Our Nijel Back to Glory
Following a year and half frustrated in the dumps, running sensation Nijel Amos has recaptured his glory and is threatening to overhaul the dynamics of the 800m race at the IAAF World Championships next month. Amos has proven he still has fires to burn, just as he did at the 2012 London Olympics whilst a teenager.
Amos became a shadow of himself in recent years, recording far-between victories in less significant competitions. His biggest frustration was at last year’s Olympics when he faded out in the semifinals clocking 1:50.46. Now with athletics’ prestigious competition on sight, the 23 year old is back on tune and it couldn’t be more upbeat that this. “This is the Nijel we were familiar with 2/3 years ago. The man from Botswana is back and this could be a special summer for the 800m,” an enthralled commentator charged as Amos marked his return with his 1:43.18 record times at the same track he emblazoned his name at in 2012.
With athletics gurus applauding the Marobela born runner for finding his gear at the right time, another nail biting two laps is on offing next month. Projections are that athletics fanatics will be treated to another great 800m race in London since that historic night five years ago in the same city he chased his archenemy David Rudisha at. “I’m done with preparations race, I’m done and waiting for the World Championships,” Amos told this paper this week.
Amos’ record times are proving his naysayers who argue that he reached career ceiling at a tender age wrong. Since making his return to the track, he has been on the lips of many as the World Championships dates gather pace. He made his presence felt by clocking 1:44.24 at the Paris Diamond League. He consolidated his performance in London by clocking 1; 43.18 which is by far world leading in the category. “He is picking up at the right time which is good for him and the nation,” athletics coach Oabona Theetso said of the 23 year old.
Last weekend he reiterated the showing clocking 1:43.91 in Rabat. Now everyone is yearning for the championships to witness a duel between East and Southern Africa. But Zorro, as he is affectionately known has on numerous occasions defied the best of East Africa as well as Europe. Amos has in two events outpaced Rudisha and former World Champion Mohamed Amman and it could be another chance for the local charge to strike when it matters most this time around. Amos clocked a time of 1.43.27 to Rudisha’s 1.43.76 in the 2014 Diamond league. In the 2015 Commonwealth Games he did it again clocking 1:45.18 while the Kenyan recorded 1:45.48. However, in 2015 at the World Championships, he could not do repeat his victory but finished disappointingly in the last position 1:47.96.
Rudisha's winning time in 2015 of 1: 45.84 seconds was almost five seconds outside the time he set in winning gold in 2012, but this was less about times and more about ending a barren run that stretched back almost as that far. In last year’s Olympics he recorded a 1:42.6. Since age is catching up with Rudisha, it is possible that Amos can dethrone the Kenyan as the 800m king.
This time around the lanky 29 year old is doing his rehearsals in Kenya, while Amos is based in USA; a victory against the Kenyan is a burning desire for the local lad. However it is his 1:43,18 which is also the world leading time thus far in 800m which should send shock waves across other runners building up to the spectacle. A probability curve is shaping well in favor of the athlete more so he has changed the tactic now.
Instead of chasing he prefers being the pace setter, a tactic used by among others Rudisha and it has paid dividends up to now. Completing the first lap under 50 or just after 50 seconds is another tick in the runner’s upward curve. This year’s World Championship edition will be Amos’ second after 2015. The London event presents an opportunity for the runner to once again add another prestigious medal to his collection.
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Butler arrives at GU: Should Piro fear for his job?
The arrival of former Zebras coach Peter James Butler is believed to have unsettled incumbent coach Pontsho Moloi.
While Nicolas Zakhem has denied that the former Zebras head coach could be taking over the reins in the dugout, WeekendSport has established that Pontsho ‘Piro’ Moloi’s contract will end in June.
GU Communication Manager Herbert Letsebe informed this publication yesterday [Friday] that they are still in negotiations with coach Moloi as his contract expires at the end of June. Letsebe stated that the club values Moloi, whom they see as an energetic and ambitious coach with a great future ahead of him.
Nonetheless, the defending premier league champions, Gaborone United, made an official announcement this week that they have appointed the Briton-born gaffer as the new Director of Football at the club. Butler’s main responsibility will be to oversee all the structures at the club, including both the senior and women’s teams.
In 2019, WeekendSport reported that Butler, who is a close friend of Zakhem, was seriously considering joining GU as the technical director.
When speaking to the Gaborone United media team this week, Butler said: “I never stop learning; I am always looking to learn. If I can help him (Pontsho) become a better coach, a better person, if I can help him one day to go on and represent the country at the national team level, great, that would be wonderful.”
“I am not here to take his job; I can categorically state that. I am here to help Pontsho Moloi. I have always said that I wouldn’t come back and coach here at the domestic level, but I would coach in a more director development sense. He (Pontsho Moloi) has a lot of positives. He has areas where he needs to work on. If I can help him brush up in those areas, great stuff.”
Furthermore, the club director Zakhem announced restructuring changes within the technical team in February, elevating Moloi to the role of head coach while Benny Kgomela was redeployed to the position of General Manager (Technical), with his main role being to oversee issues relating to the senior team, ladies team, developmental sides, and other technical matters of the teams.
Kgomela, who joined Moyagoleele in August 2022 on a one-year contract, will also will leave the club at the end of this month. Kgomela will follow the path of former Head Coach Innocent Morapedi, who parted ways with The Reds this week.
However, investigations by this publication depict a trend in which coaches who are usually appointed as Technical Directors are elevated to the head coach positions, pushing out the current head coach at the time.
Normally, when that time comes, a common theme of “parted ways amicably with our coach with immediate effect” becomes the norm for premier clubs, with the reasons for such changes not known as they are not normally revealed to third parties.
In 2021, Orapa United Football Club brought in Philemon Makhwengwe as a Technical Director with responsibilities including collaborating with the head office to provide technical input, improving the youth structures, developing an improved youth football syllabus, mentoring upcoming coaches, leading the team into CAF club competitions, talent identification, evaluation mechanisms, and superior strategic thinking for team design and devising future plans.
Da Phil, as he is affectionately known, was later appointed as the head coach of the club.
Meanwhile, The Reds have so far lost two games in the current season, the same number of losses they suffered last year. GU’s chances of defending the title they won after 13 seasons are now slim, as they trail Jwaneng Galaxy by five points with only two rounds to play.
Based on this, it remains to be seen if Coach Piro will be at the helm of the plum post when the 2023/2024 football season starts in August.
Ditlhokwe begins new era at Kaizer chiefs
Botswana International, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe, donned the Supersport United jersey for the last time when they lost 1-0 to Sekhukhune United this past weekend.
During the transfer window, the 24-year-old lanky defender signed a pre-contract with the Soweto giants, Kaizer Chiefs, and he is set to start his new lease of life on the 1st of July 2023.
‘TT,’ as he is affectionately known, was introduced to South African football back in 2019 when Supersport United secured his services for a period of three years from Gaborone United. The young lad never looked back as he instantly broke into the starting eleven and quickly became one of the trusted members of the squad.
In the 2022/23 campaign, the Gulubane-born player played 2286 minutes, scored two times, and collected five yellow cards, which is fair for a defender of his calibre.
Still in this campaign, United missed the chance to play in the CAF Confederations Cup as they finished 3rd in the league. Prior to that, they were knocked out by Dondol Stars (2-1) in the Nedbank Cup round of 32.
Meanwhile, Amakhosi had a season to forget as they recorded mixed results, which were caused by a number of factors, including the lack of a well-structured defence, thus affecting their results.
Back in January 2023, Chiefs were hammered 4-0 by Amazulu as their defence was found ailing all the time, raising questions about whether the local lad could be the answer to their defensive woes.
Amakhosi’s central defense boasts players such as Zitha Kwinika, Edmilson Dove, Njabulo Ngcobo, Austin Dube, and Siyabonga Ngezana. Eric Mathoho will leave the club after 11 years.
In this tough aforementioned competition, TT will be looking to use the experience he gained at United to try and cement his place in the team, as he was sometimes used at left-back because of his versatility.
Additionally, being the captain of the Botswana National football team for the past three years will also come in handy as Chiefs will be gunning for every trophy on offer in the coming season, hence there will be high pressure and competition for places in the team.
In an interview with this publication, football analyst Thato Kgosimore said Ditlhokwe’s stay at Supersport United was successful as he managed to attract interest from one of the biggest clubs in the country.
“Ditlhokwe’s stay at Supersport United was commendable. He arrived and cemented a place in the starting eleven and was also amongst the leaders in the team, which helped excel in his role in the national team,” Kgosimore said.
“Furthermore, he will be joining Chiefs in the coming months, and I expect him to continue where he left off at Supersport United, regardless of the pressure that comes with playing for Chiefs.”
Kgosimore added that Chiefs is a big team and a great platform for Ditlhokwe to even go to Europe.
“Chiefs is a big team, and Ditlhokwe stands a better chance of plying his trade in Europe. However, that will be determined by his level of commitment and consistency at his new club, which I believe he will do diligently. I wish him all the best of luck,” added Kgosimore.
Meanwhile, Ditlhokwe told Sowetanlive that being a captain of the Botswana national team has prepared him to deal with any kind of football-related pressure.
“I have captained my national team at the age of 21 so I don’t think there’s any pressure that can [surpass] what I have been already through,” Ditlhokwe said during SuperSport’s 2022-23 awards ceremony on Monday.
“It’s just a normal challenge that every player can face. There’s no player that can grow without challenges — you need to be tested. “It’s a big test, I know but at the end of the day the same way I managed before is the same way I’m going to manage [at Chiefs].”
Local tennis team upbeat ahead of Billie Jean King cup
With almost two weeks until the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup, which will be staged in Kenya from June 12-17, 2023, the Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) ladies’ team coach, Ernest Seleke, is optimistic about reaching greater heights.
Billie Jean King Cup, or the BJK Cup, is a premier international team competition in women’s tennis, launched as the Federation Cup to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The BJK Cup is the world’s largest annual women’s international team sports competition in terms of the number of nations that compete.
The finals will feature 12 teams (Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Seychelles, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) competing in the four round-robin groups of three. The four group winners will qualify for the semifinals, and the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup will be crowned after the completion of the knockout phase.
Closer to home, the BW Tennis team is comprised of Thato Madikwe, Leungo Monnayoo, Chelsea Chakanyuka, and Kelebogile Monnayoo. However, according to Seleke, they have not assembled the team yet as some of the players are still engaged.
“At the moment, we are depending on the players and their respective coaches in terms of training. However, I will meet up with Botswana-based players in the coming week, while the United States of America (USA) based player Madikwe will probably meet us in Kenya. Furthermore, Ekua Youri and Naledi Raguin, who are based in Spain and France respectively, will not be joining us as they will be writing their examinations,” said Seleke.
Seleke further highlighted the significance of this competition and how competitive it is. “It is a massive platform for our players to showcase their talent in tennis, and it is very competitive as countries target to get promoted to the world categories where they get to face big nations such as Spain, France, USA, and Italy. Though we are going to this tournament as underdogs because it is our second time participating, I’m confident that the girls will put in a good showing and emerge with results despite the odds,” highlighted Seleke.
Quizzed about their debut performance at the BJK Cup, he said, “I think our performance was fair considering the fact that we were newbies. We came third in our group after losing to North Macedonia and South Africa. We went on to beat Uganda, then Kenya in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we couldn’t play Burundi due to heavy rainfall and settled for the position 9/10,” he said.
For her part, team representative Leungo Monnayoo said they are working hard as they aim to do well at the tourney. “The preparations for the tourney have long begun because we practice each and every day. We want to do well, hence we need to be motivated. Furthermore, I believe in my team as we have set ourselves a big target of coming home with the trophy,” she said.