What started as a mere ripple, a lone call to corporates operating in Botswana to help local athletes, has now turned into a wave. Following years of operating in obscurity and behind the scenes, local sports administrators have decried the private sector’s reluctance to help local athletes prepare for major games, only to turn up with incentives when athletes have won medals.
Now, following the country’s success at the recently ended Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the call has now been actively taken up as athletes, along with various government ministries.
Speaking recently, Botswana men’s 200m and 400m record holder Isaac Makwala called on corporates to support local athletes during their preparation for competitions.
“Lack of support during preparations really affects us as athletes. For athletes who have no financial help, it is a real struggle to finance yourself to even get to training. If you fail to get results, you get disheartened,” Makwala said.
“Preparations to qualify for games take a very long time. Right now, we are starting preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and this is the time we really need sponsors to come on board,” he explained.
“It is a good thing and a good gesture by corporates to give us incentives after we do well, but we really wish they could start helping us now when we need them the most,” said the reigning commonwealth 400m champion.
The same sentiments were echoed by Makwala’s fellow 400m athlete and 2018 Commonwealth Game silver medallist Baboloki Thebe.
Speaking during a handover of Orange devices to athletes who were part of team Botswana at the Commonwealth Games, Thebe said while they appreciate every gift they receive, the athletes would be even happy if they could be helped during preparations.
It is the very same message which has been spread by different government ministers, led by the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development Thapelo Olopeng as well as the Assistant Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso, who is also the patron of Botswana Netball Association (BONA).
Speaking during various handover ceremonies of incentives to athletes who excelled at the recent Commonwealth Games, Olopeng implored the private sector to lend a hand during the athletes’ preparations for major games.
Olopeng said private sector should not only be seen to have interest when athletes have performed well, but should partner with the government to develop sport in the country.
The same sentiments were uttered by Tshireletso during the recent launch of My Spar Botswana Netball League sponsorship.
“We have seen how the private sector gets excited whenever our athletes make a mark on the world stage. They too want to be at the forefront of celebrating our athletes’ performance,” Tshireletso said.
“However, there are some in the private sector who are always ready to jump into the picture when it is time to celebrate triumphant stars but are always hiding at times when the same people are struggling to prepare to go for competition on the national and world stage,” she observed.
Tshireletso said by supporting the development of sports, ‘the private sector would be contributing towards the government’s strategies to create employment for our people.’