Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Fencing losing big time…

The toll of the coronavirus on local sport has been recorded, but for newly formed sporting codes and clubs like fencing, the devastation has been catastrophic.

While fencing was established in the country exactly a decade ago in 2010, it was only in 2014 that the sport took root, thanks to the country hosting the 2nd Africa Youth Games.

However, as the coronavirus continues to stall sport, fencing clubs, which are under the Botswana Amateur Fencing Federation (BAFF) are taking a strain.

For Karabo Thobega of Thobega Fencing Academy,’ there is a palpable fear that if the virus drags on, it will be difficult for academies such as his to survive.

When the academy opened its doors in 2017, Thobega says the intention ‘was to help the government in engaging young Batswana in taking part in different sporting code, which in turn would also be a source of income.’ 

From its establishment, the academy grew steadily and it boasted at least thirty (30) active athletes prior to the arrival of the coronavirus.

These hard gains however took a heavy hit when the coronavirus arrived in the country and sporting activities were stopped.

Subsequent efforts at resuming are proving difficult as most parents have taken a decision to stop taking their kids for training due to the spike in coronavirus infections. 

“From thirty athletes, the academy now has only seven active athletes as parents stopped bringing kids for training due to the new normal of covid-19,” Thobega explained.

This he says has had unwanted effects as club members paid monthly subscriptions which helped maintain the academy. 

For fencing in general, the development is also catastrophic as the academy was more focused on the development of grassroots level. 

‘when I formed this academy, my intention was to introduce the sport of fencing to the country and to aid its development from grassroots level,” he explained.

His vision was for the academy to be able to produce professional fencers who would ultimately represent the country in both local and international competition.

Now as the sport battles coronavirus and is at a standstill, the 23-year-old Thobega knows the sport will have a hard time getting a buy in from Batswana.

This will not be easy as, according to Thobega, most Batswana believe the sport is for white people while others are reluctant to join ‘because fencing is expensive.’

While Thobega differs with the opinion the sport is for natives, it is the issue of the affordability of the sport which he cannot dispute. 

“We have level 1 and 2 equipment; level 1 is for training and local competitions a complete suit for this level is around P3 500.00. level 2 equipment which is for international competition is between P13 000.00 to P15 000.00 complete suit. When a player attends international competitions, they are required to have three or more weapons mind you one weapon cost between P2 400.00 to P2 800.00,” he said. 

Even though it is this expensive Thobega highlighted that the mother body of fencing, International Fencing Federation (FIE) donates equipment’s to African countries yearly. 

Adding that the equipment is given to countries which the sport is still growing and expanding and Botswana is one of those countries receiving this assistance. 

“As it stands, my plan is to do more advertisements and more demonstration’s in malls, schools and around the city and surrounding areas, hopefully this will revive the sport,” he concluded.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.