Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) is seeking to shift attention to middle distance running as preparations and qualifications for Olympics games gain momentum. The association harbours strong views that the country’s potential glory at the international competition is highly likely to come from the 400 and 800m races.
BAA President, Paphane Botlhale recently told WeekendSport that his association will swing focus and channel more resources towards athletes participating in these races. This modus operandi, hopefully, will enable BAA to send a large contingent of athletes by virtue of qualification to the Tokyo summer Olympics. The BAA President stated that for the longest time, the country has marked itself as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to middle distance races.
“Currently our training camp team is made up of the 400m runners both male and female, 800m runner, one athlete who runs in the hurdles and the relay teams,” Botlhale said. However, others hold mixed views on the BAA bias, the national team coach Justice Dipeba observed that the association is primarily focused on middle distance because the athletes under the aforementioned discipline have been outstanding. He said they have been performing well as compared to the 100m and 200m athletes, hence the preparatory training camp for the upcoming Olympics is laden with the 400m and 800m talent.
Speaking directly to the 400m and 800 bias, Dipeba said BAA’s decision to focus on the middle distance running should not be the norm. Dipeba said, “I beg to differ. It’s not a good idea if we can follow that path because this will disadvantage other athletes as they will fell neglected,” Dipeba said the short distance races are more technical and time consuming than any other field discipline. The training methods are far demanding and as such need full time coaches who can develop and monitor the progress of the athletes.
It is not that the country cannot produce athletes from such discipline. “It is simple, we still have a serious lack of coaches in this area,” he said. The renowned athletics coach said it is easy to train middle distance runners as the coach develops the program and the athletes can always follow it during off season without difficulties. He said currently BAA has no full time coach because most of them are offer their services on voluntary services.
Men’s 400m Athletes
One of the country’s 400m prospects is the legendary Isaac Makwala who hails from Tutume village. The 33 year old runner won his first major championship gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held at Gold Coast in Australia after an impressive 44.35. Makwala however believes his late start in professional sport is the reason he reached his peak in 2018.
In 2017, at Atletico Madrid, the 400m captivating runner became the first man ever to run the 200m in under 20 seconds (19.77) and the 400m in under 44 seconds (43.92) on the same day. His personal best in 400m is 43.72. Baboloki Thebe is one of the country’s most decorated field sprinters who specialises in the 400 metres. The sprinter made a breakthrough in the 400m in May 2016, with a run of 44.22 seconds placing him third on the global seasonal lists and moving him into the all-time top 30 for the event. Thebe overcame an injury scare to win a silver medal in the 400m at 2018 Commonwealth Games when he completed 1-2 for the country after Makwala bagged a gold medal at the continental showpiece. .
Women 400m Athletes
In the women’s 400m category, Christine Botlogetswe, the Rakops born athlete, was in peak form last year managing to finish fourth in the ladies 400m final at the Commonwealth Games. The 25 year old managed to qualify for her maiden Diamond League final albeit an injury. She has a season’s best (SB) of 50.48, it is also her personal best (PB). Botlogetswe went to last year’s World Championship in Doha ranked 11th in this year’s World women’s 400m race. She has already booked her place at this year Olympics.
In 2019, Galefele Moroko won her maiden senior continental gold medal at the African Games which were held in Morocco. Moroko managed to lower her Personal best (PB) from 53.28 to 51.30, a score which she managed to attained at the African Games. Being ranked 43rd in last season’s World women’s 400m race. The Maun native has qualified for this year Tokyo 2020 Olympics after winning her first gold last year at the All Africa Games. This is a clear indication, according to BAA, that middle distance could deliver medals if given the attention it deserves.
The Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, has expressed its underlying desire to reawaken and improve sport policy.
This is also in line with the declaration made by President Mokgweetsi Masisi in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) this week about the need to improve sport performance in the country. The sport policy was first enacted in 2001 when the Department of Sport and Recreation was under the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs.
The review of this policy is expected to commence soon and strive to address all socio-economic problems bedevilling sport. The examination will start from the elements that speak to the direct processes of national dialogue of sport and come up with recommendations for improvement.
As things stand, the Sport Ministry has coordinated a task force to deal with the taxing issue of school sports where teachers have downed tools demanding special kind of payment for partaking in extracurricular activities. The government through various means has been made aware that sport forms an integral part of the country’s vision.
If the policy is finally revised, the country and other stakeholders will eventually achieve national development, unity and continued economic growth. “The national Sport Commission Act is also being reviewed to facilitate sport to contribute to the economy through commercialization and professionalism, as well as to improve the welfare and the rights to our sportspersons,” Masisi said in his address.
The review will once again take a long route of extensive consultative processes where critical factors were initially identified as continuous constraint to sport development. There is a wide ranging view that sport is solely for recreation. This anomaly is fast becoming a matter of yesteryears as more athletes are making a living out of sport.
In October of 1997, a discussion paper on sport policy development was prepared. At the time, the workshop brought together policy and decision makers. The discussions precisely centred on issues of sport participation and development. Participants included among others, Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC), Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) and National Sports Associations.
There was the discovery of limited funding in sport and poor sporting facilities in the country. This has negatively impacted on the performance of national sports associations, particularly on the global stage. As a measure to this problem, the government has decided to build 10 mini stadia to up participation and performance.
In 2001 when the policy was formulated, there was an agreement that the national guiding principles of democracy, development, unity, self-reliance and botho are cardinal to the development strategy of socio-economic development planning. The Ministry believes that sport and recreation in Botswana have a close relationship with all these national principles.
When speaking to this publication, the Chief Executive Officer of BNSC, Tuelo Serufho said there is indeed an overwhelming appetite to improve sport performance and participation in the country. “Yes we need to engage both BNSC and BNOC to improve and review the sport policy more because it has been overtaken by time…it needs to be aligned with modern sports trends,” Serufho briefly shared.
The world football governing body, Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), has ordered trouble torn Mochudi Centre Chiefs to compensate their former coach, Philani Mabhena, after unceremoniously dismissing him in the summer of 2019 with only a few months left on his contract.
FIFA agreed with Mabhena that Magosi, as Chiefs are affectionately called breached his employment contract. FIFA is of the view that Chiefs had no prima facie evidence that could lead to unilateral termination of a contract. The decision of FIFA’s status committee is that Chiefs should pay the Zimbabwean born coach an amount of BWP 111, 100 within 30 days.
The money is divided into two categories. BWP 56 100 which is derived from the period of 11 August 2019 until the end of contract. The other amount is P55 000 which was accumulated between January 2019 until a time he was sacked. Those amounts was accumulation of unpaid wages.
FIFA warned that more stringent action will be taken against Chiefs should they fail to deposit the amount before the set deadline. Mabhena claimed that Chiefs, before his contract was terminated, was never paid his signing on fee of P 15 000 as settlement remuneration.
He also argued that he had gone a couple of months without receiving his monthly wages. According to the terms of the contract, he was supposed to be paid P 15 000 every month. Chiefs to their bravery, has accepted the outstanding salary arrears of the former coach that stretched to P 56 100.
FIFA accused the shrinking Kgatleng giants of negligence and refusal to honour contractual obligations and this has brought far reaching consequences. Should Chiefs fail to honour FIFA orders, they are likely to be banned from signing coaches and players. They are also likely to forfeit points when the football season begins until full payment is completed.
The debts come at a time when the club desperately seeks a premier league return. They were rumoured to be eyeing to buy one premier league status to compete for the grandest prizes like before. Chiefs were relegated because of poor administration at board level. The team tried many times to professionalize but each attempt was beaten by the club society raging wars that consequently stalled progress.
Mochudi Centre Chiefs sporting club was first registered in July of 1974. The club was registered as a society under the societies Act of Botswana as a football team. It is noted that the club participated in the upper league of BFA under the terms prescribed in the constitution of the association together with the confinement of the societies act.
Premier League rookies, Sua Flamingos have fired their coach Raizor Tsatsilebe for allegedly speaking up for his players. Tsatsilebe who joined the team last season and helped them win Debswana First Division North league, was at the end of the season thanked with a one year contract extension.
His stay at Sua was to end in July of 2021 but things took a turn for the worst recently when management was said to be fed up with his demands. Reports claim that the Sua management felt the coach was more on the side of the players and did not approach things holistically, a move that led to his untimely expulsion.
“Since his arrival this side, he has been vocal about treatment of players, their welfare and as you know, players here have not been receiving their salaries but are given allowances on monthly basis. He felt maybe the club should at least pay half salaries as they have now resumed training. He also requested that the team should sign some players but that did not happen despite promises by the club. The final nail was when management left his goalkeeper coach, Terence Modikwe and signed Kagiso Tshelametsi without consulting him,” said a source at the team.
The club Chairman, Tirelo Thebe, confirmed that they have decided to part ways as with the feeling that they can no longer work together. “Yes it’s true we met with the coach and we agreed to terminate his one year contract because the relationship has soured. We cannot disclose more than this because it’s an internal matter and in the meantime our assistant coach will take over on interim basis while we look for his replacement,” said Thebe.
Tsatsilebe on his part felt hard done by the team after promoting them to the elite league- something they have been failing to achieve. “They are the ones who opted to terminate the contract not me and they couldn’t give me reasons why they are terminating. It’s a pity we coaches encounter such things in our lives but it has to continue,” said the 49 year old coach.