Athletes from nine Southern African countries will descend on Botswana next week for the Confederation of University and Colleges Sports Associations (CUCSA) Games scheduled for Gaborone from June 18- 22.
With only the exception of representatives from Mozambique, who were yet to confirm participation, the athletes will compete in 11 different sporting codes. Only softball, karate and badminton have been excluded from the competition because they could not raise the minimum number of four countries required to qualify for inclusion.
Oozing with confidence Herbert Letsebe, the President of Botswana Tertiary Students Sports Association (BOTESSA) – the hosts of the regional championships – told journalists midweek that preparations are complete and they are ready for the games. "194 athletes from different codes have been selected for Team Botswana and will be participating. We have already had a camp in Serowe, and the second one will be in Lobatse from June 11-15 where we expect all codes to be represented," said Letsebe, adding that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has availed doctors and nurses to take care of the team.
The games will be played at the University of Botswana (UB) sports arena, which will also serve as the Athletes Village. The Local Organising Committee (LOC), led by Thapelo Pabalinga, will unveil CUCSA games sponsors in the coming week ahead of the tournament. The LOC head said they have not covered their entire budget and have been struggling to secure more sponsors to cover everything. "What we have done is to ensure that Team Botswana and all its preparations are done and done well despite the challenges. We are still looking and asking for support from any who are willing to help," said Pabalinga.
Despite the challenges the LOC has promised to deliver a high profile 2018 CUCSA Games tournament that will be officially opened by President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Elite athletes, among them Baboloki Thebe, Amantle Montsho, Mogakolodi Ngele have been used in a campaign to promote the games by pledging their support.
Pabalinga said on Friday that preparations are going well. "Team Botswana is going on camp on Monday 11 June at the University of Botswana. The team is up-beat and their coaches as well. We are confident we will make the country proud and with that I mean win lots of medals".
He said they are expecting 1500 athletes across all codes. For the first time in 2018 rugby will be represented in CUCSA Games, which shows growth. Although Mozambique had still not confirmed by Friday the LOC remain positive that the issue will be sorted in the near future. On prospects for Team Botswana being the host compared to past competitions,
Pabalinga said they have set the target high.
"We have one target, to become the eventual champions of CUCSA 2018 Games. We have the pedigree and committed athletes to achieve such. It will not be easy but all indications are that Team Botswana will put its best foot forward," he said, reiterating that all venues are ready, secured and in the best condition for the games. "We do have enough venues and will comfortably run the games with facilities in Gaborone".
Pabalinga said the mood in the team is great, "our athletes are up for the games and want to do the country proud". He said the LOC is also upbeat despite the challenges they are encountering but their commitment to see the games succeed is unquestionable. "As the LOC Chairman I couldn’t have asked for a better team, it’s well balanced between sports, arts, administration, corporate and this is useful as the diversity in the committee has benefited the games".
To the athletes and supporters, he said: "We are extremely thankful to Government of Botswana for lending its support for the games and in particular mention the head of State His Excellency Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi who will officially open the games on Monday 18 June 2018. The public is invited and gates will open from 3 pm. As for the athletes, we urge them to do their best, no pressure, they have been prepared well and it’s their time to shine and we wish them all the best, with God on our side everything is possible".