Tirelo Mukokomani steps down as Botswana softball Association (BSA) president in a few months’ time as a happy man. He has led the association for the past five years. Mukokomani is more than happy with the progress at the association though he admits more still needs to be done. When he took up the office in 2012 his main priority was to focus on the development of talent, improve infrastructural and develop human capital.
Under his watch the BSA has seen a promising infrastructural development with the National Diamond stadium getting a facelift to take it to international standards. The Diamond Stadium got laid with a better turf and provided with flood lights. This development – according to him – brought significant improvement to the game of softball as games are now played any time. He said after this development more spectators came to the games. This development which came at the support of the Japanese government. Mukokomani revealed that the stadium is undergoing further refurbishment to improve the flood lights as well as the lawn. “We are currently working on the irrigation system at the stadium to improve the quality and the standard of the lawn. The exercise is expected to be completed next month,” he said. He said they are considering to improve the general outlook of the stadium by adding facilities as dressing rooms and ablution blocks to cater for the number of people that are now coming to their games.
While he acknowledges that there is great talent in softball locally he admitted that they have not done as well as he would have wanted. He said for the last two years they have struggled with youth development as they did not have a suitable Technical Director. Nonetheless he feels that with the remaining time in office, it is not too late to achieve what he set himself to. Under his leadership BSA has been able to start Re Ba Bona Ha programme in Gaborone. The programme, which is meant to identify and nurture talent at grassroots level, was recently started in Maun where a total of 300 children were registered. “We are hoping to open more centres around the country in order to push for accelerated youth development. We are looking to partner with SOS in the Botswana to give all children equal opportunities to the game of softball,” said Mukokomani. Over the years, eight new teams have joined BSA with the ninth being reviewed currently. Mukokomani said all the teams are made up of youth players who can fly the national flag high if given proper nurturing and development. He said they intend to accelerate human development which include players, officials, coaches and umpires. In January BSA will be conducting a coaching clinic for coaches in order to close the technical gaps that have been visible. The coaching clinic will be conducted by a USA coach.
Currently under the sponsorship of Botswana Fibre Network (BOFINET), BSA has got a great partner in development. Mukokomani hailed BOFINET for being very keen on development, saying this will help the association achieve all their planned developmental activities. BOFINET has offered BSA a three-year sponsorship worth P1.5 million a year. Part of the money of the sponsorship deal that is on its final year has been used in upgrading the National Diamond Stadium. “We are very lucky to have BOFINET on our side as they are helping us very much in the development of the game of softball locally,” he said. Mukokomani said while there is still a year to go in the current deal discussions have already started on the possibility of the next one. He believes that the sponsor will not want to walk away from a product that is starting to show growth. The president said it is very important for BSA to maintain a good relationship with the sponsors as they are instrumental in the growth of softball locally.
In recent years Botswana softball has seen an enormous recognition from the international arena. Local national teams have also impressed at international competitions. In 2016 the U-19 team went to the junior men World Softball Championships in Michigan, USA where they did very well. The senior men national team also invaded Canada during the Softball World Championships. The team, which was led by Coach Pako Maforaga, re-wrote history books by finishing in the Top 8. Botswana caused upsets by beating highly placed teams like Britain in the campaign. This saw the team improving from position 19 to position 8 after the championships. Furthermore, World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) delegates will be descending into Botswana for the WBSC congress to be held in October 2017. For WBSC to have awarded hosting rights to Botswana is assign that the international body has massive trust in BSA and that the local softball body continues to make a mark in the international arena to get this recognition.
According to Mukokomani, all these achievements did not come easy. He said there were challenges that included frustrations from Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) as well as infightings. “We, however, were able to manoeuvre around these to push through with our mandate. This was made possible by the strong relationship that has always been there between the leadership and the affiliates,” he said. Furthermore, he believes that his passion for softball has helped a lot. He said for him sport is not a part time thing as he puts his every fibre in what he does for the development of the game. He expects everyone that work with him to be equally committed, hence they have been able to make these achievements. Mukokomani admitted that they will always be differences and infightings as no committee can ever be without them. The no-nonsense leader, however, said he was not afraid to remove anyone who did not show commitment to their mandate. “I did it once as I believe that people should all be committed to this cause. The problem is that some get into sport for fun and these are the things that hinder proper development,” said Mukokomani. He further rebuked those how form factions, saying it is a waste of time and counter-productive.
Next year elections
With Mukokomani not seeking re-election, the BSA congress will be looking replace him in April 2018. Though only a few months remain it is still unclear who will take up the reigns. Even Mukokomani himself did not want to be drawn into discussing this matter. He could only say it will be up to the affiliates to decide who they choose to lead them. He nonetheless said he will not be lost to softball as he will be available for advice if it is needed. However, unconfirmed reports are that the current BSA Vice president and secretary general are harbouring interest in running for the position.