It was supposed to be the pinnacle of their fledgling athletics careers, a dream come true. It was supposed to be a chance to rub shoulders and gauge their development against that of their peers in the world.
However, on the eve of their expected departure to the IAAF World Under 20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, Botswana’s next track greats received devastating news that the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) had pulled a plug on their trip.
The long hours of toil, preparing for what would be a once in a lifetime experience of their youth careers were in vein. Their dreams were up in smoke, a dream deferred.
According to sources close to the athletes, the cancellation of the trip has left the young athletes devastated, leaving their coaches worried for the futures of their youthful products.
All this because the BNSC had at the last minute informed Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) there were no funds to take the team to the championships.
Speaking in an interview, junior national team Coach Chilume Ntshwarang alluded that his youthful charges were devastated at the news as they had worked hard in preparations and were looking forward to competing at the championships.
According to Ntshwarang, for many of the athletes, the chance to compete would have been the highlight of their youth careers.
“The youngsters are the future Olympic starts and to be denied opportunity to compete in the world stage like their peers is a drawback. Some of the team members next are graduating into the senior team and they would have missed the opportunity at junior level,” said Ntshwarang.
“The fault is not on our said it is on the side of the administrators that led to the team failing to go to Finland,” the junior athletics national team coach said.
While Ntshwarang was reluctant to delve further, Sunday Standard has turned up information that BAA and BNSC are to blame for the failure.
It is said while BNSC had all along given an impression that the team would travel to compete despite lack of funds, it is said that on the day the team was expected to leave for South Africa to make visas, they were informed the trip was cancelled.
“Prior to all cancellation, BNSC had adviced that we reduce the number of athletes we would be taking to Finland as there was not enough monies. It was a difficult situation but we decided to drop our young women’s 4X100m relay,” a source revealed.
“We were however surprised when on the eve of the team’s expected departure to South Africa we were informed by the BNSC, through BAA that there were no funds to take the team to Finland,” the source said.
On why the BNSC would declare there were no monies to take the team to Finland barely three months since the start of the budget year in April, one source close to athletics said the answers lie at the door of the BAA.
According to the source, the most plausible answer would be that the BAA had depleted its grant from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC).
“At the start of each financial year, BAA receives a P1 million grant from BNSC. These monies are kept at the BNSC but are to be used by the BAA for the entire year,” the source revealed.
“What usually happens is that when the BAA needs to do something, they apply for funds from the BNSC. If the request is granted, the monies are drawn from the grant and given to the BAA,” he said.
“When the BNSC therefore tells you that there are no funds, what they mean is that you have depleted the grants you were given at the start of the financial year,” the source said.
With barely three months gone since the financial year started, the source said it would therefore be surprising if the association had depleted the grant.
“The question is what the BAA could have done with the monies from their grant. What we have learnt thus far is that they spent more than P400 000 sending a youth team to South Africa, which by any means is a large chunk off the grant monies disbursed to them. We are still waiting for reports on how the monies were spent,” said the source.
It is alleged that with finances being so tight, the BAA was caught in a tough corner and the BNSC informed them they had to make a choice, either they go to the World championships and the senior team will not have funds to go to Senior Africa Championship in August and vice versa.
Another blunder made by the BAA was its decision to convert sponsorship granted to the association by the IAAF to take four athletes to compete at the youth championships into monies to pay for team accommodation in Tampere.
“The BAA had been given an allocation to send four junior athletes, all expenses paid, to travel to Finland to compete. The BAA then chose to convert these monies to pay for team accommodation, hoping they would get monies from the BNSC to pay for other expenses and this backfired. Had they not converted the monies, they would have had to pay for only two athletes and the team would have left,” said the source.
The non appearance of team Botswana will have negative effect on the country going forward.
Botswana sport is often prone to controversy due to administrative errors that deny athletes opportunity to shine with their peers at the world stage.