Mass international invasion for ping-pong tourney

Veteran local player, Matlhatsi will be among the players battling for supremacy against international players PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Veteran local player, Matlhatsi will be among the players battling for supremacy against international players PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE

A total of 37 international players have registered for the Phoenix Assurance Botswana Table Tennis Association (BTTA) Regional Open. The tournament, that will be played tomorrow at the Botho University, has attracted 24 men and 13 women paddlers from countries such as Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

The BTTA Regional Open was extended to players in the southern part of Africa and only South Africa did not honour the invitation. The tournament is the first international one to be played on home soil since the AUSC Region V Games in 2018 and carries P8,000 prize money, which is one of the highest in the region.

The second-placed players will walk away with P4,000 with the semi-finalists and quarter-finalists getting P2,000 and P1,000 respectively. The Botswana Open also has the juniors’ section, the Under-19 Cup. The winners in the juniors’ category will pocket P2,000 while the second-placed and semi-finalists get P1,000 and P500 for their sweat.

Eyes will be on the local team led by veteran player Thobo Matlhatsi, who has been the team’s head coach. In a draw conducted on Wednesday evening, the local players have been pitted in fair ties in the group stages of the tournament. Top-ranked Tshepiso Rebatenne will have to play once to go through to the second round after being tied against Latifah Malavwe of Malawi. Game Kebodiwang will face Ruth Motailoni and Isaheanesu Siringwani of Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively. Olorato Ramagapu will be up against Zimbabwean top-ranked Ashley Dlamini and Reitumetse Maome of Lesotho.

In the men’s draw, Botswana’s number one, Bakang Maloka will face Friday Ngandu of Zambia and Themba Talane of Lesotho while second-ranked Boago Malobela is up against Trust Madoro and Hareteke Mapeswane of Zimbabwe and Lesotho respectively.

The local team also includes Tshenolo Mooketsi, who will face club mate Tshepo Dipongo and Eswatini’s Mabaja Bhembhe. “I believe in all the groups. Our players have the upper hand over the other players so I do not think it will be that difficult for them,” BTTA communications officer, Arthur Kgaswe said of the tournament draw. Meanwhile, the BTTA will also welcome an entourage from the Eswatini Table Tennis Association at the tournament.

The Eswatini officials will be here to benchmark on the tournament organising and management among others from the BTTA.

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