By Duncan Kgangkenna
Sport is one of the avenues that can be used to diversify the economy and platform to reduce the scourge of high unemployment among the youth. The contribution of what sport can do in the economy and to the nation has not gone unnoticed to Botswana’s political leadership.
In responding to the State of The Nation Address (SONA) by president Mokgweetsi Masisi, Leader Of Opposition (LOO), Duma Boko said there is need to accelerate the commercialization of sport.
“We should commercialise Sport and culture. Young people are working hard to use their creative abilities and talents to earn a living and employ others,” Boko told parliament.
He observed that without Government intervention and support, it will take ages for sports and the creative arts to contribute maximally to wealth and employment creation.
The LOO advised that there is need to start by sharpening young talent identification and development processes to ensure that no gifted children go unnoticed.
Boko who is also the Member of Parliament for Bonnington North advocated for proper recognition of teachers and for them to be motivated by giving them some allowances as recognition for their contribution towards sport development.
“Government should improve incentive for teachers who are involved in sport as coaches, talent scouts and managers. Government should rapidly improve sports infrastructure across the country as well as facilitate sponsorships for outstanding sports people” Boko advocated for sports persons to be rewarded.
Government will be building ten sporting community stadia across the country during the current financial year as a way of improving infrastructure and improving on sports development programme.
On the contentious issue of allowances and incentives towards athletes he is of the view that government should review incentives for sports persons and involve private companies to chart clear paths to financial security for athletes who excel.
The outspoken Boko noticed that local athletes retire into poverty despite their contribution that has made the nation proud by wining international competitions and bring glory to the nation.
“Outstanding athletes and national team players should not retire into poverty. There are a number of former national soccer team players who suffered career-ending injuries while on duty for the national team. They must be fully assisted and taken care of,” he recommended remedy that will stop the sporting bodies from neglecting former players.
Boko want former athletes to be recognized and taken serious, “In other countries where sport is regarded with some seriousness, former elite sports persons are engaged as commentators and in various other roles related to their sport.” He further explained that it is only in Botswana where our former elite sports persons are ignored or sidelined.
The UDC leader, want the allowances for all athletes who make the national team be reviewed and a proper reward system introduced.
According to Boko athletes must be rewarded sufficiently for them to see sport as a potential source of livelihood and financial security. “It is totally unacceptable for a footballer, for instance, to play for the Zebras for years and retire into poverty. Our sports people are uniquely positioned to market our country” he explained.
He is of the view that when people put in an effort and make sacrifices to develop themselves well enough to play for the national team and carry the national flag government should reward them for marketing the country.