BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE
Botswana ladies senior national softball team will be looking to shed an underdogs tag and cause an upset to book a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics when they compete at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Europe/Africa qualifiers.
The qualifiers will be held at Sportpark de Paperclip in Utrecht, Netherlands, from 23-27th of this month.
Ranked 43rd in the world, the Botswana ladies are the lowest ranked of all the eight (8) teams due to compete at the Europe/Africa qualifiers.
The teams have been divided into two groups, with Botswana thrown into Group B where they will slug it out against Italy, France and Czech Republic.
It is expected that the group games will be played in a round-robin system, with the teams finishing in the top two positions expected to proceed to the Super Round along with the other top two teams in Group A, which is made of Netherlands, Great Britain, Spain and South Africa.
With only one Olympic slot to fight for, only the team that emerges top in the tournament final standings will gain a berth for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“We are indeed going there with the underdog tag but we are going there to compete. We are going out there to fight for that one slot to represent our country at the Olympics,” team Botswana Head of Delegation (HoD) Molekane Bokhutlo explained.
Speaking in an interview, Bokhutlo said while they are aware that the standard of softball in Europe is a notch better than in Africa, team Botswana is in no doubt that it has what it takes to upset the applecart.
“We have belief that we can make it as there is not much difference in the quality of players. Botswana has talented players, and in terms of player quality, pound for pound, we know we can match them,” he opined.
Bokhutlo went on to add that compared to the local team, the only advantage that the European teams have is that they play a lot of games against each other and have better exposure.
“The only difference we may have when we face them will be tactical awareness and game situation management, all of which comes with exposure of playing in big games,” he said.
Save for these minor differences, Bokhutlo said there is hope the team will do well as it had prepared well and should be ready for the games.
“We have prepared well for this tournament. The team has been on camp since the 5th of this month (July). Prior to that, we had ongoing on and off camps,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bokhutlo says the team will leave for Netherlands on the 18th of July and will have four days to acclimatise.
“If we had monies, we would have left early which would have given us an ample time to acclimatise and play more games against local sides. We have however talked to the technical team and we are hopeful we can have one or two games against local clubs in Netherlands before we can start the games,” he said.
Led by Tawina Phibbion as Head Coach, the 15 member team that will head for Netherlands will have four (4) pitchers, two (2) catchers, five (5) infield players and four (4) outfield players.
The playing contingent is composed of Onneetse Seth, Gotamang Sixpence, Lesego Ditau and Boitshepo Kgojane as pitchers, Goitseone Monyadzwe and Bafedile Dube as Catchers, Nametsegang Pathman, Morongwa Sephekolo, Charity Isaac, Lorato Ntsholetsang and Kedibonye Mogatusi as in-field players, with Kagiso Lowang, Onalenna Phetogo, Maitumelo Serumola and Bonolo Molefhe completing the team as out-field players.
Also leaving with the team for benchmarking purposes will be Under 19 national team pitcher Mashia Villander.
The team officials will be Logistics and Welfare Manager Boitshepo Mooki, Team Scorer Isang Isaiah, Team Medic Dr Monkgogi Thakgathi, Physiotherapist Sithabile Machao with Abel Mataboge going as the WBSC appointed umpire to officiate at the games.
Botswana will kick start her Olympic dream on July 23 with a match against Italy, before taking on France on 24 July. They will then complete their round-robin games with a game against Czech Republic on July 25.