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SONA very light on sport

THUSO PALAI
Since taking over the highest office in the land, President Ian Khama has continuously reiterated his commitment to sport development and advancement in the country. Unlike his predecessors, who were a bit detached from sport, he has always been close to sport in the country and has always been visible, although at times a bit too close for comfort. He has always championed sport issues and has always been available for sporting activities and issues. In a nutshell he has to a large extent been visible and supportive of sport in the country.

Last week, the President delivered the annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) and without giving away much already; he said pretty much what I expected him to say and left out pretty much what I expected to be left out.

I have always maintained that the best way to develop sport in Botswana is to focus on grassroots development so that athletes are identified and developed at an early age, as well as have trained and competent trainers to take care off and nurture the talent identified at an early age. One that critical aspect to Botswana becoming a world beater in sport is facilities, and without being too critical, we have been lacking with regards facilities in some respect.

In his address, the President applauded the increased success of our athletes in various international competitions; among them the Africa Youth Games and the World Youth Games, the Commonwealth Games as well as the African Senior Championships. Botswana won a marked number of medals, and in the process showed the World that we are indeed capable. I however feel that with more effort, more coordination, more facilities, more expert training, we can far much better.  Batswana have proven to be world beaters with limited resources, and I can only imagine the great heights that we can reach if we had the training facilities and coaching that some of the athletes from other countries had.  

President Khama made mention of Nijel Amos and Isaac Makwala who continue to Botswana Botswana on the World map through sport. He added that his government is ‘looking to the future we are working towards further growing these numbers by implementing different sport development initiatives’. That is reassuring coming from the first citizen and one can only that he makes good on that promise. The immediate way he can do that is to ensure that the issue of teachers and sport activities in schools is sorted out and the number of incomplete or run down sport facilities around the country are sorted out as a matter of urgency.

Khama's segment on sport is short

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and precise; and to a large extent devoid of some issues I would have thought he would address. Such things as sport development matters, issues of sports training in schools, the long talked about issue of allowances for sports people, and the somewhat lack of or delayed delivery of sports facilities. Commitment has to be buttressed with action. One issue that Khama takes pride in and never misses an opportunity to talk about is the controversial Constituency Tournaments.

We all know the trouble that the constituency football tournaments have got us into with FIFA and the issue remains unresolved. I have always made my reservations clear with regards the Constituency Tournaments. Although I agree with the thinking behind it and its noble intentions, I would rather it is administered by sport bodies/codes and not Government. That being said, I have been made to believe that the issue of administration of the constituency tournaments is being sorted out with a view to having Government funding it, and the sport bodies doing its administration. If that were the case, and it is used mainly to identify talent rather than whiling away time, I would not have much of an issue.   

On the whole, Mr President didn’t really say much, save to congratulate all those that did well in the past year and once again commit to implementing different sport development initiatives. However, I personally do not see how the Constituency Tournaments could get so much prominence in the SONA while such important issues as establishment of Schools of Excellence, teachers issues with regards sport in schools, infrastructure and sport development matters are relegated and not even mentioned. As much as Khama has always been visible, we should hear his voice and standpoint with regards some rather not so comfortable issues.

On a parting note, I wish to commend the president for being visible and showing a liking to sport. He now needs to ruffle a few feathers and shake some action out of some office bearers so that our sport development initiatives he talks about are aggressively driven forward.



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