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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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Well-endowed Galaxy

Isaac Pheko

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FIRE POWER: Galaxy await Rollers

It is only the third week of the 2018/19 BTC Premiership and things are already heating up. Leading the charge is a marauding Jwaneng Galaxy who have already thrown a heavy-handed gauntlet at their rivals after recording a highly impressive 10 goals in just two games.

Galaxy’s intention has been made clear this season after leaving their first two opponents with bloody noses and tails tucked between their legs. The former Mascom Top 8 champions are in a relentless war path with the premier league title on their radar. This weekend, Galaxy host bitter rivals Township Rollers in Jwaneng in what is expected to be a football grudge match. Rollers have been a prickly thorn in Galaxy’s quest to claim the premiership silverware for the past two seasons.

This means the weekend fixture will be the most compelling of the new season. However, Galaxy seem to be packing more heat coming into the Saturday fixture having annihilated both Prisons XI (5-0) and Security Systems (5-0). Galaxy are currently occupying first position alongside second place Sharps Shooting Stars at six points apeice. The game against Popa this weekend will be a litmus test for Galaxy. If the Debswana backed side beats the reigning champions they will establish themselves as potential contenders for the 2018/19 title honours. On the flipside, a loss against Rollers will only mean the first two games were short of a bluff.

Pound for pound Mapalastina have the best squad in the domestic league but a new look Galaxy are well endowed in their own right. In an interview this week, Galaxy spokesperson Tankiso Morake said they played Rollers three times last season and all the games ended in a draw. “Remember we played Rollers in the Mascom Top 8 in Lobatse,” an up-beat Morake said. Morake further said they expected their new coach to receive his permits and start manning the bench when they play Rollers this weekend. “Our supporters have told us that they expected nothing less than league honours this season.” Morake attributes the positive result to a great pre-season.

“You will remember that there was a fake list in the media indicating that we have parted ways with most of our players. You can see that the likes of Ayanda Molefe and Isaac Paeye are still part of the team. There is a lot of competition in our team because we mostly have young players in the team including Lebogang Ditsile who played at Highlands Park in South Africa.” Furthermore, Morake conceded that Rollers are a strong team but argued that they will win the games from the technical bench. “You will remember that we started the last season back tracking but this time things are different.”

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Bridge team fails to impress

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The local team comprised of under 16, under 21 and under 26 categories. In an interview this week, BBF spokesperson Mbakiso Malilo did not mince his words when he described the team’s performance as terrible with all the three teams failing to qualify for the quarter finals.

“Making it to the quarter finals was our target following a good showing in the online championship by our junior team. I believe we can work on improving the playing standard for kids (under 16) as they still stand a chance to compete in the under 21 and under 26 categories for future championships,” he said.

However, Malilo explained that the local youth team gained a lot of experience as the played against more advanced rivals. Quizzed on challenges they faced with a predominantly youthful team, Malilo said: “the trip was too long and for most of the players this was their first experienced of travelling such a great distance. The jet lag ended up affecting the team’s performance as they showed signs of fatigue.” Malilo said their objective was to train young players and give them exposure to the game early on.

“We managed to network with bridge power houses like the Netherlands. Official from the European country expressed interest in training our kids through bridge clinics and enhancing the standard of play and bidding.” Malilo said they selected the junior team that travelled to China through local tournament that was held in Gaborone earlier this year. The tournament was attend by mostly tertiary school students and out of school youth in the junior and youngsters’ category. For the under 16 category we invited student from secondary schools.

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