Hoops in local netball courts have turned into weeping posts as some administrators and players bemoan the exclusion of Botswana Under 21 National Netball team players from the national team that will be competing at the Mission Foods 6 Nations Tournament in Singapore.
With the country’s under 21 netballers preparing for the 2017 Youth World Cup, which will be held in Botswana, many expected members of the under 21 team to dominate the national team.
However, eyebrows were raised as the Botswana Netball Association (BONA) left out most of the youthful players from the team. Only three Under 21 players made the cut for the national team.
It has since emerged that despite the need to drill the youngsters and hone their skills for the Youth world Cup, BONA could not risk sending an inexperienced side to a tournament that falls within the rankings parameter. This follows the recent dismal performance by the senior team resulting in dropping places in the international rankings radar.
‘’Our expectations were that BONA would send the youngsters to the tournament as part of their preparations but that was not the case. BONA had other ideas. They felt that since competition is marked for international rankings they could not risk sending a team that has not had enough international exposure,” junior team coach Setshedi Mmopi told The Telegraph.
She revealed that the team’s preparations are lagging behind and there isn’t enough time to play catch up before the spectacular. ‘’Preparations for the World cup team are very slow; we have not gained the requisite momentum. We should have learnt from what happened during the qualifiers when we had little time to prepare. Without international match practices we will continue to scout for more talent around the country to strengthen the squad where there is need,” said Mmopi.
For her part, BONA President Tebogo Lebotse Sebego said they were aware that the junior team needed to advance their preparation and the international tournament presented an opportunity.
‘’Taking the junior team to Singapore would have been our preference but we had to consider the country ranking. The Under 21 team’s preparation is a key priority and we have started a program to prepare the youngsters,” said Lebotse Sebego.
She however explained that, ‘a lot of work still needs to be done to get Botswana ready to host the international spectacle. In terms of netball operations in the technical delivery of the games and netball services I am confident we are on the right track but more work is required on the commercial, sponsorship and marketing strategies,” concluded Lebotse Sebego
The Botswana netball team will be departing this week for the tournament which is slated for the 4th -10th September at the OCBC Arena in Singapore.
The tournament will feature host nation Singapore, Canada, Ireland, Papua New Guinea and neighbours Zambia. The tournament has over the years been a platform for nations to test their mettle against the best in the World and a developmental structure for upcoming nations in the world of netball.