When I was growing up in Francistown, I used to admire a lot of international athletes because they were so talented and went about their trade so well. They inspired me every day to wish for great things and work hard on a day to day basis.
My all-time favourite is Muhammad Ali, whom we all remember by his famous quote, ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, the hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see”.
My favourite quote of his which I used to repeat almost daily with my friends is…’I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick; I am so mean I make medicine sick.’
His courage and comfort and confidence can only remind me of Nijel Amos, true champions have confidence and they express themselves fully.
In those days we were called the whipping boys of Africa and the rest of the world. I admired so many athletes because there was not many to admire at home. The list is endless, Mike Tyson, Michael Johnson, Diego Maradona and so many other athletes.
It seemed we had no hope until the first President of the Republic of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama said something that lifted us and gave us the hope we had always desired.
He said…”it will not be long before we dethrone the Russians of their medals and the English of their World Cup trophy.
Following those words, we moved with exigency to put systems in place for the development of sport, we all came together and worked as a team. Parents, teachers, private sector, supporters and all those who had a desire to win.
I was having a discussion with a teacher of mine the other day and he told me that he will not be assisting in sport development as much as he would have loved to because they have resolved to wait a bit. I then told him that he must not confuse a job with the three most important things in a person’s life and those are; DUTY, HONOUR and PRIVILEGE. We have a duty to our country and our people, it’s an honour to develop a champion and make the better of a human being and it is a privilege to be part of success and brings pride to yourself and your country. We must not get these things twisted.
Today we beam with pride as we have developed athletes who dominate the world stage. We have athletes who are household names and they are the best in what they do. The list is endless, Amantle Montsho, Nigel Amos, Isaac Makwala, Ofentse Bakwadi, Ofentse Nato, I can go on the whole night and never stop. Let me break it down to you how good these athletes are;
In 1981, Lord Sebastian Coe set an 800m world record at the age of 25, an achievement that got him to be knighted by the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth. In 2012, at the age of 18, a young boy from Marobela matched the record at the Olympic Games in London. This is how good our athletes are.
We have to sustain this feat and this will be the mark that clearly indicates that we are great, that is why I have made it a point that this year I award the future, I award development, I award young people who are so talented that in the next eight years we will continue to dominate the world. These rising stars are Karabo Sibanda from Athletics and Ofentse Nato from football. These young people are talented and we will continue nurturing them to be true champions.
Solly Reikeletseng, the chairperson of the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC), speaking during the recent Sports Awards