Sunday, January 17, 2021

Choppies incentives welcome but…Sports development remains key

This past week, Choppies Stores announced that it will offer some financial incentives to Botswana’s athletes who fare well at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The details of the parkage is that any of our athletes from any sporting code stands a chance to take home a staggering US$ 100 000, which translates into P793 650 if they win a gold medal from the competition.

Silver medalist and bronze medalist will get US$ 50 000 (P396 825) and 25 000 (P39 680) respectively.

This, we must say, is a praiseworthy gesture. It is without doubt the first of its kind in Botswana. We have seen in the past countries that are much poorer than Botswana handsomely rewarding their athletes. As a tradition, Botswana athletes have always received peanuts as recognition for their performance. Some countries have even gone to the extent of giving their athletes prime land in cities for free. Many of our yesteryear athletes are today living in abject poverty.

We hope the Choppies initiative will go a long way in addressing these. It is just the beginning, but more private companies should be encouraged to come to the party.

Our athletes have shown that with all the necessary support they are among the best in the world and hence Choppies sponsorship is welcome.

Botswana has also in the past lost excellent athletes because sports could not put the bread on the table. In other words sport was seen as a thankless profession. In today’s competitive world, one cannot reach their full potential if they take sports as a part time undertaking.

In our view, the sponsorship from Choppies will encourage athletes to work even harder, including seriously considering taking their various codes on fulltime basis.

That said, however, we believe the only way sport can grow in this country is if big companies play a role in talent development at the grassroots and at primary school levels. It is quite one thing to reward or dangle carrots for ripe athletes who have qualified for the Olympics and another to do the tedious job of sports development.

We encourage companies not only to reward already ripe athletes but to also go down to unearth unpolished talent found across the country.

Choppies and other big companies should not only come to the party when the Olympic team has its eyes on Gold and bigger Sports competition. Corporate Social Responsibility involves participation by companies even when no one is watching.

Sports development in Botswana is one of the most neglected areas. This has led to some sporting codes only existing on paper. That does not augur well for development. In fact, if we do not do much at development it will not be long before we have no one participating at the Olympics which will lead to such incentives as that ushered by Choppies being meaningless.
We hope that after the London Olympics, the country will get together to reflect more on how best to produce more quality athletes going forward.

It has been shown for example that the North West region where Amantle Montsho comes from has potential of producing excellent athletes yet in reality this is an area that has been abandoned when it comes to sport investment. What we need is to invest more on facilities so that the younger and upcoming athletes could realise their potential in such areas.

Who knows, other areas could also be a gold mine for certain sports codes like football. Due to lack of resources, it will take time before we know. Or we shall never know!

Sports development in Botswana could really do with a helping hand from the private sector.

Companies have a role to play in sports development and more of them should come to the party. Sports development represents an invaluable contribution towards social, cultural, economic and educational growth as a people. In many countries, sports has proved a unifying factor.

There is obviously a lot of raw talent out there that requires nothing but to be harnessed and that requires a lot of funds.

Almost all sporting codes in Botswana, such as football, cricket and Athletics have development programmes aimed at producing competitive trainees who can take each sporting code to greater heights and, by extension, fly the country’s flag higher.

Yet most of these sporting codes are facing a challenge of resources. They are unable to spread their reach countrywide and mobilise more young people.

The teams also experience challenges with capacitating themselves with expert manpower and the necessary training equipment.

May we remind ourselves that sports participation is not only an idle key to marketing Botswana as a country but, where properly taken advantage of, it can be a major source of income for those that decide to go professional. In countries such as Brasil sport is a major contributor to economic diversification.

On the same note, we also call upon the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Shaw Kgathi, a trained sport specialist, to utilize his training background and promote sports development. Kgathi should emulate his South African counterpart, Fikile Mbalula, and rigorously encourage the private sector to actively participate in Sports development.
Private sector participation in sports is long overdue.

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