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.
The case involving the improper registration of Township Rollers left back, Onkarabile Ratanang which has been dragging for a long time since the beginning of this year was finally put to bed this week after Botswana Football League (BFL) Disciplinary Committee (DC) found Mapalastina guilty.
In what shocked many football fanatics this week, Popa Popa as they are affectionately known by their legion of fans were fined P15 000 for using a defaulter in some of their league matches. It must be noted that no team officially filed a formal protest against Rollers. In April this year, Botswana Football Association (BFA) Secretariat conducted investigations into registration of Ratanang and discovered that the player was registered outside the transfer registration period.
According to a statement from secretariat, it revealed that BFA registration period was from 13th July 2021 to the 30th September 2021 but Ratanang was registered on the 28th of October 2021 and this was done contrary to the rules and statutes of the BFA. After the investigations were conducted, two officials from Rollers and a former BFA employee Setete Phuthego who are alleged to have been implicated in the registration of Ratanang were suspended from all footballing activities.
The two Rollers officials were, General Manager Sydney Magagane and Team Manager Motshegetsi Mafa. However Mafa’s suspension was withdrawn on June 27 though there was no disciplinary hearing conducted. Rollers was represented by Bennett Mamelodi who is the CEO of the club together with Kgosietsile Ngaakagae and Martin Dingake in the Ratanang case. The Botswana Premier League (BFL) Prosecution team was led by Chalengwa Manyepedza, Bojosi and three other members.
When delivering the long awaited judgement on Thursday, Manyepedza who is the chairman of BFL Prosecution team said there were two mitigating factors in favour of Rollers with the most important aggravating factor being the seriousness of the offence. “To their benefit and it has not been violently contested to suggest otherwise, Rollers approached the BFA office for help (in their words) and curiously the BFA office that ought to be custodians of the system allowed the request and thereafter kept quiet about the matter,” reads part of the judgement.
“It is a matter of record that Township Rollers have maintained that the situation central to the case was facilitated and somewhat sanctioned by the named BFA officer who received the application albeit out of time as it has been established but still proceeded to procure the registration and clearance of the player and thereafter kept quiet about the matter.”
Furthermore Manyepedza indicated that there is a problem in the BFA office in terms of governance and adherence to controls judging from what allegedly happened. He further said whilst the BFA junior officer claimed that they were directed by a superior officer to assist the accused, “there has been nothing more placed before us to support the argument that Rollers were the only party with dirt on their hands in his case.”
He went on to emphasize that the committee finds that the appropriate sanction should also pronounce that the respective office of the BFA that facilitated the transgression was also remiss and complicit in their discharge of their functions. “As stated in the main judgement the player was a defaulter and the issue of his status did not arise from the protest or complaint or in any way as contemplated in the BFL Disciplinary code. It must be emphasized that the case would been different if all the issues had an aggrieved party or if any would have followed the set procedure in the BFL code,” he said.
Manyepedza said after taking all relevant factors into account including the demands of justice, the committee finds it fitting that the possible punishment in the matter to be prescribed above at clause 6.3 to be a fine of P15 000 and that the fine should be paid within 3 days of the judgement. In conclusion, he cautioned Rollers to refrain from any further acts of being negligent or clumsy in discharging their office functions to end up seeking favours from officials. Manyepedza also advised Rollers that they have 10 days to appeal the judgement.
Youthful coach Wame Mokoke has come out with guns blazing to the Extension Gunners official who he said recruited him back to the club after he dumped them for greener pastures at Jwaneng Galaxy but failed to deliver on their promises.
Pepe Zino, as he is otherwise known, then joined Galaxy on a 2 year deal to deputise head coach Morena Ramorebodi but 2 weeks later retraced his steps back to Mapantsula, a move he highly regrets. “That guy (name withheld as the issue is now before the courts of law) counteroffered what Galaxy had offered, promised to timely pay my salary from his company on behalf of Gunners and also promised me a 4 hectare piece of land at Dikgonnye, that is what really lured me back but he failed to deliver, ” Mokoke said in an interview with this publication.
After rejoining Gunners much to the allured charm that was dangled in front of him, Mokoke timely received his first month salary back in January but nothing thereafter as the unending stories began. “I could be far by now as Galaxy offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. They even promised to further my coaching badges but look at where I am now, “Mokoke disappointedly explained.
However, Mokoke said he has approached the labour courts for his defaulted payments and as for the piece of land, he registered the case with the High Court of Botswana and they are set to appear for a hearing on the 6th of August. He further added that he has proof of all the documents the official allegedly signed before his own laywers to authorise the land giveaway and the promise of monthly salary payments and furnished the judges with them.
A week ago Mokoke went back home as he was unveiled as the new First Division side Mahalapye Highlanders head coach on a 2 year deal and said he is excited about the new challenge that lies ahead of him as the management gave him attainable goals. “They simply asked me come and help them get promoted back to the premier league by building my own team and promised to avail the resources. I have also been given the authority over the establishment of our junior teams.
To try and achieve all these in a space of 2 years is a fair requirement,” he added. One of the projects Mokoke envisions is to try and unite the people of Mahalapye in terms of trying to get fully behind Highlanders including the supporters and the players in and around the Mahalapye area.
For starters, Mokoke said he wants to alter the tradition that has ingrained at Highlanders as majority of the players there were not from the team’s area of abode and he wants to give Mahalapye players a chance in order for them to don the blue and white of Highlanders with pride and sense of belonging and to steer the ship.
Furthermore, Mokoke is equally peturbed by the trend among the football fraternity of local coaches being undermined while their foreign counterparts enjoy prestigious welfare albeit being equally qualified as them. “Let us change the welfare of our local coaches who have oftentimes showed that they are equally qualified and capable like foreign coaches. Let us invest in our own and also empower them,” said Mokoke in a parting shot.
Botswana shall be sending a team of 34 athletes to represent the country at the biggest games of the 2022 calendar year, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XXII Commonwealth Games.
The Games are slated to take place between the 28th July and 8th August 2022 in Birmingham, England. According to BNSOC, Botswana has been accorded thirty-five (35) slots at the upcoming games and has been able to qualify outright one athlete from the Botswana Weightlifting Federation making the total team size thirty-six (34), the largest team to be fielded by less population country thus far.
In celebrating and lauding this feat by team Botswana, , the British High Commissioner to Botswana, Her Excellency Sian Price recently hosted an intimate reception for the team, at her residence. “Consider this little bit of the UK in Botswana the first stage on your journey to Birmingham. It’s not just me that is excited to have you here, the city of Birmingham is very excited to welcome you, and they are welcoming you and all other family members from across the commonwealth because we are a family of nations, and we enjoy these celebrations that introduce the coming together of family to play together, to celebrate together and to strive together for excellence,” said Price.
Price said this will be the most inclusive Commonwealth Games ever, with more para sports than ever before and for the first time in history this makes me excited; there will be more medal events for women than for men. When addressing the athletes, BNOC CEO Botho Bayendi reveals to ‘unveil’ the concept that is believed to be mastered seed that will grow and bear fruit as they go to Birmingham from today up to the day of departure in 2024.
“As BNOC we have partnered with BITC, and BNSC to conceive a concept called the first, the best and the number one. In this concept, we are trying to persuade the mindset of the people to say that sports is for sports for live, sports generate joy to us all and sports unite,” she said. Bayendi further explained that this is a concept where they will be approaching individuals and companies who in their line of business have been classified as the best of the best or the number one.
“We intend to leverage the national unity behind sports in relation to the ultimate sports excellence. We are saying that we want to create an atmosphere where everybody, every national of Botswana will relate positively with the sports excellence and will be contributing that excellence,” she said. “The Olympic Games are guided by the values of excellence, friendship, and respect. Therefore, we want to be selling these values and allowing everybody, the company, individual to relate with these values.”
For his part chairman of Botswana Olympic Association France Mabiletsa, a former Olympian, said athletes should dream big so that those who come after them will enjoy and benefit from their dreams. He advised them to just enjoy their sport. “Don’t take drugs, don’t dodge from the camps because the moment you start dodging, or you don’t come back you will be punished severely,” he said. Standard charted bank CEO Mpho Masupe said it is important that as athletes they look in the long term and see where they can excel so that they know whether they could make a good coach, teacher, or instructor, saying they should not limit themselves.