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.
Amid the confusion surrounding the date of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) elections, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, met with three presidential candidates on Thursday morning to discuss a plethora of problems bedevilling the domestic game.
The candidates are Maclean Letshwiti, the current President, Tebogo Sebego, the firm challenger of the BFA throne, together with Ookeditse Malesu who enters the race for the first time in his sporting career. There were other two unnamed officials who are said to be representatives from the sport ministry.
The Sport minister is said to have adopted a hard-nosed approach to register his disappointment and worry that the uncertainty of the upcoming elections have injured the administration of the local game.
Highly placed sources at the Sport ministry say that the minister’s ‘no gloves barred’ approach comes at the behest of the BFA’s constant negative headlines regarding their leadership style as of going into the elections.
It is said that Rakgare was also worried that the current administration is keeping the other two camps in the dark regarding the planning and processes bordering on election issues. This, he said has led to unnecessary speculations and back biting that is not needed to lift the game at a time when it is on its knees.
He was to rattle a few feathers at one incident when he called all the three leaders of the game to put their houses in order. As if that was not enough, the minister called on the three lobby groups to desist from serving personal interests but put focus on developing the game.
Interestingly, sources point out that the minister was livid but urged both Letshwiti and Sebego groups to refrain from tarnishing the good image of the ministry. This, he said in response to wide ranging allegations that he is taking sides as campaigns are ongoing.
The Sebego group accuses him of de campaigning Sebego and having a soft spot for Team Letshwiti while the same Letshwiti group is saying the same thing about the minister as having taking curious interest in Sebego camp.
The minister is alleged to have told the leaders that if they do not change their leadership style of protecting those looting public funds, his ministry would intervene even if it means attracting the wrath of FIFA, which is known for its notorious sanctions when countries do not toe the line. He urges BFA to be accountable at all the times they will cut the annual subventions that goes to them, sources claim.
This is not for the first time that the BFA was lectured on good governance. At one incident in 2015, former Minster of Sport Thapelo Olopeng dressed down the then Tebogo Sebego leadership regarding good governance.
BFA was at the time closely monitored by the ministry. Instead of the usual transactions that normally go through BFA, national team players received their allowances straight from government in the form of cheques. To demonstrate that government has taken a firm stand against BFA, players’ allowances were no longer routed through the association.
Nobody from the said meeting will address this publication enquiry all indicating that the consultation is never meant for public consumption.
If everything goes according to plan, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will hold its annual general assembly next month through a virtual conference.
There has been much uncertainty as to how and when the congress will be held seeing as how COVID-19 protocols remain stringent on gatherings.
Sources speaking with this publication say the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association has agreed to hold the congress within COVID-19 zones, consequently dispelling all the lingering doubts surrounding the life and soul of the assembly.
As it stands, there are nine COVID -19 zones in Botswana. The association is therefore contemplating to rely within four zones where live streaming will take centre stage for the first time in the history of BFA elections.
The congress was first billed for August 8th but was postponed to August 22nd. However, the second date could not see the light of the day as the country recorded a second rise of coronavirus cases that promptly led to greater Gaborone going into yet another lockdown.
The association has been procrastinating over the virtual congress idea with the election agenda remaining a sticky issue. Many advices came flooding that the association is free to make any decision about the congress but should be very careful not to compromise the integrity of the vote.
Sources indicate to this paper that the association is likely to rely on four COVID-19 zones, namely Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng and Palapye. The need to plant the meeting on virtual technologies hinges on the fact that the COVID -19 health protocols do not permit people to cross zones to hold meetings.
Information gleaned from various sources is that the association is looking to rely on four zones primarily because of the limited number of personnel under the electoral board. There are five members consisting of this committee and by the look of things; the association will not be allowed to outsource more election overseers at the eleventh hour. Sources argue that the whole cautious exercise is meant to avoid complaints that may arise after elections are held.
The virtual meeting comes after many failed attempts by the association to convince the Kereng Masupu led Task Force to give out a special dispensation. On many occasions, the Task Force refused to allow for the assembly to go on saying “football is not a priority.”
The assembly is expected to be held next month but the exact date still remains a subject of speculation. In the end, Tebogo Sebego will stand again for the second time to unseat Maclean Letshwiti while Ookeditse Malesu is standing for the first time to try and wrestle for BFA power.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.
The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.
Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.
The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.
The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.
“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.
In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.
He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.
When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.