Keakopa scales heights against odds

Breaking ground: Keakopa wants to document women footballers. PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
Breaking ground: Keakopa wants to document women footballers. PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG

Keotshepile Pinkie Keakopa, a retired football player, has defied the odds and not allowed her disability to put her down.

Keakopa is the 2021 Football For All Leadership Programme scholarship recipient, which saw her travel to Portugal in October. She told Mmegi Sport that she is passionate about sport, particularly football.

Keakopa is the women's representative on the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) board. She explained that she learnt about the Football For All Leadership Programme scholarship through Women And Sport Botswana (WASBO). Keakopa said she was intrigued about the programme and upon enquiring, she was informed that it was a leadership programme for women in sport living with disability.

“I am partially blind. The training was in Lisbon, Portugal. The programme is for sportspeople [living] with disabilities. It is meant to empower them. We attended lecture sessions, visited Portuguese Football Federation headquarters and the Benfica stadium,” she said.

Keakopa said between now and April 2022, she has to implement her project. She has identified a gap in women's football in that there is no documentation of women football clubs and therefore, she has decided to profile the clubs. Her project is divided into two elements, the first being to have a database of all players including retired players. Keakopa said that would make the job easier for administrators. She said the system would allow administrators to be able to track players' careers. She said the project could be sustainable because it would be done over a long time, even in her absence.

“I am also from a physiology discipline, so I have observed that women players do not have the skills to manoeuvre in life. I thought I should come up with life clinics for the players. It means I should engage people who specialise in that line of work. Issues such as financial literacy do not affect male players only,” she said.

Keakopa said she would like to partner with organisations dealing with disabilities. She said people living with disabilities have the potential to do everything.

“They could be used for data collection. I want this project to have ownership, it is not my project alone. I want to empower club captains and people [living] with disabilities,” she said.

Keakopa said she wanted her project to focus on football, but when she was in Portugal, she was advised to spread her wings and be inclusive. She said with time after piloting, she could extend it to other sporting codes. She said data is very important. Keakopa said when the feedback is positive, there is no turning back.

Keakopa said she has received support from WASBO and FUB. She said FUB had informed her that they could assist her with expertise because there are some experts that they have agreements with that they work with.

“They requested me to share with them my intention for the project. I have a detailed inception report with objectives, methodologies and budget. When in Portugal, we were encouraged not to be demoralised by a lack of sponsors. We should come up with partnerships. The most important thing is to get experts into the project,” Keakopa said.

She said they were also taught career development, personal development, how to sustain and merge projects. Keakopa said there is another issue of stadium accessibility by people living with disabilities, which still lags in Botswana.

Keakopa has played for several clubs starting at UB (University of Botswana) Kicks when she was a UB student. She then moved to Untouchables, Mexican Girls then Wonder Girls where she retired.

“I played alongside Under-17 national team coach, Tracy Tapaphiwa Gaebolae. She is the one who established Wonder Girls,” she said.

Keakopa said she was forced to retire due to work commitments. She was working as a registration officer at the Omang office. She was then employed as a teacher based at Beetsha Primary School in the North West District.

“I then got a permanent job in the Ministry of Local Government where I am currently based as a research officer. My job entails dealing with research, case studies, and impact assessment amongst others. As a research officer I travel a lot so I did not have enough time to train,” she said.

Keakopa said although her job was demanding, and her age, 35, was also a factor that led to her retirement in sport.

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Keep your mask close

Wearing of masks behind closed doors has been mandatory following the government’s August decision that the public was freed from masking in outdoor spaces.According to a press statement from the ministry, all other remaining COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing in schools and requirements for vaccination or PCR tests at ports of entry have also been relaxed.Statistics still show that hundreds still die daily due to the pandemic around...

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