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Volleyball women prepare for Rio

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Botswana women’s volleyball team has been in training camp over the past week as it prepares for a grueling African Olympic Qualifier tournament to be played in Cameroon next month. A squad of about 18 players from four different league teams was assembled for the training routine that takes place every morning and evening at the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) Hall.

As usual from over the past decades, top clubs Kutlwano and Mafolofolo with five players each dominate the number of call-ups with Kalavango and Dynamites each contributing three players. Tracy Chaba who has been playing for Abu Dhabi’s Al Wadha Volleyball Club also adds to the team that will eventually be trimmed to 12 players.

Botswana Volleyball Federation’s (BVF) Sports Development Officer Peaceful Seleka – who recently released the list of players called to camp – told Sun Sports this week that there could be changes in personnel as doubts still linger on the availability of some players for varied reasons.

Seleka himself has been working with the team on the interim as the BVF awaits the release of appointed coaches who are yet to report for camp. The team’s head coach Manuel Torres is expected to arrive this week from Cuba while it is not clear when his assistants Kabo Ntshinogang and Gareanna Makgetha will be available as they still have to be released by their respective employers.

The Olympic qualifiers’ tournament for Africa is set to begin on February 15 and will run until February 19 in Cameroon’s capital of Yaounde where the ultimate winner will gain automatic qualification for the Rio showpiece. Teams finishing in second and third places will have another chance to proceed to Brazil  through participation at a second World Qualification Tournament that will include countries from all participating continents.

Each continent will have a single automatic qualifier from winning their respective continental qualifier tournaments, with the five continental winners joining hosts Brazil as well as China who qualify by virtue of being 2015 FIVB Women’s World Cup winners. Another team that has already qualified is Serbia who gained the automatic slot after emerging runners up at last year’s Women’s World Cup in Japan.

Continental qualifiers for Europe, North America and South America were decided at their tournaments that concluded over the past weekend – with Russia, USA and Argentina emerging winners for the said continents respectively. In all, a total of 12 teams will compete at the Rio games and only six slots are yet to be filled.

Only Asia and Africa are yet to decide their automatic qualifying countries. The remaining four places will then be fought for by runners up and third-place finishers from the continents at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament set for the period between May 14 and June 5.

At the Cameroon tournament, Botswana will find other sixteen nations lying in wait, among them traditional powerhouses Tunisia, Kenya, Egypt, Algeria and the hosts. Other nations include Nigeria, Ghana, Cape Verde, Uganda, Mozambique, Gabon and Burkina Faso.

The last two automatic qualification spots for Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics were snatched by Algeria. It thus remains to be seen how the Botswana women will negotiate their way past these giants of African volleyball after years of playing second fiddle. But the local team’s captain Tebogo Sejewe has expressed confidence in her team’s readiness, saying most in the camp are experienced players who finished in the top four at the All Africa Games last year.

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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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