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Volleyball women off to Rio qualifiers

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The Botswana women’s senior national volleyball team has become a force to reckon with in the African continent. Currently, the women’s volleyball team, which is scheduled to  compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Qualifiers in Cameroon beginning this Friday, is now rated above the likes of South Africa and other   countries in the region that used to be ranked higher.

This was revealed by the president of the Botswana Volleyball Federation (BVF) Daniel Molaodi at the team’s sending off ceremony held in Gaborone this Wednesday.

“There are seven teams that will be competing at the qualifiers and only one of the teams is rated below us. The other countries that have always troubled us in the qualifiers include Algeria, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco and the hosts Cameroon,” Molaodi said. The team left yesterday for the games that will be played until February 19.

Molaodi glorified the growth of the team over the years, attributing the growth to previous preparatory initiatives that have seen the team stay together for long. The core of the current national team, he added, previously went on a training camp in Thailand where they were preparing for the last Olympic games.  “The   dividends of that camp are now slowly paying off. If we want high performance we must be willing to invest,” he said.

The acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture Kago Ramokate, who officiated at the send off ceremony, heaped praise on the team he said had already made a significant achievement by being chosen to represent the country against some of the best teams in the continent.

“Your steady trajectory in the African rankings not only shows growth of women’s volleyball in Botswana, but also symbolises commitment, passion and   hunger on the part of local clubs and their athletes,” Ramokate said, adding, “I would therefore like to implore you to go to Cameroon and play the best volleyball of your lives; and trust me, whatever the result you bring, we will be more than happy provided you played to your best.”

The team’s head coach Kabo Ntshinogang expressed satisfaction that preparations for the qualifiers went according to plan. He added that he knew and understood the majority of the players in the team except the three who will be making their senior national team debut – Tshiamo Chakalisa of Kutlwano, Jestinah Moyo of Dynamites and Keba Phofedi of Kalavango.

“ But the three new players have also shown readiness for battle and we hope they will gel quickly into the team,” he said. “The crucial qualifiers feature the cream of African volleyball. Some of the teams at the competition know us well, however we are also familiar with them.

We are a bit lacking in the attack department although our strength is on par with that of the opposition. This is something we have been working on at training,” the coach added.

Meanwhile the three senior national team rookies were full of confidence that they will fit well in the team. In a brief interview on the sidelines of the send off, Tshiamo said she was ready for the daunting test ahead as this will not be the first time she faced international competition.

“I have played against the likes of Egypt and Tunisia in development teams,” she said. Another debutant, Phofedi, said she was expecting the team to do better after the intense training they went through.

The Libero said she had gained from the knowledge of other experienced players in the team. For her part, Moyo expressed optimism for the team’s chance to proceed further in the qualifiers as they enter the competition as a strong unit.

Like Chakalisa, Moyo has played for the Under 20 and Under 23 teams and was the captain of Botswana’s African Youth Games volleyball team in 2014. The winner of the continental qualifiers will gain automatic qualification to Rio while the next two finishers will proceed to the final world Olympic Qualifiers to be played in May.

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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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