Burgeoning egos within the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) have cost sprint sensation, Baboloki Thebe an opportunity to train in Spain. The athlete’s envisaged move to Spain collapsed at the last minute after negotiators failed to engage BAA in the process, WeekendSport has learnt.
This publication has learnt that various countries/universities have been keeping tabs on the runner since rising to stardom in 2014 with anticipation of signing him. His custodians, Orapa Athletics Club, agreed a deal with International scouts, Agon Sport International in January this year who promised to offer Thebe a scholarship at Universidad Catolica San Antonio de Murcia (UCAM) in Spain.
Documents seen by this publication show how Agon Sport in a letter dated January 2016 was willing to offer Thebe a scholarship to pursue a four year degree course of his choice, with a coach, physiotherapist, dietician and all other necessary elements included in the deal. His mentor was to be Llorenc Solbes Ponsoda who is also mentoring Onkabetse Nkobolo. Thebe, it was also negotiated, would have an experienced personal manager, Monica Pont Chafer who was to be paid 15% commission in all the events he would compete in. The manager, according to the letters, had already negotiated the runner an endorsement deal with Adidas.
The agreement however collapsed after BAA sent a delegation to Thebe’s parents to block the move as they were not involved on the deal. “Spain is one of the entrances in Europe for human trafficking; hence we couldn’t allow the athlete to go there when we know nothing about the whole process. We went there to ask the parents if they also knew anything but they were clueless.
We were only engaged last minute when the negotiators (Orapa Athletics Club) asked for help for flight tickets and Visa application and learnt that things have been happening behind our back and that’s when we went to see the parents,” said BAA Sport Development Officer, Gable Garenamotse. The visit to Thebe’s parents, according to Garenamotse was to inform them that if they allowed the sprinter to go to Spain, BAA should not be liable to anything that could happen to the runner there.
Kenneth Kikwe of Orapa Club, who is regarded as one of the antagonists of the current administration, is accused of negotiating the deal without including his principals, something tantamount to insubordination according to athletics top echelons. “But that’s a nonstarter because we sent Nkobolo to Spain using the same formula,” he said. BAA further argues that they froze the move after learning from Nkobolo’s ordeal which they say has also proven to backfire. The Moroka born Nkobolo is expected to resume his Physical Education studies at the same UCAM.
“Take Nkobolo’s deal for instance he is unlikely to go back because the centre now wants 930 Euros (P13,020) per month or P156,240 for a year and the club (Orapa) wants BAA to foot that, how can we do so while we are bankrupt. So after learning from Nkobolo’s move we calculated the moves and don’t want to fall in the same trap again,” Garenamotse said before departing to Angola on Tuesday.
For his part Kikwe has played down the money issue saying BAA just needs to offer Nkobolo a flight ticket. “No there is nothing like that this two just need a flight ticket that’s all.” Kikwe maintained that Spain has a lot of opportunity and advantages for the runners than in Botswana or Africa.
“You see this runner is on another level he needs the right mentoring and other supporting staff that will help him to grow, like physiotherapists, dieticians of which they are not accessible here. That move was to turn his life around because again there are lot of competitions there which he could compete in and make money through unlike here,” Kikwe posited.
Thebe who completed his knee surgery in Italy recently will be under the care of coach Mogomotsi Otsetswe and will only go to foreign countries if BAA strikes a deal for him or they are taken through the negotiations. The Ramonaka born runner will also miss the AUSC games in Angola as he is still healing from the surgery.
Athletics is one of the sporting activities that for many years has been consistently performing extremely well in international competitions. One of the reasons is the availability of qualified and experienced coaches, who have been working tirelessly on the ground to ensure that they scout talent and develop more athletes.
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