Ladies volleyball team in Olympic test
The local ladies volleyball team’s quest to make a historic Olympic qualification will be an uphill battle. The team will contest against powerhouses in the sport from all over Africa come March 10 in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Although history could at times be deceiving, the truth is the local lasses under the tutelage of Ntshinogang will be entering into a lion’s den when they touch down in West
Africa. Among countries that are also in the quest to book a ticket to Brazil are twice Olympic qualifiers Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria, hosts Cameroon and Kenya just to mention but few.
On paper, the ambitions to qualify look as best as slim, but there is the famous biblical narrative of Nichodima- the local girls could just surprise the continent by qualifying.
Volleyball commentator Rick Wezula is optimistic; “we can qualify, but our challenge is the North Africans, as for the West Africans it is a dicey one- if we are well prepared we can beat some teams and earn a spot,” he asserted.
The local team which has been on camp from the beginning of the year is also made up of quality and experienced players who have competed at high level competitions. Tracy Chaba, Tebogo Sejewe, Priscilla Nthaga and Tsholofelo Retshabile are some of the names that make up the team expected to play in Cameroon.
Team Botswana was on a mean mood last year in the Zone 6 qualifiers which were played in Gaborone as they won all games, they might just continue with the same rhythm. The Continental competitions have always proven to be too much of a toll for our teams as they mostly finish at the group stages in all the Africa Championships games. During last year’s All Africa Games the team finished in position five.
The local charges have however been the beneficiaries of the Olympic Solidarity Program where they get assistance from International Olympic Committee (IOC) to help them qualify. The team has been on a long camp, courtesy of the programme. Despite all the support, the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) doesn’t want to put the team under any pressure. “We don’t want to put them under pressure by asking them to qualify, if we qualify it will be a bonus but I’m not saying they shouldn’t. We want them to do their best,” BNOC Chief Executive Officer, Tuelo Serufho said.
The team is expected to leave next week.
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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.”