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BoBA short changes athletes

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Reports coming out of the Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) camp this week are that the once thriving sport code is currently experiencing financial doldrums. The state of BoBA financing came under scrutiny after the cancellation of the association’s flagship national championships, which was scheduled for Jwaneng mining town this month. Allegations reaching Sun Sports are that BoBA spent close to P 450 000 on 49 kg boxer Mohammed Otukile’s participation at the AIBA World Boxing Championships held in Germany recently. According to sources this misguided trip to Germany is alleged to have contributed to the bleeding of the associations’ already depleted coffers. According to sources close to the matter, the association failed to draw an accurate budget and ended up spent thousands of Pula’s in assisting Otukile to compete in Germany. However, decisions made leading up to the world championships have came back to haunt the association after Otukile did not make it past preliminary stages of the event.

This past week saw BoBA shocking the local boxing community after an abrupt cancellation the 2017 national championships just two days before the event. “We regret to announce the cancellation of the planned 2017 championships scheduled to be held in Jwaneng. The championship has been cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control,” reads an official statement from the troubled association.

The national championship and the Best of the best tournaments are the biggest events in the BoBA calendar. Cancellation of the event greatly disappointed both boxers and coaches as they worked hard all year in anticipation of the showpiece. A week before the scheduled event, some boxers who preferred to speak under the condition of anonymity were already suspecting something odd would happen. “Silence from our leadership was just too much, nothing was being said to us and we had doubt that this event will go on,” they said.

This week some of the boxers within BoBA told Sun Sports that they received reports suggesting that the association was financially constrained. Nevertheless, BoBA is said to have held negotiations with a potential sponsors from the diamond-mining town, which gave boxers a ray of hope. It is only through the championships that BoBA gets to select national team athletes. However, due to the current situation, it remains unclear how BoBA will resolve the situation.

On the other hand, some boxers were arguing that it would not be fair for the management to select athletes based on their interclub tournaments. In addition, sources within BoBA argued that the whole situation is most likely to ruin a relationship between BoBA and Debswana Mining Company. Debswana has been sponsoring the amateur combat sport awards for the past few years. The awards are normally held shortly after the national championships and served as motivation to athletes who excelled throughout the year. Apart from international bouts, it is only through national championship that boxers can receive monetary prizes from BoBA in some occasions.“Some of our athletes are unemployed, and are only in boxing for the love of it.

As we speak athletes have not been given an explanation as to why the tournament was cancelled, it is disheartening, “said one local boxing coach who preferred anonymity. For his part BoBA president Thato Patlakwe said allegations suggesting that Otukile played a part in BoBA’s current financial status are not true. “The bulk of the finance was from Otukile ‘s Olympic and Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) funds, we did assist but only to a small degree,” Patlakwe said. Patlakwe confirmed that the association does not have money saying they spent a significant amount of money sending both athletes and coaches abroad.

The BoBA president revealed that they used a significant amount of money in developing athletes, coaches and referees. Among others they sent nine boxers to All Africa Boxing Championships held in Congo Brazzaville a few months back. Moreover he said, “We sent 10 coaches and referees to Namibia and another 10 to South Africa, our mandate is to have enough qualified personnel of world class standard, we felt it was necessary to invest in them and they did us proud.” The soft-spoken president said there is no need panic just yet as there is a possibility that they can still host the national championships before the end of the year. He said they had almost sealed the deal with the people of Jwaneng however they could not agree on the last details of their agreements. “We did not want to ruin our partnership, there is a possibility of bringing a very glamorous national championship next year because we are busy engaging different stake holders for financial assistance.

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Free at last

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Gaborone United Football Club has finally handed Township Rollers the release letter of its (Rollers) Head coach, Rodolfo Zapata, Sun Sports can confirm.

Since Zapata’s appointment as Rollers head coach last month, he is yet to sit on the bench. GU has been holding tight to Zapata’s work permits that he dumped early this year for a job in Kenya. He then resurfaced last month as Rollers coach but things have been stagnant with Zapata not able to coach as he had an active work permit that needed to be cancelled.

This week, both GU Chairman Boitumelo Nsunge and Zapata confirmed that there has been an exchange of the letter. “Yes we have given him the release letter and agreed to cancel his work permit with GU,” Nsunge said.

The GU chairman however noted that they are still to discuss the alleged debt saying they have asked Zapata to furnish them with prove that indeed they owe him money over P300 000. The news will see Rollers management breath a sigh of relief as they have been trying for several weeks now, to work on the GU Zapata saga.

This publication has been reliably informed that the president of Rollers, Jagdish Shah was running out of ideas and was bound to make a decision regarding the matter some time last week. Actually speculations have been rife that Zapata would soon be replaced before he even starts official work at Rollers.

However as it stands now, anytime is teatime. Rollers is eagerly waiting on the Department of Immigration to process Zapata’s work permit with Rollers. It is not clear if the work permit will be available latest today, which will see Zapata on the bench tonight when they play Notwane Football Club, or the Argentine will have to wait for the year 2019 to start his duties.

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Olopeng’s last answer as sports minister

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Before vacating his office at the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Minister Thapelo Olopeng was confronted with one last controversial question from MP for Francistown Buti Billy last week.

The MP asked about an update on the commercialisation of sport. The issue has been a hot potato since the Botswana National Sports Commission Act was amended in order to professionalise local sports. However, the process has proven to be an uphill battle. The following is an excerpt from the Parliament Hansard in which the former sports minister responded to the question.
Buti Billy (Francistown East): Asked the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development to update this Honourable House on how he is commercialising sport and if there is any strategy in place to carry out that mandate.

Thapelo Olopeng: Thank you very much Mr Speaker. The transition from Botswana National Sport Council (BNSC) to the Commission in 2014 was the first step towards professionalisation of sport in terms of setting up structures. Sport is at different levels of commercialisation in the different sport codes depending on the level of professionalism. We have a number of teams or codes which are already at semi-professional.

In football, several clubs have their players contracted and remunerated as per signed contracts. Sport also sells broadcast rights to generate revenue. Merchandising is another way that sport has commercialised. There has been establishment of local companies that manufacture sport apparel, and these have grown in popularity over the years. We have also witnessed sport such as Boxing, Athletics, and Golf, to name but a few. We witnessed them professionalise their operations and more are expected to follow. In some of the sport codes, individual sportsmen and women play professional sport internationally.

Mr Speaker, the Botswana National Sport Commission Strategy 2028, which commenced in January 2013, is an overarching strategy towards professionalising of sport, and thus commercialisation. The strategy seeks to promote sport excellence and enhance the contribution of sport to the economy. Billy: Supplementary. Ke a leboga Tona. Fa re lebeletse sports in general; all sports codes, a Minister o itumelela gore he had created employment jaaka a bua gore other sports codes di setse di simolotse go dirwa commercial? (Looking at all sport codes in general, is the Minister of sports happy he has created employment as he says with other sport codes becoming commercial)?

Olopeng: Thank you very much Mr Speaker. Thank you very much Honourable Member. Mr Speaker, my answer to that is yes, because just as at Premier League in soccer, we have 16 teams and every player within these 16 teams is on a payroll; they are paid by those individual clubs, that is creation of employment. We have our international athletes, those who participate outside the country at different events; they are paid.

We have other players, our athletes in football, netball and those who are hired by teams outside Botswana, I can just give example of teams in South Africa which have hired our players right here from Botswana and those young boys are paid by these particular teams. We have not reached where we want to reach, that is the reason why we are still developing our strategy of 2028 with Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to make sure that we turn sports into an industry.

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