Botswana’s volleyball team will be facing African giants at the ongoing All Africa Games. Botswana’s male team will need divine intervention if they are to make history and progress to the next stage. And bear in mind that Botswana will be participating for the first time. They indeed have a high mountain to climb. Botswana has been pitted against Tunisia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt in pool A. Pool B, on the other hand, is relatively open because it is made up of relatively average countries. It consists of Congo, South Africa, Kenya, Algeria, Seychelles and Ghana. On paper, Tunisia and Egypt are the strong favourites having dominated African volleyball for quite some time.
Botswana Volleyball Federation sports development officer, Mission Mereyotlhe, conceded that Botswana is in the lions den. He, however, said anything is possible because the boys went to Algeria fully prepared and are in a good frame of mind.
“We are in the toughest group, but this is sports and anything is possible. At least if they can win their first game against Tunisia anything can happen in the coming games. It will be difficult, but they just need to be focused. The team is also raring to go except the injury of Happy Rubin in his finger, but the medical team is attending to him and by the time of the first game I hope he will be fine,” he said.
Mereyotlhe also said what gives him hope is that several local players are playing in Cuba, which, he said, added value to the team. Five members of the team have been in Cuba for some time and might pull a surprise. The five players are Peaceful Seleka, Tshwanelo Boitumelo, Tshepo Iketeng Odirile Sibanda and Agisanyang Kurwana. Mereyotlhe said he watched them play during the Zone VI tournament in Namibia early this year and they played like seasoned players. In addition to the five Cuba-based players is Shadrack Kapeko who also spent about five years in Cuba.
In the 2005 Zone VI edition, Cuba-based players helped Botswana to win their first ever championships. Then it was Kapeko and Seleka who was leading the attacks.
Mereyotlhe also stressed that the fruitful month of intensive training in Cuba will indeed help the team a lot. He said they played against some of the strong countries and some strong Cuban teams. Even though they lost most of the games, Mereyotlhe said it was a learning experience.
Botswana’s volleyball team is seen as one of the strong contenders to at least bring a bronze medal from the games. They are under the tutelage of Cuba coach, Carlos Otta Fellove. Fellove used to coach the ladies team and transformed it to one of the best in Southern Africa. He is expected to also transform the men’s team to be one of the best in Africa.
Botswana were expected to play Tunisia yesterday before facing Senegal today (Sunday). Botswana would then play Egypt and Cameroon on Monday and Tuesday respectively.
Other teams representing Botswana at the games are for Swimming, Karate, Athletics, Badminton, Tennis and boxing.