The Botswana National Sports Commission, has spent in excess of P13million on Team Botswana for the AUSC Region 5 Games, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development ,Tumiso Rakgare, has said.
Rakgare was speaking at the sending-off ceremony for the team in Gaborone this week where the minister said Team Botswana will not be aiming for a top three finish at the Games inspite of the considerable amount of money spent on preps .
“I must hasten to state that notwithstanding the significant financial investment we have made and the robustness of our preparations in the midst of the challenges, Batswana should know that this time around we will not be fighting to finish in the top three in the region,” he said.
This is so because of a change of philosophy and approach to development of athletes, Minister Rakgare added. “We are no longer looking at each games as an end in themselves but rather as means to a far greater goal,” he said. “As a result, for the Maseru 2020 Games, we have intentionally selected younger athletes than those we usually send to the AUSC Region 5 Games.
“It is our intention to go far beyond this December with the team and to nurture them over the years such that come 2027 and 2028, they will be doing Botswana proud at the Africa Cup of Nations in football and the Los Angeles Olympic Games respectively!”
The country has sent a delegation of 239 people to Maseru – 174 athletes and 65 officials across 11 sports disciplines. Athletics, Athletics for the Disabled, Basketball, Boxing, Football, Judo, Netball, Swimming, Taekwondo, Tennis and Volleyball are the codes.
Formerly known as the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa (SCSA) Zone V Games, the AUSC Games were originally scheduled for 4 to 13 December 2020 in Maseru before the COVID-19 pandemic brought all sports to a screeching halt. The Games were subsequently rescheduled for 3 to 12 December 2021 in the Lesotho capital that hugs the Caledon River.
The AUSC Games take place on a biennial basis and target athletes under the age of 20 from sporting codes like football, athletics and netball. Botswana finished third at the 2018 AUSC Games which were held in Gaborone where the country ‘hoarded’ 69 medals, including 12 golds.
The AUSC Region 5 Games have become a key development component and springboard for athletes, several of whom have passed through them to international stardom. Among them are Botswana’s Nigel Amos and Naomi Ruele and South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk.
Meanwhile, Rakgare used the send-off ceremony to give an assurance that his ministry and the Ministry of Basic Education are working hard to bring back school sports. He said school sports is important as it is where most young athletes get a chance to showcase their talent and teachers get to select the best. School sports were suspended “owing to budgetary constraints”.