Volleyball coach Carlos Orta Fellove came to Botswana in 1996 only to go back to his native Cuba five years later. But Fellove left a positive mark for himself in Botswana. He is now back again in the country, hopefully, to accomplish another mission.
When Fellove took charge, performances of the national teams were appalling. The teams always lost to teams from neighbouring countries by wide margins. It was even worse when they engaged countries from North, East and West Africa.
When Fellove took the reigns, he was tasked with building a men’s team but with only a few experienced players. He built a strong side that went on to win a gold medal at a Sun City international tournament in Swaziland.
Currently, Fellove, who once had spells with Cuban national teams as both player and coach, is drilling the women’s national team. He is eying the regional Zone VI tournament that will be held in Namibia at the end of February. And he has made it clear that he wants to win the tournament because it is also a ticket to the All Africa Games that will be held in July.
“It is my dream to win a gold medal at the Zone VI tournament,” Fellove said, “and the way the players are responding to technical awareness and tactics is encouraging. If they can carry on like this we are going to be strong contenders for the gold medal.”
The Cuban, however, said his main worry is South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia and Mauritius because they normally give Botswana a torrid time.
Botswana goes to the tournament as defending champions after winning the tournament in 2005.
Some critics at the tournament dismissed Botswana’s victory, saying most strong teams like South Africa, Mauritius and Zambia did not pitch up. At this year’s tournament, almost all southern African countries are expected to compete as they seek passage to the All Africa Games.
Of the 23 players that first reported for camp, eight have been dropped and three more have to go.
Fellove admitted that reducing the team to the required number is a daunting task for him because all the players in camp have impressed him. He also added that, as a way to safeguard against injury, the final line-up of the team would be announced a few days before the tournament.
There have not been many changes in the team that won the tournament in 2005 at Otse Police College. As has been the case in the past, Mafolofolo and Kutlwano team players dominate the squad. Fellove has, however, made it clear that nobody is guaranteed a place and his selection would not be based on the history of the players, but on their current form.
“I look at several aspects when selecting the team. Some of them are physical, technical and discipline aware. If a player lacks one of them, her chances of making it to the final team are slim,” he said.
The coach has expressed concern about the height of local players. He said volleyball is a sport for tall people, but most local players are short. He added that the setting department is the one that gives him headaches because it is the one that really needs a tall player.
The player that is currently trained for the position is Tshwanelo Boitumelo, but she faces a daunting challenge. She has injured her knee at training and it is not known how long it would take to heal. At press time, doctors were yet to make a final decision on the extent of her injury.
Some of the common faces in the team are Dipolelo Nkele, Tshepho Serwe, Unami Tupani, Tebogo Sejewe, Tsholofelo Retshabile, Masego Hosea, and Daisy Golekanye.
The notable absentee is veteran Josephine Ntshinogang who has since called it a day.
One of the new faces in the team include the towering Lovvy Sazibu. Other players are, Gabaresepe Mashaole, Botshelo Kgogobi, Kelebogile Mahupela, Mosetsana Tumotumo, Monica Alfred and Keatlaretse Mpipi.
Mafolofolo coach, Kabo Ntshinogang, assists Fellove. Meanwhile, the men’s team is also gearing up for the tournament. They are also the defending champions and many people doubt whether they can make it at the tournament because their league was inactive throughout last year.