they have successfully packaged chess and how the benefits of playing chess have helped them position it as a game. “It is a known fact that all strong chess players are whizz kids or were at school. In the history of Botswana Chess, there has never been any chess player who made it into the national team and was not an A student. Never ever.
That alone is a distinctively selling value and sets us apart from other codes. It is the desire of every parent to see their kids excel at school. We always emphasize this distinctive advantage when we engage prospective Sponsors,” observes Maruatona. He quips, “Tell me one very good chess player you know in Botswana who was not a top student, I will pay you if u do!”
Every time the Chess Federation approaches a sponsor, it pitches the level very high and where need be, “we pull in some of the parents relevant in the line of business of the sponsor we are approaching. We don’t come through as just sports persons, but we sell our code on value and sponsors find that very impressive. I can exhaust all the typing characters on facebook when I talk about chess. That is how every chess player lovers it,” shares Maruatona.
To cap the glorious chess year, Onkemetse Francis scooped the Sports Woman of the Year award which was sponsored by Debswana for the first time this year to the tune of P40 000. Debswana has taken a deliberate decision to support women within and outside of the organisation in areas such as sports, entrepreneurship and academics. “This is part of our concerted drive to empower women, one of our focus areas in our corporate social investment space,” said Head of Corporate Affairs, Esther Kanaimba-Senai. Chess looks set to dominate other sports codes because of the level of seriousness and organisation they put into their work at the Botswana Chess Federation. It is evident that there is a method to the madness hence it could be prudent for other sports codes to benchmark with chess fides and masters.
This week, the 2019/2020 league champions, Jwaneng Galaxy, announced the signing of former Lusaka Dynamos midfielder Mothusi Cooper for a period of six months.
Cooper, a 23-year-old versatile midfielder, terminated his contract with Lusaka Dynamos a few months ago due to unpaid salaries and signing-on fees. Cooper had joined the Zambian giants from Township Rollers.
In an interview with this publication this week, Tankiso Morake, Galaxy Public Relations Officer (PRO), said their head coach, Morena Ramoreboli, recommended the club to bolster their midfield.
“We felt it was necessary for us as Galaxy to increase our depth in the midfield; fortunately, Cooper was available since he has been declared a free agent,” Morake alluded.
“It is an advantage for us as Galaxy to sign a player of Cooper calibre, though we are not saying we don’t have good players. We just wanted to give the coach what he wants and also add more depth to our squad,” he said.
“It will grant coach more quality players since we are playing the CAF Championship group stage, the league games and also the Orange FA Cup.”
According to Morake, the deal favours both the player and his agent, as it will give the 23-year-old the opportunity to attract interest abroad due to participation in the CAF Championship group stages.
When contacted for comment, Bakang Moipone, who is the player’s agent, said: “The intention was never to go for a local move, but the most unfortunate thing is that as much as we had offers from other teams in Zambia, South Africa, and North Africa and also trying to poach something from Europe, it is challenging to find a foreign player slot during the January transfer window.”
Furthermore, Moipone revealed that the clubs which were interested in his services did not have the foreign slot available to register the versatile midfielder.
“We concluded by saying the player cannot wait until June without having a club; hence we opted for a local move for six months knowing that we will be able to get a club during the winter transfer window,” the player agent noted.
“We received several offers from local teams such as Rollers, Gaborone United, Orapa United and Galaxy, and it was him (Cooper) who chose Galaxy since they have qualified for the CAF Championship group stage as he believes it will give him international exposure and also create more options for him for an oversea move.”
Moipone highlighted that the move to Galaxy was not monetary. The ultimate reason was for the player to gain match fitness while anticipating moving abroad in June to further his professional career.
Meanwhile, it is reported that the former senior national team head coach Adel Amrouche is had secured a lucrative deal for troubled Zebras star Cooper.
The player, recently on Lusaka Dynamos books, is anticipated to move abroad once the 2021/2021 season ends.
The club’s name remains unknown, but sources speculate that the player will land in a team based in Belgium.
Cooper will be the third player whose overseas move is masterminded by Amrouche after secured deals for Kabelo Seakanayeng and Tumisang Orebonye to Olympique Khouribga, a club based in Morocco.
Despite the disruptions of the COVID-19 scourge to the chess fraternity calendar of events, the First Capital Bank Festive Chess Showdown tournament returns this year with improved prizes.
The tournament, which started in 2019 with a sponsorship of P22 000, will proceed with this year’s an increased backing from P42 000 to P50 000. The adjustment prompted the organizers to increase the prizes across sections. Scheduled to take place in Francistown from the 11th-13thof December, the tournament has seen a steadfast growth in sponsorship and attracting high profile players during the two years.
According to the event organizer Thapelo Molefe, the total sponsorship amounts to P49 945, a gesture that allowed them to increase prizes by 14%. The prestige section, which generally attracts highly rated players, has a top prize of P4200, an increase from P3600, while the open section got a P1000 increase to P3000. The ladies section now attracts a prize of P2000 from the previous P1800. However, the Under 18 and development section awards remain unchanged at P1500 and P300.
“The deal is solid and beneficial to both parties so that it won’t stop anytime soon. We have a telepathic understanding with the bank; they have social responsibility at the core of their business. There isn’t much of a difference except the increase in prize monies. Foreign internationals have always graced our events in numbers, and we look forward to having them again in our third installment of this magnificent undertaking,” said Molefe.
The last edition was won by Gaasite Sebetlela and WCM Refilwe Gabatshwarwe in the open and ladies section, respectively, while Monnatsheko Keletshabile emerged the champion in the prestige section.
Morale inside Gaborone United camp is high with the team oozing with confidence and licking their lips to lift the Orange FA trophy, as the team has been assured to share the P700k first prize amongst themselves should they win.
The promise was made by the club Chief financier Nicholas Zachem earlier this year as part of motivating the team following a long spell of football thirst and hunger. The players and the technical team are looking at the big carrot that has been dangled before them and have never looked back.
GU has been marauding other teams, going down for the first time 1-2 against BDF X1. The Innocent Morapedi and Pontsho Moloi mentored side is currently on 2nd position on the league log with 15 points after six games, only a point separate them with log leaders Township Rollers.
The Reds are also in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and are facing stubborn Jwaneng Galaxy in what could be a litmus test for them. Their in-form forward Thatayaone Kgamanyane is expected to lead the attack to eliminate Galaxy and face either Township Rollers or Masitaoka in the finals.
The high flying club has managed five clean sheets this season, with their goalkeeper Goitseone Phoko even voted player of the month. “It’s a great feeling to have been chosen as player of the month. The award will motivate me to perform to my level best in every game. As much as this award is mine, I would like to thank my teammates who have contributed immensely in ensuring that I keep those clean sheets,” said Phoko after pocketing P1000 cash for his toil.
GU Brand and Marketing Manager, Herbert Letsebe said the club decided to introduce monthly awards to motivate players. “This is a build up to our end of the season awards where will crown player of the season and other individual awards,” he said.