Scramblers, Titans headline Softball tourney
While many abhor the brutal winter, it is the most exciting season in the calendar of Botswana Softball Association (BSA) and many sports enthusiasts. This is the time the chosen congregation descends to their sacred town of Selibe Phikwe for their annual pilgrimage, the softball extravaganza due to take off these President’s holidays.
The tournament which is dubbed the annual Phikwe Softball Extravaganza has grown in leaps and bounds ever since its establishment, and this year, sport diehards are sure of more thrills and spills. The teams that have qualified in both categories have the magnetic power to pull multitudes to the copper nickel town to witness the crème de-la crème of softball which rouses the nostalgia of days when softball was the in-thing.
The men’s bracket has pitted big cats against each other. The defending champions BDF IX, the hosts Comets, the determined Dinare side and Scramblers who are the only northern side to win this tournament will battle it out in pool A, which is arguably the toughest. Jwaneng duo of Gatalamotho and Wells International will face off their diamond brother, Carats from Orapa and Rebels. As for the ladies, Comets, Panthers, Scramblers and Dinare will sweat it out to see who will be queen of the bet. Motlakase, Police, Rail Giants and the new kids in the blog, Titans will rumble on to complement the other two from pool X.
The return of the Francistown based Scramblers who endured a torrid time after sponsors, BDF ditched them in 2014 after winning the same tournament have created much fanfare even before the first whistle blows, more so they eliminated the defending champions, Rail Giants in the preliminaries in Maun. Both the men’s and ladies’ teams have qualified for the tournament. Already, they are seen as the Goliath who needs to be toppled.
“We are promising fireworks at the tournament but we are not going to put any pressure on ourselves, in two years we will certainly be on top of the game,” team manager, Bobbie Khupe said.
Dinare Men’s team which has been failing to qualify for the three day extravaganza have also set their eye on the coveted prize as they have been in rigorous preparations for the spectacle. The youngest team in softball, Titans from Gaborone West will also make their maiden appearance in Zana as the town is fondly called by its dwellers. Having left many in awe in the preliminaries by defeating the likes of Wells International and BMC, more upsets are expected from the team that was established in May 5th this year and officially affiliated on the 16th.
“We are going to fight with everything but we know that it is going to be tough. But our team is made up by youngsters who are very determined, vibrant and have a winning attitude so we are going to give them a run for their money,” team manager, Tshepiso Ramolapong said.
The team is banking on the experience of their captain and ex Wells player, Kefemetswe Selepe to carry them on.
The popular tournament which is hosted by Comets is powered by BCL, Komatsu, Bridgestone, Letshego, Puma Energy, Momentum Health, Bamangwato Toyota and AT & T Monnakgotla Travel & Tours. The winner will walk away with P 75, 000 in both categories while the runner ups will take home P40, 000.
Meanwhile the young Under 19 team will be in USA for the under 19 world championships. The team will in their first game play against the hosts America before taking on two time champions Argentina.
“We are confident that we can bring the medal home, we have been preparing rigorously hence this optimism. We know about the teams that we are going to face so I am assuring Batswana that we will fight with everything to make them happy,” 17 year old Masunga Senior School pitcher, Lebogang Sedibelo who is part of the team said. The team has been encouraged to go there and learn. The team will return on August 1st.
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AFRICA’S RECOVERY: Sports as game changer
The year 2022 witnessed unprecedented phenomena. Several Africans- Gotytom Gebreslase, Sharon Lokedi, Victor Kiplangat, Tamarit Tola and many others- swept the World’s marathons records.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting control measures implemented in several countries, led to many high-level sports competitions being cancelled or shelved, the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games was moved to 2026.
Founder and Executive Chairman, African Sports and Creative Institute, Will Mabiakop, says the inability to hold traditional and amateur sports events have had a serious effect on public health overall, including mental health, sparking a revolution whereby athletes began to talk more openly about stress, mental overload and performance anxiety.
“Africa is home to the fastest growing economies before the crisis, no longer on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). COVID-19 deepened interdependence between SDGs, making them harder to achieve, especially SDG 10 (reducing inequality) and SDG 5 (gender equality_ as the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on poorer countries, and heavier burdens (such as care work) fell to women.”
Mabiakop stresses that as policymakers contemplate actions to speed up recovery and build resilience, they must argue that sports and creative businesses should play a central feature in this effort.
“The sports economy worldwide is estimated at 5% of GDP, but only 0.5% in Africa. If exploited, Africa’s sports and creative industries can offer policymakers innovative solutions. Especially, as regards job creation, and providing employment to the 15 million people entering the job market annually.”
HOW CAN THE INDUSTRY DO THIS?
By leveraging the two-for-one concept: past studies shown that a 1% growth in the economy delivers a 2% job increment in this sector (these ratios are calculated using data from 48 African countries and adjusted to the reality of the sports economy in Africa by the authors). There are between 30 and 50 job types, in sports and creative industries, respectively. These jobs do not fade away with the first major shock.
Mabiakop indicated that policymakers can use these industries to tackle multiple crises- jobs, poverty, and climate risks. Sports diplomacy- defined as communication, representation and negotiation in or through the prism of sports- has proven effective in building inclusive and cohesive societies. Moreover, sports and the creative industry can support better mental health and well-being, both important for productivity.
“Policymakers can also be true to the game by leveraging culture and tradition to celebrate identity and reap commercial value in sports, textiles and jewelry. Creative sectors allow deeper connection with culture, are not easily copied and provide great economic potential.”
He said supporting grassroots sports has powerful distributional effects. “Fortunately, technology has made reaching wide audiences easier, generating higher rates of success when talent is discovered.”
However, Mabiakop held that potential pitfalls must be highlighted. “First avoid build it and they will come policies with infrastructures denuded from the rest of the ecosystem. Like the many sports stadiums left largely unused.”
“Policymakers must remain mindful of how these sectors move the needle in human capital development. Also, align the requisite public policies needed for progress from grassroots participation to professional sports, and even to international sporting events. They should also support investment instruments to render these sectors performant.”
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