The year 2020 may have been a year to forget for local sport, but for Botswana Table Tennis Association (BTTA), this was a year to savour.
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the BTTA says it has had one of its best seasons in recent memory.
This past weekend, the association successfully hosted the BTTA National Open Tournament to cap off what has been a challenging and yet very rewarding year.
“We had a few challenges, more especially with COVID-19 but this season was better than all the other previous seasons,” BTTA publicity secretary Tiro Motswasele declared.
Speaking in an interview, Motswasele said that like any other sport, the advent of the pandemic posed a lot of challenges which they had to navigate.
“COVID-19 gave us challenges in various aspects, one of which was the scheduling of our tournaments,” he explained.
“When we originally planned our season, we had scheduled to host some of our tournaments outside Gaborone,” Motswasele said.
“However, when the pandemic hit and Gaborone was declared a red zone, we had to reschedule and host all our tournaments in Gaborone.”
“Our reasoning was that as most of our players are from the Greater Gaborone zone, it would be risky to have them all cross into other zones which could have helped spread the disease,” the BTTA Publicity Secretary said.
Motswasele said another aspect they had to change was with regards to play as the BTTA had to cancel all doubles’ games and only play singles.
He said this also extended to limiting a number of people who enter the match venues in order to adhere to COVID-19 regulations governing the number of people allowed in a particular venue at one time.
“We had to adapt and this also meant that teams and supporters could not get the opportunity to watch how their players performed,” he said.
Despite all this, he said the BTTA adapted very well and had a great success in scheduling their season and tournaments, something which he said immensely improved the standard and quality of play.
“For the first time, we had a company, Phoenix Assurance Group, sponsoring our entire season. This meant the prize monies were constant and players knew they were guaranteed a certain amount if they won,” he gushed.
“As such, we also had a season where for the first time, one of our players Tshepiso Rebatenne managed to walk away with a P25 000 cash prize during one of our tournaments.”
Concerning the limit on the number of people gathering in a venue, Motswasele said the BTTA invested in a large screen which they could use for outdoor viewing.
“Going forward, we will still use this screen to beam our games for all those who are outside the playing venue,” he declared.
With other sports in a hiatus, Motswasele said BTTA’s ability to adapt and reschedule put the sport back in the media limelight as they enjoyed a better coverage.
“We had a large coverage from the media, both print and broadcast. Through our collaborations, we were able also to livestream our games and we also got coverage from Botswana Television,” he said.
Motswasele said as such, they had a greater audience than usual and many people have since then shown interest in Table Tennis.
“We have had a very good response from Batswana and some have even reached out to us expressing a desire to associate with the sport,” he said.
Motswasele went on to add that the extended media coverage has also pleased BTTA sponsors as they have had a greater mileage and exposure in the different media platforms.
“Given all these, we had a very good season despite the challenges that came with it,” the BTTA publicity secretary concluded.