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Montsho primed for one last Olympic chance

Fear is only a feeling, it cannot hold me back, the past is gone, today is now and I face it head on. Today I see each moment as an opportunity to express my greatness. An opportunity is simply a possibility until I act on it. Thank you Batswana for your great support and I want to thank God for so many reasons. I love you all, only three hours left then we will see what happens.

These were Amantle Montshoâ’s words of courage and hope before she was to face 50 seconds of a life defining moment at the London Olympics games in the 400m race.The eyes of the world were watching in great but tense anticipation as Montsho, then 28 years old, was about to confirm herself as one of the greatest athlete of her generation, but in the end, it turned out that the 400m track and field indomitable queen succumbed to that fear.

Her eyes and that of Batswana shed a tear when she finished fourth in a devastating race dominated and bossed by American rivals. It was her second Olympic Games finals.Montsho made a fringe appearance at her Olympics debut in 2004 in Greece. Not much was expected from her then.However, it was 12 years ago in Beijing when the transition from hope to realisation started to take shape.

She qualified to the finals but came last in a breath-taking race won by Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain while Sanya Richards Ross got bronze.But in the 2012 Olympics, Richards-Ross became the first American woman to take a gold medal in the track and field of women’s 400 metres final.

With a time of 49.55 seconds, her fellow American mate, Dee Dee Trotter — the then latest contender to the throne — came in third place in a race in which the first four runners, Amantle included went under 50 seconds.And four years later, the opportunity refused to present itself again. She watched the 2016 Olympics Games held in Brazil on the side-lines as she served a two-year suspension for testing positive on a banned substance.

Although she returned a year later to turn back the hands of time at the Commonwealth games, it became a testament that Montsho’s talent can carry her beyond unimaginable heights.Whatever one may think of the Botswana queen, it is hard to argue and it was also some statement.At 34, Montsho had run 400m in 50.15sec, not only a season’s best but the tenth recorded best time of the Commonwealth games, this was in April, when most athletes were still shaking off their rust from yester year.

It was more difficult to argue a case for Montsho who has won every medal on global stages, who has chased down time and shattered some national records, but again, who never won any Olympic medal.
The Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer, Tuelo Serufho is however adamant that this is a chance for Montsho to win an Olympic medal in her otherwise illustrious career.
It is of course one more opportunity for her to win a medal that lacks in her medal cabinet, I have hope, he said.Besides this, Olympic medal jinxed Montsho has already secured her greatness as an athlete.

Now she hopes to leave a legacy far beyond the finishing line. Will she be on the verge of her greatest victory yet? At the age of 36 years, when many athletes are going past their peak, it is difficult to tell.She has won numerous medals collected at different taxing international stages.One more medal at Tokyo 2020 – her 12th in her career- would make her immortal: the undisputed greatest of all time in Botswana. To this date, she has 11 medals, of which 8 are gold and 3 are silver.

Montsho has seen it all. From cusps of glory to the jaws of hell. At one point in her race, she was beaten cruelly just fractions of a second at the finishing line. One day, 8 years ago, she applied the same tactic on her fiercest rival, Allyson Felix, to change the colour of the medal; from silver to gold.The doping scandal four years ago might come with a black mark on her fulfilling career, but Montsho’s races are well documented in the world and has battled strong characters from all corners of the athletic globe.Sanya Richard Ross, Allison Felix and Dee Dee Trotter together with Great Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu are some of the world- class names the Botswana queen has taken to the sword.

But arriving for the third time onto the Olympic stage, Montsho’s contest is expected to shape up as a battle between familiar opponents.  Legendary Felix has also qualified but there are other newly born athletes of this race.Montsho’s standing has never been in serious doubt. The re-affirmation of her pre-eminence should give the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium yet another precious memory. Like it did 8 years ago at the world athletics championship, recording an impressive time of 49.54, which many believed was a corner stone of her career.

Many doubted her especially after she tested positive. But thanks to this experience earned in many years of running, Montsho finally became the face of the country when she notched a qualification over the past weekend. The way that she ran was much better than past championship and qualification dull moments. In fact, she is now the reason why rivalry exists between her and the rest of the world.As the eight runners stepped into their blocks, the University of Botswana stadium seethed with a combination of tension and sheer glee. The Maun born champion came out of blocks very comfortably but seemed to struggle alone the way to the podium finish, but as the crowning moment presented itself, all her supporters who were watching knew how lucky they were to witness a race that turned out to fulfil their expectations.

She was turbo charged from position four and loped her way to a respectable time ” a time that was good enough to book another meeting with 400m heavyweights in Tokyo Japan.

Sport

Rakgare to address BFL clubs

15th September 2021
BFL - Players

The Botswana Football League (BFL) house has never known peace since its establishment in 2020. The company’s directors and shareholders, built to professionalise the elite league, are seemingly in a wild goose chase, leaving footballers’ dreams to shatter amid ‘man-made’ sporting adversity.

The BFL titanic has hit an iceberg, and the stewards and captains of this ship are struggling to bring it to calmer waters.  This infighting and militancy have attracted the eye and wrath of the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, whom sources say is readying himself to prepare a tell-all meeting with the 16 premier league clubs chairpersons in the next coming weeks.

It is said that the Minister is concerned by the lack of progress at the league that should be ordinarily a flagship of Botswana football. As the Minister of Sports, Rakgare is disappointed by the crusade of blames and figure pointing at the boardrooms while essential issues like sponsorship and safe return to play are not adequately addressed.

It is said that the Minister has silently observed that the league house is moving in circles, and time wasted never returns. He is shocked that these chairpersons are incurring unnecessary costs paying players, yet they delay the return of football. When approached for clarity, the Minister could only say he is on leave and will only talk about sports matters when he resumes duty.

“I am not going to comment on anything concerning sport; for now, I am currently on my leave days to charge my batteries; talk to me after two weeks or so,” he briefly commented via a telephone interview. To this date, the BFL board has had two chairmen in as a space of seven months. Township Rollers boss Jagdish Shah was its maiden chairman during its formative stage, and Nicholas Zakhem assisted him.

It said significant progress was made to source sponsors, but what later led to factions and divisions inside the board is not adequately established. When Shah was removed, Aryl Ralobala was installed as the second chairman, but his stay has been rocky right from the beginning.

He was confronted with taxing sponsorship and broadcasting deals but what would later complicate his tenure is the burning issue of a mooted loan agreement with the Botswana Football Association(BFA). All these combined were complicated by the inability of the previous board to proceed with a smooth handover.

The BFL structure was first established in August 2020. One of its mandates was to divorce itself from the football association and negotiate key sponsorships for itself. This autonomous idea was rubber-stamped at the previous BFA general assembly.

Once the BFL fully gained independence, BFA was to give it a playing licence, and the FA will have a minor share of the profits made within a football calendar. In this company, all the 16 premier league clubs have equal shares. But at the end of every season, relegated clubs transfer their shares to newly-promoted clubs.

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Sport

 BFA tails Zakhem

31st August 2021
Zakhem

The spirit of brotherhood at Lekidi Football Centre has indeed fallen apart. Evidence of this development emanated at the recent National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting where the Botswana Football Association (BFA) is reported to have repeatedly fluffed lines to bring football’s most shrewd schemer, Nicolas Zakhem, to book for what they term ‘undermining leadership.’

The association is said to have noted with utmost concern that Zakhem, the chief investor at Gaborone United, has on several accounts, poured scorn over BFA leadership for failing football and went on to call for their resignation as things continue to fall apart.

Moreover, the Lebanese business mogul has come out from the shell and punched holes on the administrative head of the newly formed establishment, Botswana Football League (BFL), arguing that, they too, have fallen by the wayside while attempting to professionalize the local football.

Wary of these continuous onslaughts by the Zakhem, BFA feels the man is out of order and ought to be hauled before red burning coals for undermining leadership. Sources say the association wants the ethics committee to apply its mind over Zakhem’s previous uttering and tame him for good.

Zakhem, whom football observers agree was the kingmaker as MacLean Letshwiti, and his troops triumphed over Tebogo Sebego’s allies at BFA general election held in October 2020, is believed to have fallen out of favour with the Letshwiti regime. The proof of the pudding was when he ate up Letshwiti administration during an interview on Gabz FM roughly two weeks back.

However, the association’s NEC is said to be torn apart as relationships continue to decay. Reports suggest that quite a handful of them are not entertaining the idea of reprimanding Zakhem, and even if push comes to shove, it is not the mandate of the NEC to spell a final determination on him. At the same time, judicial bodies of the association are available and functioning.

The Zakhem issue, burning as it is, saw Letshwiti’s troops coming face to face with him for the first time since assuming office. Sources claim that the members were not coy about calling a spade a spade that the BFA boss is also out of his mandate by ruling with an iron fist and should try by all means to uphold the constitution of the association. Indications are that the members are not impressed by the current state of football affairs and want a plethora of issues to address other than tailing and chastising other football administrators in the name of ill-discipline.

However, sources say there is strong determination to bring Zakhem to book by hook or crook. Meanwhile, the BFA has allowed their legal advisor to study the matter and advise on the way forward.
When approached for comment, BFA legal advisor Pako Moakofi said he was not able to speak as he was still attending to his health issues.

The issue of Zakhem is also said to have lifted the lid off another NEC member’s matter. Last year, Carlos Sebina, former Tafic Chairman, was relieved of his duties after being accused of conniving with the enemy to betray and sabotage the association. The decision came when Botswana was preparing to play a crucial tie against Zimbabwe in AFCON 2021 qualifiers. Sebina was the medical committee chairman and had previously won the NEC seat as the only member from Sebego’s side.

Zakhem himself is out of the country and cannot be reached to provide further clarity, but sources close to him told WeekendSport that he is fully aware of the ongoing matter. It is no longer in doubt that BFA elephants are fighting, and it is the football grass that will suffer the most.

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Sport

Ministry puts BFA on standby

31st August 2021
Players

Botswana Football Association (BFA) contends that football is an industry that employs everyone from different sectors of the economy and will argue this point until the COVID-19 Task Force fully comprehends it.

The move comes to the fore after the association, this week, held an emergency meeting with Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) to deliberate on possibilities of allowing footballers to resume training. At the same time, sporting activities remain suspended as a COVID-19 containment measure.

The BFA, BNSC held a meeting to establish the impact of suspending sporting activities on football. The BFA argues that considerable effort was initiated to return to play. Although sources say it was the first phase of deliberations, another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday with the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport, and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, to further find a common understanding.

Sources contend that although the atmosphere was a bit tense at the beginning, discussions were fruitful, with the Ministry of Sport promising to discuss the matter with the Coordinator of the Task Force, Dr. Kereng Masupu.

The uptight mood cascaded when Rakgare complained about the leakage of confidential information to third parties, especially the media. It will seem the minister was not happy at how the BFA meeting together with theirs was to be known by outside parties before a conclusion is reached. The ministry expressed its frustration concerning the slow progress of BFA as far as the resumption of football was concerned.

A senior administrator in the ministry complained that BFA was dilly-dallying even before the government suspended sporting activities. When asked to give clarity, the BFA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Goabaone Taylor said it would be remiss of her to talk about the details of the meeting, especially when the time was not right.

“Even the ministry had to gag us because we find our confidential information littered everywhere. I am afraid that is not right, and should it persist, it can damage the confidence and the talks we are having with our partners,” she said when asked about her presence during the Wednesday meeting.

BFA, in the meantime, says their position paper does not change. They have argued that football is the only code that employs masses, and the continuation of sports ban hampers and jeopardizes contracts with various stakeholders, including players and sponsorships. Moreover, BFA says companies are reluctant to commit to football because the ban brings much confusion on the way forward.

Furthermore, the association argues that football is the biggest revenue spinner, estimated to be around P55 million. They say the game employs over 3 000 people directly and provides over 9 000 indirect jobs countrywide. Over the years, when football was in full flight, the game raked about P 26 000 000,00 in sponsorships while 4 000 000,00 came from broadcasting deals.

BFA will therefore play a waiting game while the suspension comes to an end in a week and will hope the game will never be clamped down again, which will allow the 2021-22 season to commence.

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