In the time of Covid -19 where sports has been crippled with little to no activity, some sports codes have resorted to operational activities, enhancing the experience and training of coaches and referees.
The Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) has not been left behind in the quest to equip and refine coaches and referees with the necessary skills. The association hosted its coaching course over the weekend where 12 coaches and 25 referees attended and under went training. In an interview, BOKA president Tshepo Bathai said referees and Coaching Courses are carried out in four places around Botswana. “We hosted the first one in Gaborone this past weekend, the next will be in Palapye on16th October, followed by Francistown on 17th October and Maun on the 24th.”
The referees and Technical Commissions conduct the courses. Sensei Mpho Bakwadi is the main resource person in the Referees course while Sensei Christopher Ponatshego resources the coaches. Moreover, successful individuals will be accredited Coaches, Certified Kumite Coach and Certified Kata Coach, “Our first session in Gaborone, saw only 35 coaches and referees grace the event.”
Bathai said they are expecting over 55 coaches and referees across the country to graduate from the courses. In addition, these courses are minimum requirements for any coach to officiate at BOKA events. Meanwhile, the training of coaches and referees is expected to greatly benefit BOKA, “this means we will have more athletes understanding WKF rules and have a smooth running of the local championships,” Bathai said.
Moreover, he said they are expecting to host a Kata tournament the first weekend of December.“We are hosting our Championship, for now we are not certain if it will be an online kata tournament or it will fuse in all of our styles.”
Botswana Karate Association President, Tshepo Bathai admits that Karatekas from Arab countries were once again a pain in the neck for local athletes during the just ended UFAK championships staged in Gaborone, Botswana.
After the competition, Botswana was ranked 8th with no gold medal, two silver and 11 bronze medals. Egypt came 1st garnering 11 gold, six silver and six bronze medals. Bathai explained that despite the rankings, local athletes did well and it is clear that there has been significant improvement on team performance since 2017. “We maintained our two silver medals and upped the tally in the bronze side, I would say the team is doing well,” he said.
On the other hand, Botswana’s Kata King Ofentse Bakwadi, who scooped a silver last year in Rwanda could only hang unto the bronze medal coming into 2019. He did not hold back when speaking to this publication but pointed that less was done to prepare the local team for the event. He explained that competitors from Morocco and Algeria are constantly in training camps and it helps the athletes greatly when competing.
He argued that they have to attend at least one training camp and two high level championships to prepare well for the competition. Having won gold in 2017, Bakwadi believes that there is nothing stopping him to repeat history but only if BOKA supports them. The sensational Bakwadi recalled that he only managed to win gold in 2017 after he single handedly funded his own training camp in Hong Kong that lasted for two and a half weeks.
“This proves that with more exposure we can be a dangerous team, I want to qualify for the Olympics next year and if I do not get support, the dream will be destroyed. I have high hopes though because the Minister of Sports, Tshekedi Khama has assured us of support,” he said. Bathai agreed with Bakwadi that preparations for the event might have affected performance. Funds were only availed in mid -June and nothing much could be done as the competition days were fast approaching. “We did the best we could under the circumstances, the team went to Bloemfontein, South Africa for a week and though it was not enough, we are impressed with the overall result,” Bathai said.
Another star athlete in Thato Malunga who also formed part of the senior female team Kumite told BG Sport that the 2019 edition was the saddest of her career. “I did not get a medal and it is my first time not placing any medal at an African karate championship, however, I believe that I can bounce back next time,” Malunga said briefly this week. Botswana ‘s only two silver medals came from Kumite in the junior team of Oratile Monametsi under 53kg and Dimpho Andy under 68kg.
Ahead of the Region 5 games staged in Namibia a fortnight ago, Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) Coach, Christopher Ponatshego was heavily criticized and accused of favoritism when picking his final team for the competition.
This week, a report has surfaced alleging that Ponatshego insulted Chief Referee Llewellyn Rhoda during the Region 5 games. According to the AUSC Region 5 Swakopmund 2019 Chief Referee report, dated the 25th May 2019, Ponatshego insulted Rhoda in what appeared to have been an argument over the Botswana team list that was supposed to compete in Kumite.
“Coach Christopher started insulting verbally in the presence of the Region 5Treasurer Mr D Alton, technical commission chairman Martin and WKF RC Escalante,” reads part of the report.The report continued to note that Ponatshego’s behaviour should not be tolerated and requested that the executive investigate the matter and a sanction be placed on Coach Christopher. “This is a very serious offence and must be dealt with swiftly and in a manner that coaches will understand that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated. As per the rules of WKF, the behaviour of the coach could result in the expulsion of the entire delegation from the championship,” warned the report.
However, a confident BOKA President Tshepo Bathai has rubbished the report, labeling it 100 percent false. Bathai explained that he attended the tournament and such was never brought to his attention. “I do not believe it, it is shallow, they should have told me, whoever sent you that document was not present during that discussion,” argued the BOKA president.However, an official at BOKA informed this publication that the report has been making rounds and most are aware of it. The source that preferred anonymity explained that however the matter has not been discussed at executive level and they suspect that Bathai might be protecting the coach, even insinuating that Ponatshego and Bathai’s friendship can be traced outside BOKA activities.
As if that was not enough those who attended the tournament complained that Ponatshego was full of surprises in Namibia as he randomly changed line -ups and picked those he preferred they compete. This did not sit well with some athletes as they felt that they were being disadvantaged. “We expected that those who did well during the final selection would compete, however, it was not the case, the coach would bring in a number three, overlooking an athlete that scooped first position,” they argued. Bathai, however, labelled the concerns as untrue, saying the team lists are loaded on the database before commencement of the tournament and it was unlikely that the team would be changed overnight.
Already, there is a concern that the coach will not be using the Region 5 results for selecting a team that will compete in the upcoming UFAK championships to be held in Botswana next month. In the past, BOKA used the AUSC Region 5 performance to determine who made it into the team. Nevertheless, Bathai assured that the team list would be fully uploaded online in the next few days. Ponatshego ‘s phone rang unanswered at press time.
The Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has committed to sponsoring the 2019 UFAK Karate Championships with a massive P 3 million, BG Sport can confirm.
Just last year, BNSC, while still under the guardianship of former chairman Solomon Reikeletseng, refused to be involved in the hosting of UFAK. Reikeletseng had at the time said that Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) had not followed proper hosting procedures.
It had to take a lot of convincing and negotiations from BOKA, including pleading with the freshly appointed Minister Tshekedi Khama that BNSC finally had a change of heart early this year. The championships will be held in Gaborone on the 9th -14th July.
To prove that indeed BNSC was now committed to assisting BOKA host a successful event, BOKA was slapped with a seven figure sponsorship letter last week.
According to information retrieved from the leaked letter addressed to BOKA, BNSC has advised BOKA to review the budget for the championships and align it to the funds allocated. However, the president of BOKA, Tshepo Bathai, when reached for comment played his cards very close to the chest and could not confirm if indeed they have received the sponsorship communication from BNSC. He admitted that the championships will be held in three months’ time and they are hoping that the Ministry through BNSC will assist them financially.
Bathai added that they do not expect only government to come to their financial rescue but hoping that even private entities will come on board. He revealed that they have a budget of over four million and the hope is that they will be able to raise the funds as the continental tournament fast approaches.
The competition he said came at the right time when Botswana is busy readying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Hopefully, local Karatekas will use the tournament to improve their chances of qualifying for the Olympics. Bathai noted that preparations for the upcoming event are ongoing and at an advanced stage. In fact, the World Karate Federation, Vice President who also happens to be the UFAK Vice president Bechir Cherif, is expected to be in Botswana early next week.
“Cherif will be here from the 25th to the 28th March 2019. During his visit, he will meet the Ministry of Sport, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), the BOKA Executive Committee and also tour the competition and training venues,” Bathai said.
BOKA will be using the UB indoor Sports Arena for the competition and yet to finalize on the training venues to be used. At the end of his visit, Cherif is expected to share his thoughts on preparations made by BOKA so far.
The position of the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) and its position on athletes that have sustained injuries during competition remains a grey area. The latest case in sports injuries implicates the Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) which is currently being accused of turning a blind eye to one of their athletes Boitumelo Koone who recently sustained a career threatening leg injury earlier this year.
In an interview with BG Sport this week, Koone, a promising athlete was disillusioned after he got injured during the final senior team selection. Following the painful injury, Koone alleged that BOKA simply dumped him at Marina Referral Hospital where he had to fend for himself until today.
Narrating his sad experience, Koone said he waited for close to seven hours at the hospital emergency room before he could be assisted. He explained the horrendous experience as being laden with excruciating pain before he could be attended to. “I was all alone and I did not understand what was happening, I could not move my leg or even walk,” Koone said.
After the doctors attended tohim Koone said that he was given paracetamol pills and sent home. So after leaving the hospital he struggled to walk and had to be pushed around in a wheelchair.After two days, his thigh was terribly swollen and realizing that his chances of getting better are minimal to zero, he pleaded with his brother to come to intervene in the situation. “It was then that my brother took me to a private doctor where I learnt that I had a ligament tear.” Koone added that the doctor further told him that he had blood clots around the injured area and if left unattended he might suffer dire consequences including death in the worst-case scenario. “I tried to reach out to BOKA, however they gave me a cold shoulder. I have on repeated attempts tried to seek assistance from the president Tshepo Bathai however he seemed to be avoiding me at the time,” he said.
Koone said that at one-point BOKA instructed him to write a letter but the association never responded on the matter. “I have told that young man that BOKA does not financially assist karatekas that do not form part of the national team. It will be too much for the association to handle given the number of karatekas in the country,” Bathai said. The BOKA president added that they have repeatedly explained to Koone why they could not help and they have even responded to the letter he wrote. Nevertheless, Koone said Bathai should produce evidence that indeed they responded to his letter. He presented his phone conversation with several BOKA officials including Bathai when he was trying to get answers from them. However, it seems the communication was one sided as there was no response from the other end.
Koone said what boggled the mind is the fact that BOKA expects athletes to pay participation fees of P150 in every tournament and team selection eve., However it seems they are left to fend for themselves once they sustain serious injuries.
For his part the private doctor who attended to Koone’s injuries, Jin Tae Choi, a physiotherapist at Kalafong said the athlete was lucky to have survived. “He had a tear and it was severe, should he have waited any longer it would have gotten more complicated,” he said. Choi said that he has treated so many local athletes with different types of injuries. Among others he has dealt with football players, boxers, netball and basketball players. The doctor said he has even referred some athletes to South Africa because their cases were more complicated. The doctor who clearly expressed concern towards local athletes said the biggest challenge remains that athletes he treats cannot afford his services. ” Their biggest concern is that they do not have money, sometimes I am unable to assist them because I am running a business and cannot be compassionate all the time.
The Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) needs to assist these children or their careers will be crippled by this injury.” Choi said. Choi said it was very dangerous for an athlete to participate in sport without properly recovering from their injuries. He said should athletes continue participating without healing they are at risk of damaging their bodies permanently. Meanwhile Monthusi Moitoi of Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) shared with BG Sport that he lost his tooth during a fight with Mmusie Tswiige of Prisons Club late last year. Today he is toothless and BoBA has not addressed the situation yet, “My club said they will assist with an implant but they are now silent. I have been off season since then over fear of hurting the other one,” he said. Retired boxer Zibani Chikanda said he once suffered an eye tear during an interclub tournament.
A doctor at the boxing tournament attended him and he was told to visit the clinic. Chikanda who works for the Botswana Defence Force had to foot all his medical bills until he recovered from the injury. The former national boxing champion lamented the fact that no one bothers to make a follow up on his injury. Chikanda later returned to the boxing ring after three months. Last year, 400m runner Baboloki Thebe was reported to be disappointed that Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) neglected him following an injury he picked during the 2017 World Championships held in London. The athlete is alleged to have sought medical attention across borders without the consent of BAA upon realizing that his injury was more severe than he realised.
When reached, BNSC Director of Sports Development Technical Bobby Gaseitsiwe said all national team players are fully covered by the BNSC insurance unfortunately they do not cover athletes that do not form part of the national team.
Nevertheless Gaseitsiwe said he does not think any association or club can neglect any injured athlete. They are expected to report to the commission in cases where the injury is severe.“No athlete can be neglected, they are taken to government hospitals and are provided with the necessary care. There are also rules that no tournament can be held without professional doctors that is to ensure that incases of emergencies they can assist,” Gaseitsiwe said.
The Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) is in the running to host a continental championship in the next two years. BOKA who are continental and regional powerhouses recently expressed interest in hosting either the senior or junior Africa championships in a year or two. The newly-elected BOKA executive committee led by Tshepo Bathai seems to be wasting no time in pulling affiliates together and contesting to host an international event.
BOKA has already received an invite from the Union of African Karate Federation (UAKF) Secretary General Emmanuel Wakam to host the upcoming African Karate Championship for 2018/2019 and 2020. The next hosts for both events will be announced during the UFAK 2017 congress in June in Cameroon.
The invitations are for the African seniors and juniors for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 championships. The Botswana National Sports Commission chairman Solly Reikeletseng recently encouraged local associations to bid for regional, continental and international competitions whenever chances arise.
“As BOKA we are interested in bidding for one of the championships. We will, however be able to say which one after consulting our affiliates including the BNSC and other stakeholders,” said Bathai this past week. South Africa and Botswana are the only regional members to have hosted the competitions in 2001 and 2002 respectively. Currently the BOKA top brass is consulting stakeholders before putting together a comprehensive bid to the continental body. The bidding associations should have full support from their respective governments.
BOKA benefitted immensely from the 2014 Africa Youth Games hosted in Gaborone and the 2002 championship. The hosting country can field more athletes and officials during the competition and also enjoys opportunities to train local officials and improve local facilities.