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.
There is a possibility of discomfort within the Gaborone United technical team following a squabble between former team manager Owe Mmolawa and Peter Butler who is Director of Football over allegations of racial discrimination.
The duo is reported to have had a fall out last month on the flight from Madagascar after Gaborone United sealed a 3-1 win against Elgeco Plus to set a clash with Dstv premiership side, Supersport United in the second round of the preliminary stages of CAF Confederation Cup.
However, WeekendSport was reliably informed that the management of the club swiftly redeployed Mmolawa to become ladies team manager, a position which he rejected and ultimately resigned from the club on the 31st August. Sources claim that the relationship between Butler and Mmolawa had broken down irreparably.
According to the highly placed sources, since the arrival of the British coach at Moyagoleele, Mmolawa was sidelined and it is alleged that Butler started to give him (Mmolawa) an attitude. Others speculate that the master plan is get rid of Coach Pontsho Moloi so that Butler gets the head coach post.
According to a letter seen by this publication – Mmolawa wrote to the Regional Immigration Selection board on the 5th September contesting or seeking an interdict on awarding a substantive residential and work permit to Mr. Peter Butler.
According to the former Gaborone United team manager, “As per the Immigration Act, in particular, Section 19, Clause 4(a), the character of Mr. Butler lacks the rudimentary qualification on the basis of racial discrimination allegations levelled against him. The allegations have been reported to the continental football mother body (CAF) for investigation and determination thereof. The complaint has been lodged by me.”
Mmolawa further said although Butler who is employed as Director of Football of which the qualification requirements for the job include amongst others possession of a CAF A coaching certificate – there is a plethora of local who holds the same qualification.
The fundamental uptake of foreign nationals for employment is that it should be on account of scarce skills or justification for the same.
He therefore said he contended strongly that the application for work permit be declined for Mr. Butler as there are many Batswana who have graduated with CAF A coaching certificate and fit enough to be considered for employment.
“Awarding work and residential permits to Mr. Butler on the basis of this job would be a fatal blow to the efforts of Botswana government in empowering its own citizens, in my solemn view. I raise that Mr.
Butler is prone and has a history of attacking the sovereignty of Botswana as evidenced by his spell away from the country when the football fraternity encountered governance changes. It would be tantamount to fiddling whilst Rome burns to look the away when a man of this character that lacks patriotic fabric seeks employment in Botswana,” reads part of the letter addressed to Secretary of regional Immigration Selection Board.
When reached for a comment relating to racial discrimination levelled by Owe Mmolawa to Mr. Butler, Gaborone United Marketing Manager Herbert Letsebe said as the club they currently don’t have any case bordering on racial discrimination. He said they have only seen social media posts by Owe Mmolawa.
“We as the club do not condone racial discrimination and if we record such case, serious action shall be taken for the offence,” he added.
Letsebe further said allegations between Owe Mmolawa and Butler could be personal hence it’s between the duo. He however confirmed that there was some altercation between the two, when the team was travelling from Madagascar to Botswana.
Botswana Premier League champions, Jwaneng Galaxy are intent on reaching first base after executing the ABC’s to safely jump into the next round of CAF Champions League, albeit narrowly. Galaxy managed to keep body and soul together in the first round of the Preliminaries defeating Ugandan champions, Vipers SC in a tightly contested two-legged affair which finished on 3-2 on aggregate.
Galaxy, who are like a little frog in a big pond in the CAF Champions League League Preliminary Second Round, will presumably be on the back foot when they meet a high-flying South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) side, Orlando Pirates. While the Soweto giants are seven games into the new season, the local topflight football is yet to start, and this raises concern on Galaxy’s mental strength and fitness when compared to their next opponent.
To demonstrate further imprudence from the local football authorities, a fresh statement from BFL this week suggested that this year’s campaign has been postponed to October 7th and clubs can only hope that the league does start. In silence, the decision has brought further consternation among clubs – with Galaxy and Gaborone United (GU) having the most reasons as to why their blood is boiling – they are currently competing in the CAF competitions.
Lesagaripa la Dinaledi, as Galaxy are affectionately known to their fans started the CAF Champions League Preliminaries like a house on fire as they hammered Vipers SC 2-0, courtesy of the ever-reliable Thabang Sesinyi ensuring his team get a two-goal advantage on home soil. However, in the return fixture in Uganda as they were defeated 2-1, but the scoreline was not enough to overhaul their advantage.
But now, Galaxy will meet its Waterloo before a possible appearance in the group stages of the CAF Champions League – Orlando Pirates.
Is Pirates beatable?
The Buccaneers made the long trip to the island of the Comoros to face Djabal FC. Jose Riveiro’s side were expected to blow their Comoros opponents away. However, the minnows put up an incredible performance against the Soweto giants, with Pirates scraping a win through a solitary goal.
In the second leg, The Buccaneers hammered Djabal FC 3-0 thus completing the fixture without conceding a goal. Will they finally ship in goals against the likes of Thabang Sesinyi and Omaatla Kebatho who are capable of causing an upset on their day? Galaxy will have to mind their P’s and Q’s against a team that has demonstrated that it can unlock even the most stubborn of defences. But if Galaxy avoids a Nervous Nellie approach, a neck and neck game is expected, anything else, Pirates will mop the floor with the local lads.
Pirates form has been scintillating despite starting their 2023/24 PSL season with a 1-0 loss to Stellenbosch. They regrouped and later redeemed themselves by beating Royal AM 4-2, followed by a 1-1 draw against Chippa United and a 2-0 victory against Cape Town City in the league. They currently occupy the fourth spot on the log.
However, Galaxy mentor is on pins and needles over the Pirates encounter. Responding to WeekendSport, Morena Ramoreboli said they have learned a lot from the Vipers game as preparations proved to key.
“When you win a home match by two goals to nil, decisions might go against you. Henceforth, it is important to try and introduce players that can give you energy in the first-half and avoid exposing certain areas of the field to ensure that you do not concede many goals,” he said.
According to Ramoreboli, patience is required when one is defending and mental strength is needed.
Galaxy intend to pitch a curve for Pirates, “When you manage the game well, you end up winning it, but mental strength is one area that’s need to be addressed if we are to go further in the tournament,” he said. Ramoreboli further pointed that their upcoming encounter against Pirates will be similar to when they played against Vipers.
“Vipers are the Champions of Uganda and Pirates by virtue of finishing second in the past season, they qualify for the African competition. In addition, we are the Champions of Botswana, hence, we are going to put up a big fight to ensure that we emerge victorious. Furthermore, as much as they are doing well, we are also doing well, hence why we are meeting them in the Second Round, without being arrogant, I think it is a match that both teams can win,” pointed Ramoreboli.
Galaxy gaffer further reminded football faithful to respect Botswana football. “It is high-time the continent start respecting Botswana football, they should start understanding that there is a country in Southern African Development Committee (SADC) Region called Botswana which its football standard is growing rapidly,” he said.
Quizzed about whether being a South African could be an advantage for Galaxy, he said; “It is fortunate that we have the luxury of watching Pirates play each week while on their part it is going to be difficult for them to thoroughly study our play; thus that could be a turning point to us. In addition, the little that information I have with regard to South African football, I share it with the technical team so that we come up with strategies to win the match,” he said. Ramoreboli is of the view that Pirates is on tenterhooks because they do not know the Galaxy style of play.
Meanwhile, GU will also face a South African side, Supersport United, in a blockbuster CAF Champions League encounter which promises to be a thriller.
All the first-leg of the two matches will be played on the 16th and 17th respectively at National Stadium.
Come dee day, Galaxy is confident that Pirates will not scare them out their wits hence they won’t give in and say Uncle to Orlando Pirates!
Tapping into different sporting codes such as jumps (long jump, high jumps and triple) and field events (Discus, shot put, javelin and pole vault) is ideal for any country as it put them in better chance to rake more medals at various international competition such as the just ended World Championships which were held in Budapest, Hungary.
In the closer proximity, for a few years field events and jumps athletes have been struggling to qualify for international competitions, which prompt a question as to how far is Botswana with regards to the growth of jumps and field events.
A great example would be at the recently ended World Champs, Burkina Faso’s Hugues Fabrice Zango made history by winning his nation’s first-ever gold medal at the World Athletics Championships with victory in the triple jump.
The 30-year-old jumped 17.64 metres in his fifth attempt to see the competition in Budapest, Hungary.
In addition, as much as focus and hope was being put on few local runners, Letsile Tebogo who bagged a silver medal in his 100m and a bronze in a tightly contested 200m, the same could not be said by the trio, Leungo Scotch, Collen Kebinatshipi and Bayapo Ndori whom their hopes of amassing medals blurred as the competition progressed.
Scotch and Kebinatshipi finished eighth and nineth in their respective heats to crush out of World Champs semi-finals while Ndori pulled out of the race just after 25m from the start, which meant that the country’s opportunity to get more medals reduced.
Historically, The country achieved its first gold medal, in the men’s high jump, in 2003.
Furthermore, high jumpers such as Kabelo Kgosiemang can be remembered as he rose to the occasion.
Kgosiemang broke the ground record with his jump of 2.27 metres (7 ft 5 in) in 2007, while his second gold medal came some 12 years later in 2015.
Nonetheless, where was the continuity as it seemed like there was light at the end of the tunnel?
For his part, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) Vice-President (responsible for) Technical, Kenneth Kikwe said Botswana’s strengths in field events and jumps has downgraded over the years.
“We have realized that our strengths in field events and jumps have downgraded and it is something that we are tirelessly working around to improve.
Furthermore, the biggest factor is that we do not have coaches who are professionally trained to induct aspirant field events and jumps athletes.
However, we currently have a former high jumper, Kgosiemang who is helping in that regard but we are contemplating to equip him with the right qualifications for the job,” he said.
Kikwe further revealed that they haven’t been able to bring international coaches who could upskill our field events and jump athletes like in the past as having these particular athletes is vital to any country’s progress in sport.
“We used to have international coaches who helped us with developing field events and jumpers hence why we saw the likes of Kgosiemang and Gable Garenamotse who blossomed during their respective years.
Nevertheless – we plan to redeem ourselves by hosting workshops, and inducting coaches who can develop athletes for the greater good of the country,” Kikwe revealed.
On the other hand, Local Sport Pundit, Kagiso ‘Fox’ Phatsimo was quickly to point out some of the biggest problems faced by Botswana sport.
“The biggest problem we face when we produce these world beaters, their cases are few and far between as we do not have a formula to produce these individuals.
It always comes as a surprise. If we had a formula like it is always said that we have School of Excellence, there could be a route from primary, secondary and senior school with a development that is strategically placed with a proper coach to teach our kids track and field events.
Henceforth, feeding the national team with raw talent that is ready to take on the world, however, it has not been the case,” he said.
Phatsimo further added Botswana do not have a concise plan as how to nurture these world beaters.
“If we were able to produce ‘Letsile Tebogo’ how come we do not have others who as good as him or even on the ladies’ section that shines in individual events and ultimately become world beaters,” added Phatsimo.
He reiterated that it is about the country capacitate coaches at Junior and Senior schools because their credentials are below standard.
“We need to identify talent from grassroots hence it is vital to give incentives to highly qualified coaches so that they can focus on building this raw talent from an early stage in remote areas thus benefiting in future.
Furthermore, relevant stakeholders such as the government, teachers’ unions, Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) and its affiliates should convene and resolve the issue of school sports or its going take a while for us to produce stars such as Letsile Tebogo,” he reiterated.