The Botswana team which went to represent the nation at the ongoing IAAF championships will return home empty handed after failing to rise to the occasion in one of the biggest international athletics competition. Many are wondering what could have gone wrong and the prospects of Botswana athletes going forward.
With Amantle Montsho in the shadows, the nations’ hopes for a medal at the IAAF were solely pinned on Nigel Amos’ prowess. In his last outings, Amos proved to be slowly but surely becoming invincible to his perennial rival David Rudisha of Kenya. Since striding gloriously away from the field at the London 2012 Olympics in a world record time of 1min 40.91sec, Rudisha has met Amos six times. And he lost in every single race.
Amos had one strategy, as British publication The Guardian observes: “sit on Rudisha’s shoulder as he moved from third at the bell to second and then first, before unleashing those whirling arms and whirring legs with 50m remaining to edge ahead by half a metre”. “I wasn’t expecting a tactical race,” said Amos to The Guardian after defeating Rudisha four weeks ago. “I expected something much faster. I used to watch his videos as a youth, so running with him is a dream came true.”
Despite his dominance over his nemesis in the Diamond League, the nation watched in shock and disbelief as the confident lad crashed out of the competition. Amos failed to reach the finals after finishing third in the semis of the IAAF 800m race.
Amos has tumbled where it mattered most, and Rudisha piped him to the Gold Medal. Had Amos finished second, he would have had the opportunity to take on Rudisha once again in the final to prove his dominance but he finished 3rd, much to the Kenyan’s pleasure.
All is not lost though, next year the two will meet in the Olympics, provided both athletes remain injury free. At 21 years, Amos still has plenty years ahead of him- a silver lining on the cloud for him, and the nation. But he still has to learn to win big tournaments and not play second to Rudisha.
Another athlete who was put on the pedestal going into the competition was Isaac Makwala, only to also disappoint his myriad supporters. Ahead of the competition, the sprinter was breaking records.
He became the fastest man in Africa’s 400m setting a record of 44.01. Just two days short of the record’s first anniversary, Wayde van Niekerk shaved off 0.05 from that mark.
Makwala was back to his best less than 24 hours after South Africa’s van Niekerk broke his African record with 43.96 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris, but Makwala overturned that by making a sensational 43.72 run at the Resisprint meeting in the Swiss city of La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Most of his achievements came in the shadow of Amos’ domineering personality, who since his London 2012 Olympic exploits has been the face of Botswana in athletics.
Makwala however had a brilliant start in the competition and was able to reach the final, while many were still wailing about Amos’ heartbreaking defeat. He finished first in the semi-final improving his prospects of winning Gold in the final.
However the Tutume born sprinter finished the final on fifth position, ending hopes of any medal for Botswana at this year’s competition. Makwala will celebrate his 29th birthday on the 29th of September this year.
Makwala is probably at his prime and unlike Amos, his last opportunity could be next year’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Prior to the competition, Makwala was in fine form. It is important that going into next year’s show, Makwala makes amendments and avoids stumbling at the last hurdle like he did this year.
Long-time athletics favourite, Amantle Montsho has now slipped into oblivion following last year‘s doping scandal which resulted in her being suspended from international competitions.
At the time of her suspension, Montsho was already showing signs of fragility. When her ban is lifted, she will face an uphill task, if she is ever to compete again. No doubt, age has already caught up with her.
At 32, Monthso maybe be contemplating hanging her boots because sooner than later as her hey days could be behind her. Athletes slow down after going beyond 30, a reminder to Batswana that we might have seen Montsho’s better days already. It is however worrisome that the failure of Botswana athletes to reach their maximum potential in bigger tournament is becoming a theme. Three years ago at London Olympics, Montsho was at her pick.
She had an incredible tournament and reached the final of the 400m women. Having beaten United States’ Allyson Felix a year earlier at 2001 IAAF championship, another American, Sanya Richard-Ross was out for revenge. Montsho was not only beaten by Ross in the final but finished fourth, and missed out on an Olympic medal.
Botswana was represented by Isaac Makwala, Nigel Amos, Leaname Maotoanong, Sakarea Kamberuka, Onkabetse Nkobolo and Kabelo Kgosiyang.
AMOS NOT YET FADED – COACHES
A collective of homegrown top-tier athletics coaches have altogether disagreed with the unpleasant and dreaded notion that the curse of lacklustre International arena domination that has ceaselessly afflicted the nation’s top athletes in Amantle Montsho and Isaac Makwala seem to be lurking around the career of youthful 800 meter racer Nigel Amos.
According to BISA Athletics Youth Chief Coach specializing in sprint, Chilume Ntshwarang Nigel Amos is Olympic class and did not lose his finals qualifying heat due to lack of fitness and fine physical conditioning but attributed it to the awkward 800 meters contest. Ntshwarang pointed Amos’ defeat to the complex and slow start of the race whose initial snail’s pace ensured the crowding up of athletes and disruption of Amos latter lap unrestricted sprinting style.
Ntshwarang who described Amos loss as “just an unfortunate case” said that when “the athletes changed pace Amos charged for the finishing line late forcing him to battle with maneuvering the crowded track therefore losing valuable time.” Ntshwarang also believes that Amos fell victim to an anti-competition maneuver called ‘caging’ which he says is common in middle distance races by the athletes.
Athletics coach and Chairperson of the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) Coaches Committee, Isaac Mbise fingers fatigue for Amos defeat. Mbise retorted that Amos performance at the recent IAAF in Lausanne Switzerland left his body fatigued.
The top coach also believes that local athletes who have already paid their dues and made their mark in athletics such as Nigel Amos and Isaac Makwala should be exempt for competitions such as Africa championships and All Africa Games as they wear out athletes.
“Accomplished athletes should be made to pave way for upcoming athletes such as Nkobolo and Pako Seribe in continental championships, have you ever seen Usain Bolt compete at the commonwealth games or Rudisha at continental competitions? Mbise rhetorically asked.
The top coach also poured scorn on the idea that Amos could have lost due to indiscipline saying on another day Amos would emerge victorious.
Another BISA and COSASSA coach dedicated to sprint Innocent Sibanda, believes that the Rudisha camp had calculated Amos style of running. Sibanda believes that the intentionally snail paced first lap with the second lap fast-paced and revved up stood in divergence with Amos traditional style of running and its 400 meter sprint burned up Amos reserves, as he normally sprints in the last 100-150 meters. Sibanda believes Nigel Amos can still rule over Rudisha again and that’s it’s all a matter of a game plan.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is running without a substantive Technical Director since parting ways with South African native, Serame Letsoaka, who jumped ship midway through his contract in 2019.
This glaring revelation has left the Technical Department of the association hamstrung to fully operate by the book hence a plethora of problems protruding on the very nose of it.
This is the reason it took long for the association to take stern action against Zebras gaffer, Adel Amrouche. His departure was sanctioned at the eleventh hour when players’ patience had long wilted, threatening to leave the camp.
Pundits will therefore observe that it is the absence of a Technical Director that has caused all hell to break loose at Lekidi Football Centre.Since the departure of Letsoaka, the TD position has been more or less vacant as it has been manned by unqualified and somewhat incompetent administrators to date.
The TD position requires a CAF A-License qualification as well as a Diploma in Secondary Education as minimum qualifications. Among the specific duties of TD is; training and development of coaches, including design and updating of coaches manuals, facilitating licensing courses, developing a coaches Code of Conduct, arranging for expert and specialist coaches to deliver training clinics, education on rules of the game and creating and maintaining a library of resources including books, videos and articles for coaches to access.
The responsibility also include establishing and delivering a comprehensive and nationwide Grassroots programme at both the community level, in schools, and in the schools through clubs through strategic partnerships within the communities and with various government ministries and agencies.
TD also advices BFA on all matters related to the effective development of football in Botswana and is accountable for the development of a strategy and policy for the performance of football programmes.
Other duties include working with Youth National teams and coaches through development programmes in order to enable BFA to attain its goals within CAF and FIFA, including putting in place clear systems and processes for identifying and developing talented players.
After Letsoaka left, BFA reached out to Wire Kaelo, a Gaborone United legend currently holding the position of assistant coach at Security System FC, but eventually he was not appointed to the post.
Despite rumours to the effect that BFA had agreed terms with Kaelo to this day, the Association has not come out as to what happened to the alleged marriage.
BFA subsequently appointed one Dr Carolin Braun, on secondment from the German Olympic organisation, a move that left the association rooted in abrasive factionalism.
In particular, local coaches and the general football fanatics have always cried foul claiming that Dr Braun is not fit to hold the position of TD especially in a growing football environment like Botswana.
There is growing concern that Dr Braun does not have the pre-requisite credentials to be appointed for this plum post as she has never held any significant position within the football fraternity, not even at amateur level.
“It was a first in the history of Botswana football to see a TD doubling up as assistant coach to the senior national team and there has been no tangible coaching courses since the departure of Serame Letsoaka and this has been attributable to the vacant position of TD,” a source remarked.
BFA is currently failing to communicate CAF’s decision that the ill-fated CAF “B” and “C” courses held during Serame’s last days were not sanctioned and therefore attendants will not be certificated.
Over 50 local coaches participated in the courses and last year, most of those coaching in the Premier League had to be given waivers by the BFA Technical Committee before they could be accredited.
CAF has since indicated that the issue of waivers by national associations will not be entertained, something which might throw local games into disarray.BFA is still failing to come up with a coaching philosophy despite Serame having started groundwork before his departure.
Other countries such as Zambia have since resumed CAF coaching courses whilst in Botswana is still business as usual despite the impending challenges caused by indiscretion and lack of foresight.
Despite BFA having advertised the position of TD and subsequently holding interviews where recommendations were done by the Technical and Development Committee, the BFA NEC has refused to endorse the recommendation for reasons only best known to them.
Yet, there is a lingering fact that the NEC is clueless when it comes to technical matters. There is not even a single individual in the NEC who holds any coaching qualification including the Chairman of the member responsible for technical and development matters, Masego Ntshingane.
When asked about the position of the TD, Ntshingane said the association is well aware of the matter and will son fill the post. “Yes, it is true the association has not appointed a TD after Letsoaka’s departure, but we are working around the clock to hire capable people,” he said.
However, local coaches believe that it’s a travesty of justice to expect non-technical people to make meaningful contributions on technical matters to the extent that they can veto recommendations from a committee of renowned technical experts.
It is not business as usual in the operations manual of African football. Ever since the ascendency of Dr. Patrice Motsepe to the CAF plum post, the African football governing body is ringing changes to satisfy the demands and governance standards of the modern game.
However, it appears that what is coming out from the high offices of the game is a bitter pill to swallow for local clubs, some of which are touted to be the best in the land.
Connectedly, CAF has issued a circular to the effect that only coaches holding the CAF “A” education license will be permitted to sit on the technical dugout during the upcoming inter club competitions. This communication has been sent to all 54 CAF member associations in May 2021.
However, it seems local clubs have not been appraised on this development even though both Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United have shown desire to represent the country in the CAF competitions.
It comes to the fore now that the two clubs can successfully represent the country if they engage coaches with the pre-requisite qualifications which is now an insurmountable task due to the COVID-19 impact on club finances.
Both clubs have hired coaches who attended the ill-fated BFA conducted CAF “B” and “A” coaching courses which were held in Lobatse almost two years ago.
To date the coaches await the completion of the courses and certificates while CAF has made it clear that the courses were not sanctioned as they were held during the era that coaching licenses were suspended, a situation that BFA was well aware of and has since accepted the consequences.
The BFA is still at sixes and sevens on how to break the issue to the affected coaches as it is likely to cause a huge public embarrassment and backlash from the coaching fraternity.
“We all know about the problem, BFA is promising to come to the bottom of the matter as we continue to engage them,” says Botswana Football Coaches Association (BFCA) interim President, Daniel Nare.
CAF has also made it clear that this time there will be no waiver for coaches without the pre-requisite qualification because the Confederation has been too lenient in the past. During the last CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, both Galaxy and Orapa United coaches were given a reprieve by CAF Technical Department as they did not even have the CAF “B” license.
When approached for clarity, the Spokesperson for Galaxy, Tankiso Morake said they are playing a waiting game when it comes to CAF issues especially that BFA is yet to reply to their letter. “Honestly, there is nothing concrete I can share because no one is certain about anything. We are waiting to be replied by the association so that we can finalize everything,” he said.
While United was not available for comment, it is clear that both clubs will need to hire coaches with the needed qualifications otherwise playing in this year’s edition of African football mirrors a tomorrow that may never come.
A recent study shows that Township Rollers is not only popular within the perimeters of Botswana, but has also made significant steps within the digital football platforms in Africa.
Out of the 70 African football clubs ranked on the African football digital benchmark, Township Rollers comes on the 35th position backed by a massive social media following. The club website records more than 399 000 followers and is seen as the most interactive in the local game.
This is consistent with the recent study conducted by FIFA- world football governing body- that Rollers is the only team locally that makes use of its digital platforms.
Notably, it comes out that the gap between Township Rollers and the rest of the 15 Premier League clubs is abysmal, this therefore works against creating a strong BPL brand value.
Rollers is the only club with more than 50 000 followers on Facebook, more than 20 000 followers on Twitter while its Instagram platform stands strong at 27 800 followers.
However, it is found out that much of the BPL brand value is killed by some social Facebook football fan accounts. They have stood long and have thus attracted more followers than the official accounts. Pages like Killers Pass and Botswana Football have consequently seen more than 100 000 following. Both of the accounts give 24 hour on-going updates of football’s latest news, transfers, results, video and live updates.
FIFA has therefore come to a conclusion that the two social media pages have grown interactive since they incite followers to answer and present their impressions about local football.
It comes into the open that 70 percent of domestic premier league clubs do not have official websites. This according to FIFA, kills the brand and visibility of clubs hence failure to attract lucrative sponsors by the clubs. FIFA also found out that the remaining 30 percent of clubs with websites are lacklustre and found wanting when it comes to their online presence. But in this regard, Rollers is on pole position.