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Govt & Sport: The Issues of concern


This past Friday (yesterday) Batswana endorsed the new Government to lead the nation until 2019 when the next general election will be held. But for the past five years how has Botswana fared in terms of sport? Has the Government done enough to develop the sports industry? KETUMILE RAMATITI looks at how the Government dealt with some thorny issues in the field of sport and the way forward.


With the population of less than two million, Botswana is one of the least populated countries in Africa, which has performed fairly well in sport especially in international competitions where our athletes have been able to paint a good picture of this semi-arid country to the outside world. However, there have been shortcomings here and there as far as the Government is concerned in terms of its initiatives, which tend to backfire due to administration lapses.


DEVELOPMENT STRUCTURES
From time immemorial one of the issues of concern to the sport industry locally has been development; both athlete-based and administrative but thus far it appears we are still using old-fashioned methods of doing things. All Government development initiatives have been brilliant ideas but execution has been a letdown to those noble initiatives.


The Reba Bona Ha programme, which is the oldest development programme, has failed to nurture the talent that it could, this is so because kids only get to train on weekends for about three hours but then do nothing midweek. To get the best out of this the Government could have made it in such a way that kids train daily so that they get to master what they practise and end up producing high breeds.


 Another government idea that has backfired is the centres of sport excellence, which have also proven to be a liability. These centres have ordinary teachers acting as mentors, something which leads to the production of premature athletes because they are not moulded accordingly by ‘still-growing’ teacher-coaches.

Like they say, nothing comes cheap; the Government authorities should dig deeper into their pockets and give those teachers the necessary skills so that we produce mature well-rounded athletes who can represent this nation well on the global stage.  All the centres of excellence have not been dominating in their respective codes, so the state has failed to come up with strategies to get the best out of this project.


If the leadership of this country could have provided necessary personnel and relevant structures be put in place then will see those centres produce the desired outcome. The controversial Constituency Tournaments, which nearly landed this country in hot soup with FIFA, cannot be glossed over. The tournaments don’t have age restrictions which means very old people play in the competitions.


This could have been better if the tournaments were designed to develop young ones who, as a nation, will reap something out of them in future like Segolame Boy rather than old and tired people being developed. How are they going to benefit the country?

The tournaments are also a hindrance to mainstream sport as athletes opt for them instead of professional leagues because of financial gain; so the government must take this as a lesson and try to harness resources to get the best out of these tournaments. The next Government that will be taking charge of this nation should also look at these loopholes and try to patch them up where necessary.


LEADERSHIP
Another letdown for Botswana sport is administration deficiency from all levels even at the mother-body; Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC). The Government, which is the overseer and financier of the BNSC, should make sure that a sports body like BNSC is fully fledged. For a long time the CEOs have been coming and going at the BNSC, something which the Government could have rectified by getting down to the root cause of the exodus.


It is worrying that even now the sports council still has an acting CEO, yet an organisation like a sports council needs a permanent CEO. There have been allegations that the relations between BNSC and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) are frosty too. This has a lot of people calling for both organisations to merge as they normally ‘fight’ to take the shine from each other especially when it comes to international showpieces.


Some people have been going to the extent that various codes must take responsibility to elect the Chairperson of BNSC – rather than the Government appointing its preferred candidate – so they can caucus and present their ideal leader than a Minister who at times may be clueless about sports dynamics.

Lack of leadership has caused the country dearly as certain sport codes, including women’s football, and basketball league are played without sponsorship, which does not bode well for Botswana, when it comes to international competitions.


Recently we saw the national women’s team being thrashed by South Africa 10-0, confirming Honourable Shaw Kgathi’s words that ‘’we should never send ill-prepared teams to competitions”.  However, during the reign of Kgathi as the minister of youth sport and culture, there were sports of pitso meetings where different stakeholders would share ideas on how to improve sport in the country, something which should continue for the next five years.


FACILITIES
Another cause for concern to the sporting community is the availability of sports facilities. This came to the fore recently when we dreamt of bidding for 2017 AFCON as one of the pre-requisites was a 40 000 capacity stadium, which unfortunately Botswana does not have even though there were issues of consultation between BFA and BNSC.


Since the opening of the new Lobatse Stadium in 2009 nothing in terms of a new facility has been done. The Francistown Stadium is now a white elephant though millions of Pula were invested into its development.

As a developing country we should try by all means to have proper facilities, at least one international stadium like what Zambia did by constructing the Levy Mwanawasa stadium because our National Stadium is no longer ideal as it has been overtaken by events.


 Athletics, which has been putting this country on a world map, is yet to have any facility that will complement the athletes’ hard work. In this era where the likes of Amantle Montsho are hanging up their running spikes, we should have a palace where enterprising athletes will nurture their talent rather than sending athletes abroad to facilities where they can train well.

Recently, the Botswana Amateur Athletics Association (BAA) announced that it was planning to erect a high performance centre, which needs around P400 million but sadly the BNSC says it cannot afford.


Again it means the dream of having those facilities is still far-fetched this has left the BAA top brass keeping their finger crossed that the next Government will listen to their pleas. However, we have seen attempts by Government to provide sports facilities, which have benefited codes like volleyball as they now play their games indoors via availability of IHS facilities.

This has been a welcome development. The impending opening of the sports centre at the University of Botswana (UB) is also expected to reduce congestion at the few available ones. The state of the art facility will cater for various indoor codes including boxing and table tennis, among others. In terms of facilities, the Government cannot be commended because it could have done better.


HOSTING EVENTS
Late in their term the Government helped in hosting a number of events with the latest being the legendary Africa Youth Games (AYG). Botswana hosted the COSAFA Under-20 competitions in 2010 and 2011, which has been a good development from the government side. A variety of sports codes have also joined the bandwagon; rugby hosted the World Cup qualifiers and netball followed in their footsteps.

It demonstrated what this nation can do by hosting successful games despite the short notice. This past government can be given pat on back too for taking sport seriously, especially in terms of hosting huge continental and global and events.


It is through this regime that Botswana saw our representative teams doing well in international event. Montsho in 2010 made history as she got a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2011 the senior national football team, the Zebras qualified for the first time to AFCON finals. In the year 2012 Botswana also notched the first Olympic medal courtesy of Nigel Amos who is now going up the success ladder.


Players are also being exported to professional leagues; volleyball has Tracy Chaba who plied her trade in Algeria before coming back home and basketball is also on the verge of sending their star, Baros Churchill, to Angola where the sport is played on a professional basis while netball has also sent Hildah Binang to Singapore for a season. But the success of these players can be attributed to their own brilliance.      


This past Government has played its part and the next Government should improve upon what is already there so that at the end of the day Botswana sport is the winner.
 

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Sport

City turns to BFA tribunal over relegation

23rd November 2021
Premier league players

Botswana Football Association (BFA) arbitration tribunal is set to hear a case in which Molepolole City Stars is challenging the 2019-20 football season curtailment that led to their untimely relegation. The season was abruptly ended amid the ravaging COVID-19 scourge when the government decided to place the whole country under lockdown.

In particular, City Stars, under Somerset Gobuiwang, challenges the rationale and fairness of the association to end the league when there were several options to pursue. The club does not want to contest the authority of the national executive committee to stop the league but argues that the decision to relegate them based on the log standing was unfair, irrational and unreasonable.

Moreover, the decision was against the spirit of the game and not the most appropriate one under circumstances where they were still about 10 league games to play. As the papers were submitted, City Stars argues that the most appropriate step would have been to suspend the league and protect the league standing. “The league would then resume when it was safe to do so, as indeed it is happening now, with the log standings maintained as they were,” the court papers read.

The team, which was languishing at the bottom of the table when the decision was taken, also argues and gives an alternative that the league could have ended without relegation issues. City Stars argues, “This would be in recognition of the undeniable facts that the league was not complete and that the log standings at the time were not in any way an indicator of how they would have been had the league been allowed to run its course.”

Furthermore, Molepolole City Stars are livid that the association did not consider that the complainant had valid contracts with its staff and players and that such agreement could not be terminated abruptly. On the one hand, BFA said it was looking at three options before ending the league. Facts and scenarios informed each decision, and one was independent of the other, it was argued.

The first option, BFA says, was to stop the league where it was and crown the team that occupied the first place, which was Jwaneng Galaxy. Furthermore, three teams lying at the bottom of the table would be relegated, and teams on pole positions from Debswana First Division north and south will be promoted automatically.

By all accounts, the association felt it was a controversial option to undertake but also fairer for the sake of progress. The second available possibility was to stretch the season and consequently change the football calendar. “There has been a shelved proposal that recommends the change of our season from the usual August-May calendar to February – November because of health reasons,” BFA president MacLean Letshwiti said before making the decision.

The last possibility was to nullify all the leagues. This was — and continued to be — the last resort. Across all the global leagues, the domestic campaign had only 10 matches left, which could, in theory, be completed in the space of five weeks. In the end, BFA feels that a decision had to be made for the sake of progress. The dates of the hearing are yet to be made public.

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Sport

Is it time to take Piro serious?

23rd November 2021
GU

Pontsho Moloi’s character and football standing as a young coach have embodied simplicity and hard work for far too long. Moloi is a local bred coach who has so far threatened foreign gaffers with his coaching philosophy, a style that is exciting and irking football purists in equal measure.

As Moloi is famously known in football circles, Piro has coached a few different clubs in the homeland, but his stewardship of Gaborone United last season — going into the new one- remains his best memorable achievement ever. Before the 2019-20 season was stopped because of the COVID-19 outbreak, GU was one of the league’s favourites.

But as any self-respecting purveyor of sporting cliché knows, it is never a bad idea to keep quiet and let your football do the talking. The only hanging problem for Piro is that he has often wanted to let his talking do the talking — which is a shame since, by and large, his football, both as a player and coach, has spoken loudly enough.

Piro’s coaching resume is fascinating and worth the test for a coach whose career is barely two years old. He has presided over big guns, one staggeringly good debut top-flight campaign, one freewheeling title charge, and one dramatic league season. Yet throughout, he has continued to serve as a punch line, painted by a substantial cohort.

Now, three games into the current season, his Gaborone United side sit at the top of the pile, having won all their games and remarkably keeping a clean sheet. No team has scored more goals than Piro’s side. Is Botswana football finally ready to recognize Piro as an elite-level coach? In fact, why has it not done so already?

The answer is not straightforward, regardless of what some of his harsher detractors would want to believe, although it is true that he has often failed to do himself any favours when a microphone has been aimed his way. In today’s culture, it only takes one slip of the tongue — one tiny sound bite lacking in self-awareness — to make you look silly.

Piro’s model has worked across the board: promotion-chasing minnow, sleeping giant, trophy-hovering Goliath figure, and now an aspirational upper-middleweight.

In each instance, he has found a new gear, improved his team beyond expectation and created a side better than the sum of its parts, at least for a time. Young and veteran players excel under his watch. Attackers — especially hard-running and bloodthirsty centre-forwards, Thatayaone Kgamanyane — flourish like never before. And for once, he has needed big money to make significant progress. Yet even at United, the least tangibly successful of his last three jobs and one where things went downhill towards the end, he put together sensationally exciting teams.

Now at GU, pundits still ask whether he will last longer at the top or he will soon fall. His demonstrations this season speak volumes about winning a bigger and better trophy this season. Can he deliver, or time will tell? Part of the answer will come as the season wears on.

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Sport

GU, Rollers – early favorites

16th November 2021
Rollers & GU

Football giants Township Rollers and Gaborone United have emerged as early favourites to win the newly refined Botswana Football League (BFL), following a perfect start to the season.   

There is a sense of relief from different quarters that this new football season, still striving to secure a title sponsor, is set to be packed with more excitement and action than anticipated. Seasons’ never-ending transfer rumour mill, coupled with half-paced friendlies, have their place in football, but they were indeed only going to be a tasty little snack before the sumptuous banquet, which is a new season.

Each team has played three games. At the time of going to print, Gaborone United, driven by local gaffers Innocent Morapedi and Pontso Moloi, remains in pole position with 9 points, maintaining an unbeaten record. The club also holds another record as only to club yet to concede. Also, on pole position is Township Rollers, who remain of the favourites to clinch the title come season end.

Languishing at the bottom of the log is Extension Gunners. The Lobatse based outfit have already pressed panic buttons by sacking their coach. It is still early days, but it appears The Peleng Boys, as they are affectionately called, are suffering early relegation season syndrome. They have played three games and are still struggling to find a win, let alone finding the back of the net.

Big guns like Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy have tried to bolster their squads but have failed to stamp authority in their first three encounters. Galaxy look set to be a better team, but two registered wins and a loss may as well betray this standing belief. Orapa, on the other hand, has grouped experienced players in their camp. Die-hard followers hope that this may be a fruitful season, but a midweek loss against Police XI in their backyard leaves followers questioning the readiness of their technical team as the season gets hot.

Township Rollers are breathing heavily on Gaborone United backs. The two teams now becoming rivals are equal on points, but much of the scrutiny is on GU, whose defence might be critical to this year’s championship.  The need for news and views — not to mention wins in Lobatse and Francistown or wherever will once again become the all-consuming passion in many football lovers’ lives. Some had reason to be happier than most. That is why Sua Flamingoes and Masitaoka are ecstatic for their first 2021 victories.

A logical decree is that the Premier League’s usual suspects will have it all their way again. Talent galore and bottomless pockets of cash were enough to ensure yet more silverware ends up in already crammed trophy cabinets. The cream, as they say, always tends to rise to the top. Week 1 of this first half-season was the most interesting one. Eighteen goals were scored, and Thatayaone Kgamanyane of GU became the first player to score a Premier League goal this season.

Premier League Chief Executive Officer Solomon Ramochothwane believes this will be the most competitive season of recent seasons. “It is tight and competitive, and we might have a new champion at the end,” he opined. He also expressed happiness that numbers will grow at the stadiums as time goes on. But beyond the shadow of a doubt, the return of Premier League fourth round — as remarkable as the first three laps — will signal several months of nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat tension.

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