Mark Harrisons’ philosophy remains embedded as Township Rollers enters the new season in need of fine-tuning rather than a tactical overhaul. But can they take the next step without hiccups? Staff writer MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE observes.
In many people’s views, Township Rollers’ preparations and robust transfer recruitment on the 2016-17 season was the ‘epiphany’ for those who doubted the brilliance of one of the arguably best football sides ever. Prior to the end of the 2015-16 controversial season, many football pundits had predicted a luke warm performance for Mark Harrison and his blue and yellow army. For the second season running, defending champions Township Rollers have not had their best start despite winning the Kabelano Charity spectacular- a cup carrying less significance.
The long suffering Rollers community suddenly have renewed hopes of days long past, after watching helplessly as Centre Chiefs and their former coach Mike Sithole wrestled the title out of their reach. They have roped in Harrison, a highly renowned tactician whose first job was to clean the mess left by former coaches. He seems to have done exactly that, reminding domestic football that he is a pragmatic man whose football ideologies have been appealing even to the purists.
It is indeed a quality required for a coach as Harrison has surveyed a squad that had worrying holes in it last season. But the Briton coach looks to have somehow transformed last term’s failures to a title winning team.
This would represent success and the soft spoken mentor is aware even this will be difficult. However, Rollers’ players are lining up to claim that a 3rd title in four seasons can be won but their coach is somehow cagey. Harrison would never say it publicly but everybody is playing for the league, it will be too early to say they are right on course.
Can it happen? The jury is still out until the close of this campaign as the executive committee inclusive of Rollers’ chief financier Jagdish Shah finished the quest to recruit players to the team. The bottom line is that choosing which of Centre Chiefs, BDF XI, and Gaborone United, Rollers can replace, is tricky as all have bolstered their ranks impressively this summer.
Harrison’s wrecking ball has however arrived via the transfer of Rollers most influential winger and club captain Sekhana Koko. He was instrumental in the club’s rise to glory last season. How Popa will cope with the damage is the great conundrum of the first 10 games, answers ranging from another title challenge – foreseen on this occasion – consolidation in the top two or squeezed back to the margins all carrying weight.
Beyond dispute is Rollers’ mantle as a contender and their reaction to both Koko and Ramatlhakwane‘s exit. For all considered factors the former Zebras players were the country-class inspiration behind the club’s strongest title challenge of the Premier League era. The blow however prompted a swift and considered response.
There have been six incomings at the time BPL released official new signings. Lemponye Tshireletso, Mara Moloi, Ntesang Simanyana, Gape Mohutshiwa, Mosha Gaolaolwe and Senegalese striker Pape Ndaw.
Harrison seems to have identified several weak spots when he arrived as Rollers coach late last season and the problems undermining the team’s thrilling title challenge last season have been addressed.
Much, therefore, now depends on the skipper Maano Ditshupo and the awareness of the strikers in front of him. The continued upward trajectory of Segolame Boy and the stability new signee Lemponye Tshireleso can bring will surely determine the success of the team. Up front, the club lacks absolutely nothing. They have Mara Moloi and Terrence Mandaza, each have the league’s golden boot on separate accounts.
In Harrison, Rollers like Chiefs did, possesses one of the most astute, forward-thinking coaches in the game. His rebuilding work may come to fruition in this season and next, but his foundations are in place.
However, the team is criticised for adopting a robust move when building for silverware. In search of glory and countrywide appeal, the team is castigated for paying little attention to their youth academy and adopting an almost mercenary belief that success literally has a price.
Debswana injected P40 million into sports
Debswana, the leading diamond mining company in Botswana, has made a significant investment in sports development over the past five years. With a total expenditure of over P40 million, the company has demonstrated its commitment to promoting and supporting sports in the country. This was revealed by Andrew Motsomi, the Managing Director of Debswana, during the BNSC annual sponsors night.
The funds were disbursed to various National Sport Associations (NSAs) to aid in their preparations for regional and international sporting competitions. The Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) organized the sponsors night to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of businesses and individuals to the development of sports in Botswana.
Debswana was honored with the platinum award, the highest recognition given by the BNSC, for its outstanding contribution of over P4 million to sports development in the financial year 2021-2022. In his keynote address, Motsomi highlighted the challenging global economic climate, with many companies implementing cost-cutting measures due to the effects of COVID-19, geopolitical challenges, and elevated inflation. Despite these challenges, Debswana remains unparalleled in its commitment to sports development.
Motsomi emphasized the importance of sports in the economy and the nation’s pride, as outlined in Vision 2036. He urged the BNSC and NSAs to adopt innovative and sustainable methods of commercializing sports in Botswana. This includes monetizing initiatives such as promoting athletic events internationally to optimize the sport value chain.
One notable contribution by Debswana in 2022 was its partnership with the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA). The company announced a P9 million sponsorship for the BAA, spanning three years from 2022 to 2025. The BAA will receive P3 million annually to prepare for major events such as the Africa Championships, World Championships, Commonwealth Games, World Junior Championships, and the road to the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Debswana also sponsored the Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) awards with a generous amount of P412, 000. The partnership between Debswana and BoBA began in 2010, with the sponsorship steadily increasing over the years. The mining company’s support for grassroots development was evident in its P6 million sponsorship for the Re Ba Bona Ha sports development program, spread over three years from 2022 to 2024.
Football has also received significant support from Debswana. The company’s sponsorship has strengthened the Botswana Football Association’s (BFA) capacity to run leagues, organize tournaments, and develop grassroots programs. In the 2022/2023 season, Debswana renewed its sponsorship of the Botswana National First Division League (NFDL) with a contribution of P3.9 million.
Debswana’s contributions have played a crucial role in promoting inclusivity and gender equality in football. The company actively supports women’s football initiatives, empowering female footballers and providing them with opportunities. This commitment has led to the rise of successful women footballers in Botswana, inspiring a new generation of aspiring sportswomen.
Furthermore, Debswana demonstrated its support for the senior women’s national team by taking care of their camping needs before their maiden appearance in the 2022 WAFCON tournament in Morocco. This patriotic gesture provided the team with intensive training to prepare for the continental showpiece.
According to the BNSC, Debswana’s injection of over P40 million into sports development over the past five years showcases its unwavering commitment to promoting and supporting sports in Botswana.
The company’s contributions have benefited various sports associations, including athletics, boxing, and football, and have played a significant role in fostering inclusivity, gender equality, and national pride. Debswana’s dedication to sports development sets an example for other companies and organizations to follow, ensuring the continued growth and success of sports in Botswana.
Botswana’s Paris Olympics dream in tatters
Botswana’s dream of sending a strong contingent to the Paris Olympics in 2024 seems to be a pipedream at this point. With just eight months left until the prestigious event, many athletes are still struggling to qualify, raising concerns about the country’s representation at the world’s biggest sporting event.
Looking back at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Botswana had a team of 16 athletes competing in various sports such as athletics, swimming, judo, and boxing. It was a successful year for local sports, as multiple sporting codes secured a spot at the Olympics. However, in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was plagued by multiple postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Botswana’s qualification numbers slightly decreased, with only 14 athletes representing the country in athletics, weightlifting, boxing, and swimming.
One of the main issues facing sports development in Botswana is the neglect of certain sporting codes, particularly those involving jumps and other field events. This lack of focus on these disciplines puts the country at a disadvantage when it comes to ensuring a larger number of representatives at events like the Olympics.
In terms of athletics, Botswana has a strong track record of producing top-quality athletes. Letsile Tebogo, for example, won two medals (silver and bronze) at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Tebogo, along with Bayapo Ndori, Leungo Scotch, Busang Collen Kebinatshipi, and Tshepiso Masalela, have already qualified for the upcoming Olympics. However, the female athletes and others are still waiting for their chance to secure a spot in the 2024 calendar.
The situation is even more dire in boxing, as the local pugilists had a difficult outing at the Paris 2024 Boxing Africa Qualifiers held in Senegal in September. Most of the boxers were eliminated in the preliminary rounds, with only Keamogetse Kenosi making it to the quarterfinals before being knocked out. With two more qualification tournaments scheduled, there is still a chance for redemption, but the Botswana Boxing Association is awaiting the Technical Team Report to determine the final list of competitors.
Weightlifting has also faced its fair share of challenges, with Botswana’s first-ever weightlifting Olympian, Magdeline Moyengwa, forced to quit the sport due to unforeseen circumstances. The lack of funds has been a major setback for the weightlifting federation, making it difficult to secure a spot at the Olympics. Currently, only Alphius Kagiso is expected to compete at the Africa Senior Championships and the World Cup, which are crucial for Olympic qualification.
Judo, unfortunately, seems to be in a poor state as well. The lack of funds and inactivity have prevented judokas from competing and gaining the necessary points for qualification. Despite having potential athletes such as Tumiso Phuthego, Botho Babutsi, Lorraine Pulamoeng, and Tirelo Lekoko, the Botswana Judo Federation has been unable to secure the funds needed for them to participate in qualifying tournaments.
In conclusion, Botswana’s dream of sending a strong team to the Paris Olympics in 2024 is currently a pipedream. The lack of qualification in various sporting codes, including boxing, weightlifting, and judo, is a cause for concern. The neglect of certain disciplines and the financial challenges faced by sports federations have hindered the development and participation of athletes. However, there is still hope for redemption with upcoming qualification tournaments, and the athletes and federations remain optimistic about their chances of securing a spot at the Olympics.
BAA nominated for Member Federation Award
The Botswana Athletics Association has been nominated as one of the six finalists for the Member Federations Award at the upcoming World Athletics Awards 2023. This recognition is a testament to the association’s outstanding work and accomplishments throughout the year, which have positively contributed to the growth and profile of the sport.
One of the association’s notable achievements in 2023 was its work with sprinter Letsile Tebogo. Tebogo, a 20-year-old athlete, emerged as a rising star in the world of athletics. As a two-time world U20 100m champion, he showcased his talent and dedication by becoming a senior world medallist. Tebogo claimed the silver medal in the 100m event and the bronze medal in the 200m event at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest. His remarkable performance made him the first African man to win a 100m medal and the first man from Botswana to win a medal in any event at the World Athletics Championships.
Tebogo’s success is a testament to the Botswana Athletics Association’s commitment to nurturing and developing local talent. By providing the necessary support and training, the association has played a crucial role in shaping Tebogo into a world-class athlete. His achievements serve as an inspiration and positive role model for aspiring athletes not only in Botswana but also across the African continent.
The Member Federations Award recognizes a Member Federation that has distinguished itself through its accomplishments and contributions to the sport. The six finalists were nominated by each of the six area associations, highlighting the exceptional work done by these federations.
Among the other nominees is Athletics Australia, representing Oceania. Australia had a remarkable year, hosting the World Cross Country Championships and the Maurie Plant Meeting, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold event. Australian athletes also achieved great success at the World Athletics Championships, winning six medals, including a gold medal in the pole vault by Nina Kennedy.
Chile’s Federacion Atletica de Chile, representing South America, has made significant strides in promoting athletics in the country. Hosting the Pan American Games and organizing five World Athletics Continental Tour Challenger events, the federation has doubled athletics participation in Chile. They have also focused on training officials and developing their Kids’ Athletics program.
The Real Federacion Espanola de Atletismo, representing Europe, had a successful year with their athletes winning five medals at the World Athletics Championships. The federation introduced innovative formats and projects at national and grassroots levels, while also working towards key objectives of the World Athletics World Plan.
The Athletic Association of Thailand, representing Asia, played a crucial role in hosting the 25th Asian Athletics Championships in Bangkok. They have also established the Asian Athletics Association’s headquarters at Thammasat University, where development activities are held for the entire region. The association is actively working on developing athletics at the grassroots level and is a participant in the Kids’ Athletics program.
Lastly, USA Track & Field, representing NACAC, had an exceptional year with their athletes winning 29 medals at the World Athletics Championships. They topped the medal table and achieved championship and world records. The federation also focused on grassroots programs, coach and official development, and growing commercial revenue for the sport.
The winner of the Member Federations Award will be announced in early December as part of the World Athletics Awards 2023. Each of the nominated federations has made significant contributions to the sport of athletics and has positively impacted their respective regions. Their dedication and achievements serve as an inspiration to athletes and sports enthusiasts worldwide.