Sunday, February 5, 2023

Action packed year awaits

2023 promises to be action packed year for sports lovers and supporters in Botswana.

Aside from local competitions, the country will be involved in several high-profile international competitions.

As well as competing outside the country’s borders, the country will also host some high-profile events. These will be in athletics and softball. Here is what to look out for in Botswana’s 2023 sporting year calendar.

Athletics

Arguably the country’s best performing sport, athletics will once again be the code to look out for this year. The biggest event to look forward to in the country’s athletics calendar will be the Botswana Golden Grand Prix.

The event, which was formerly known as the Gaborone International Meet (GIM, was elevated from a bronze to a golden event by World Athletics.

It will be hosted at the National Stadium in Gaborone on 29 April. Botswana Golden Grand Prix is one of the only two World Athletics sanctioned gold continental tours in Africa, the other being the Kip Keino Classic in Kenya.

With its elevation to the gold status, athletics followers in this country can now expect to see the crème de la crème of World Athletics competing here in Botswana.

Another big event for local athletics followers to look forward to this year will be the World Athletics Championships. The event will take place at Budapest, Hungary from the 19th to the 27th of August. Here, Batswana will expect to see team Botswana take on the best of the world.

Away from international events, there will also be Botswana U18 & U20 Athletics series slated for 04th March 2023, with the Botswana Athletics series taking place eight days later on 12th March 2023.

Football

This year will be a crucial one for the country’s senior football teams, the Zebras and the Mares. The Zebras kick off their 2023 schedule with crucial back to matches against Equatorial Guinea in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.

The Zebras will play away in Equatorial Guinea on 21st March 2023, with the return leg to be played five days later on 25th March 2023. These matches will be crucial as the Zebras will be seeking to keep alive their chances of qualifying for the Afcon finals. They will then host Lybia on 16th June 2023 before wrapping up their qualifiers with an away trip to Tunisia in Tunis on 08th September 2023. 

Currently, Botswana lies at the bottom of their Group J and is the only country in the group yet to win a game. They have played two, of which they have lost one game and drew the other. A win against Equatorial Guinea will therefore be crucial.

Elsewhere, the Mares will be playing in the Paris 2024 Olympic Africa qualifiers later in the year. With the men under 23 football national team already out, any hope of Botswana football making a debut at the Olympics lie on the local girls’ shoulders.

Netball

Botswana netball ladies senior national team will compete at the Africa Cup slated for Uganda sometimes in the middle of this year. Following at least five years of decline, this time they will head into 2023 and the Africa cup with hope in their step.

This will largely be due to how they acquitted themselves towards the end of the past year after a lackluster start. Their year started with a failure to qualify for the 2023 Netball World Cup during the Africa qualifiers played in Pretoria. Despite the failure, the local ladies under the guidance of the coach Jenny van Dyk showed flashes of improvement. Towards the end of the year, van Dyk’s girls won the Singapore Six Nations tournament after more than a decade of trying. Their performance was what many had expected when van Dyk was appointed coach on secondment from Netball South Africa.

Now in 2023, the senior netball team will be hopeful of going a step further. Given their impressive performances and their climb up the World rankings, the ladies senior national netball team will be ones to watch this year.

Softball

Botswana will start the year as hosts to the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Africa women qualifiers. The event is slated for the National Diamond in Gaborone from the 6th to the 10th February 2023.

Teams finishing in the top 2 of the tournament will qualify for the Women Softball World Cup group stages which are billed for July later this year. The group games will be played in three groups, A,B and C. African representatives will be placed in Groups A and B.

While qualifying for the Women Softball World Cup will be a priority, for Botswana, all eyes will also be on the local ladies to see if they can get the better of neighbors and fierce rivals South Africa. The neighbouring country has of late been a thorn on the flesh for Botswana.

Botswana National Olympics Committee

This year will be an action packed one for the Botswana National Olympics Committee (BNOC). The commission will have to prepare the country’s athletes for multiple competitions slated for this year, in between overseeing athletes’ qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

BNOC will find itself with a lot to deal with to prepare the country’s youth teams for the 4th African Youth Games which are billed for Congo, Brazeville at a date yet to be confirmed. In the absence of school sports, the BNOC will have to invest heavily to help the country’s next sports stars make it to the continent’s elite competition.

All eyes will be on this event to see who are the next top athletes to emerge from the country. In the past, the competition brought to the nation’s attention the likes of Baboloki Thebe, Karabo Sibanda and Galefele Moroko, just to mention but three.

The commission will also have to prepare a team to compete at the Africa Beach Games. The event will be hosted at Hammamet, Tunisia from the 24th to the 30th of June 2023. The games will be followed by the Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad & Tobago (4th – 11th August 2023), African Games 2023 in Ghana (4th – 19th August 2023) as well as the ANOC World Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia (5th – 12th August 2023).

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