As the curtain is about to fall on the year 2006, it will be covering a year that was filled with both happiness and atrocious developments in the sports fraternity. Other sports codes had a financial windfall while others saw themselves struggling with sponsorships throughout the year. Other codes made visits to the courts of law their daily routine. Sunday Standard sports journalist Tshepho Bogosing looks at some of the memorable sports events of the year 2006.
Undoubtedly, football still remains the most followed and popular sport in the country. There were some historical achievements within the football fraternity, especially from the senior national team, the Zebras. It all started in October this year when they held reigning African champions, Egypt, to a goalless draw at the national stadium. It was the best ever results for Botswana. Prior to the Egyptian game, the results that were seen as the Zebras’ best was in 1990 when they held the indomitable Lions of Cameroon to a goalless draw during the independence celebrations. That was the year when Cameroon was just fresh from their memorable run at the World Cup. At the World Cup, Cameroon made a huge impact by becoming the first African team to reach the quarterfinals. But when they were playing Botswana, they did not even bring a fraction of their World Cup squad. Egypt on the other hand brought a full-fledged squad in which about 95 percent of the players ply their trade in top leagues across the globe. Some of their lethal players included Ahmed Hossam Mido who plays in the English Premier League.
Previously, the North African countries always defeated the Zebras heavily. It can be remembered that in the past campaign for both the 2006 Africa and World cup, the Zebras were also pitted against the then African champions, Tunisia. Tunisia clobbered the Zebras 4-1 at home before wrapping it up in Gaborone with a 3-1 win. Egypt might have come with the same mentality, but they met tough resistance.
Another historical result for the Zebras was in May during the Council for Southern African Football (COSAFA) tournament. Botswana qualified for the semi-finals for the first time since its inception in 1997 by beating South Africa 7-6 in a penalty shoot out. It was also the first time that Botswana defeated their hoodoo team since South Africa’s re-admission into FIFA in 1992.
Another unforgettable highlight of this year that nearly messed up local football was the protracted battle between Township Rollers, BDF XI and Botswana Football Association (BFA) that ended up at the high court. Things started in the run up to the semi-finals of the Coca-Cola cup between BDF XI and Township Rollers. Rollers alleged that BDF XI’s Zambian international, Simakwenzi, was a defaulter. This resulted in him being barred from the game at the last minute and BDF XI appealed against his exclusion and won. A replay was ordered but Rollers did not honour it and BDF XI was granted a passage to the finals and that irked Rollers.
Rollers then went to court to stop the final between BDF XI and Notwane, but their urgent application was thrown out. Rollers faced the possibility of being expelled from soccer activities because football matters are not supposed to go to court. Rollers flouted the rules again by going to the court for the second time seeking to nullify the out come of the final that Notwane had won by a 2-1 goal margin.
In the end, however, the differences between the three bodies ended up being resolved amicably out of court after some of the country’s respected elders intervened. Had they not resolved their differences out of court, the BFA faced possible sanctions from FIFA.
Volleyball and Softball
The year 2006 is one which both the Volleyball and Softball bodies would like to forget quickly. It was even more painful for volleyball because it unexpectedly lost some of its major sponsorships. The ladies league sponsors, Top One Mageu, were nowhere to be seen but JB Sports came to the rescue.
The sponsors for the men’s league, Mascom, also pulled out and league had to be cut short. Efforts to look for an alternative sponsor by the Botswana Volleyball Federation proved futile. However, mining giants, Debswana ended up stepping in by sponsoring a tournament that was held early this month.
Softball had to cancel their league activities for this year and only organised about three tournaments. On the other hand, the Botswana’s ladies national softball team participated at this year’s World Championships tournament in Beijing, China, where they lost all their games horrendously.
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The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) had a bad year off the field. They had their name tarnished by allegations that one of the famous and successful female athletes, Tshotlego Morama, might be a man. There were even reports that Morama, who is a Paralympics gold medal winner, fathered a child with another lady in Tonota. The Botswana National Sports Council ended up taking the newspaper that broke the story to the courts of law. Nevertheless, the BBA did not find it difficult to acquire sponsorships. They held several successful tournaments.
Basketball also struggled to attract sponsorships this season. But they had to dig deep into their pockets for the league to progress. Maybe they can serve as an example to other codes that are struggling with sponsorships.
Two of the country’s top boxers retired from the sport. The duo of Lechedzani Master Luza and Dirang Thipe believed they had played their role and it was time to give youngsters a chance. Luza is the country’s most successful boxer in the amateur ranks and succeeded where many failed. He is the first ever boxer to win a silver medal, which he did at the 2002 Commonwealth Games that were held in Manchester. Locally, he has won almost everything. Thipe, on the other hand, has not been successful at the international level although he did well locally.