The Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) held its first national team selection trials at the BOKA Hall on February 18.
While many young and talented karatekas tried their luck to make the national team, a few unlucky ones had to watch from the sidelines as they did not have the money to pay for the participation fee.
Under the current BOKA national team selection system, aspiring national team karatekas are expected to pay P150 to be allowed go on trial to qualify to wear the blue and black of Botswana, a process which is likely to deny talented athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to be part of the national teams.
Reached for comment, BOKA said while it sympathised with the athletes who may find themselves under such circumstances, it is the responsibility of athletes to ensure they have the needed participation fee.
“It is a general practice that for any championship, there has to be a participation fee. This is a standard practice in karate. Whether it is the Zone 6, continental or world championships, athletes are expected to pay a participation fee,” BOKA Public Relations Officer Jerry Ditlhong explained.
“Our athletes and their clubs already know this system. It is therefore the responsibility of individual athletes and their clubs to ensure they have to pay participation fees to compete in the national team selection trial,” he continued.
According to the BOKA PRO, the payment by the athletes is not only a show of commitment but also helps BOKA to raise funds to be used to help cover the costs of competitions.
Asked whether this system did not exclude athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds, Ditlhong said as an association, BOKA took due care to ensure that talented athletes were not cast aside.
“Where we are aware that talented athletes may not make it in the national teams due to lack of funds, we make special dispensations to ensure they can compete,” the BOKA PRO said.
Despite the assertions of the BOKA PRO that clubs are content with the system, a little digging has revealed that not all are happy with the current national team selection system.
Reached for comment, Botswana Kaufman Federation instructor, Sensei George Shikora, said he was not a proponent of the current system.
“Personally, I do not see it fit for athletes to pay to trial for selection into the national team. For me, that is more like we are selling the national team,” Shikora opined.
Shikora is of the opinion that just like any other trial for the national teams, selection into the karate national team should be accessible to all athletes irrespective of their family backgrounds.
“What about athletes from the disadvantaged backgrounds? Are we saying that since they cannot afford a participation fee they should not be part of the national teams? For me, athletes’ talent should be the deciding factor. If we continue with this system, we will end up with a situation where we take quantity over quality to our national teams,” he said.
For another instructor, Sensei Union Kaela, while the current selection process has always been in place, it should be reviewed.
“If things were going smoothly, there should be no payment of participation fee for an athlete to trial for the national team. This concept on its own is already losing the karate national team some talent and needs to be looked into,” Kaela said.
He said as the local karate federations, they were still trying to have dialogue among themselves to find a solution to the problem.
“We are looking at the situation,” he said.
Meanwhile, both Shikora and Kaela say as clubs, they are always scrambling around to ensure that their athletes can attend national team trials.
Both said they were not aware of situations where BOKA had allowed athletes without participation fees to compete at the national team selection trials.