As a roving journalist, failing to travel to my home village Tonota to cover the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) elective congress provided an excuse to watch the ongoing Netball World Youth Cup (NWYC).
This means my travel will be limited to driving around the city of Gaborone focusing on two main venues being, the state of the art- UB Sports Arena and Ditshupo hall where the historic games are taking place.
On Saturday, my first stop was Ditshupo everything was in place, from clearly demarcated parking areas, empty spaces designated as assembly points for both athletes and spectators in case of any eventualities and, or emergencies such as fire, great playing surfaces and warm up courts stands were erected, Media designated area was clearly marked, Wi-Fi provided, security on alert and ushers ensuring all are comfortably seated.
Equally worth noting is that Netball fans all over the world are able to watch matches live, with every match available via YouTube channel. The live streaming ensures that all the 20 participating teams can follow their progress as they happen. This has been made possible through a partnership between INF and Botswana online community portal Tsena, supported by Btv and the UK-based digital media specialists QTV Sports.
In her worldwide circulated statement and speaking in relation to the provision of live streaming of th matches, INF president, Molly Rhone said that it is important to the INF that “We can take these matches to our fans, both young and old worldwide, in a manner that is current and relevant and in a way in which they want to receive them. Netball’s popularity has never been greater and we want to keep it in the spotlight, keep growing our fan base and deliver a thrilling world-class event”.
The first encounter at Boipuso hall was one-sided as defending champions, New Zealand dictated terms as they so pleased against Northern Ireland so much that the game appeared to be a warm up match for the competition.
Being a member of the Legacy Committee under the Local Organising Committee, part of our task is to engage with the netball family people who matter so that we can produce a well-informed report. The lukewarm match availed me an opportunity to compare notes with the President of Netball South Africa, Mimi Mtethwa.
Our fruitful discussion was based but not limited to what her impression of the facilities is, why our region and the African continent is so much left behind, how best we ought to improve and what legacy will hosting the games leave for Botswana and the continent. Mtethwa said a mouthful, at times stating valued information, sometimes sounding off track even making me wonder, could this lady be telling me that her country, or her Association were better placed to host the games as they have an edge in many respects?But deep in my thoughts, I kept on saying to myself that she has no point because UB Sports arena rates amongst the best in world and is second to none in the continent. This was after she complained that they made an offer to assist in Botswana in many respects including seconding an experienced and competent personnel to officiate, hiring equipment in particular the expensive floors recommended as playing surface for such high profile games like the five such floor mats, but claimed to her surprise, that they were given the cold shoulder.
Mtethwa also complained of non-cooperation between the African countries which are playing in the tournament as they failed to organise match practices against each other. Our discussion was cut short by the next game between South Africa and Barbados as she had to concentrate on watching her girls.
The opening ceremony was superb and a great advertisement for Botswana to show the world what she has to offer. Having assured himself that all was going according to plan at his party congress in Tonota, President Lt. Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama flew to Gaborone to officially open the games and went back immediately to usher in his new central committee as it was elected earlier in the day.
The idea to have the dance ensemble was a great concept and enabled the country to market itself. However, good as it may the choreographer failed to deliver a well-defined product when it came to dancing. Dancers used were not well-refined and this made them to be slightly off the mark. They could have used seasoned dancers for highly specialised ritual dancing like Seperu. This was the day in which the usually confident and charismatic BONA President and INF Vice president, Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego also panicked as she lost one of her pages when delivering her speech. But who could blame her for that excitement. She has delivered! Botswana had scored many firsts as this was the first time that INF is hosting a world cup in African region which has the highest number of member countries in the world. In her address, she noted that in 2009, Botswana Netball Association sent the U21 National Team to the Netball World Youth Cup held in the beautiful island of Rarotonga in Cook Islands and this is where the passion to achieve was realised and the dream to host this Cup in Botswana was born.On the games themselves, never before in the history has Botswana national netball team managed to score over 70 goals against any nation. The thing about hosting the NWYC is that it provided coach Setshedi Botlhole-Mmopi an opportunity to become the first local netball tactician to do that by beating Malaysia 72-26 in Botswana’s opening game. Not only had Botswana won three of its four matches in the group stages against Malaysia and Jamaica, the girls looked physically and mentally prepared for the games thanks to preparations that also saw them playing matches against the men sides. In a nutshell the games brought unity and excitement to the country and will leave a good legacy.