With only three months before the start of the 18th edition of the UFAK Championships in Gaborone, Botswana Karate Association (BoKA) has hit the ground running to start preparations for the annual tournament.
The official launch of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and unveiling of medal designs was conducted by the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development Tshekedi Khama on Wednesday.
The tournament is slated for July 12- 14, 2019 and the rest of African karate countries are expected to descend on Botswana to fight for supremacy in kata and Kumite in various categories.
The LOC is chaired by Lebogang Gaobakwe with Mpho Bakwadi as Tournament Director and Union Kgafela - Technical Director and Mpho Moatshe as Finance & Administration Coordinator, with other representatives overseeing various roles.
BoKA has already hosted numerous national team selections to assemble a strong team which will represent the country during the tournament. The last round of the national team qualifiers are slated for Ledumang Senior Secondary School on March 30. Karate is one of the most consistent and best performing sports codes in the country, considering their performances at international events.
The senior national team won five medals; two silver and three bronze at the UFAK Championships in Rwanda, Kigali last year and went on to win a total of 16 medals (3 gold, 6 silver, 7 bronze) at the Commonwealth Karate Championships in South Africa.
Minister Khama has hailed it is an honour for Botswana to be awarded the rights to host the tournament.
“It is an honour for Botswana to be given the privilege to host this year’s championship. We, therefore, express our gratitude to the UFAK leadership for entrusting us with the honour of hosting this event and therefore we commit to delivering this event to standard and to the expectations of all enthusiasts. When it was announced that we have been given the hosting rights we were overjoyed because we are adamant that Botswana deserve to host and to be able to reaffirm our commitment to the growth of karate,”Khama said.
Botswana has hosted high profile international events in recent years including Netball Youth World Cup, International Women’s Group on Women and Sports Conference and Africa Youth Games.
However, according to Khama hosting UFAK will remain a highlight for Botswana this year since karate has been just admitted at the Olympics.
“This will forever remain one of the greatest milestones for us. We truly recognise the significance of this tournament particularly as a gateway to the World Beach Games and Tokyo 2020 Olympics where karate will be participating for the first time at the games. This means as a country we have to ensure that we give the athletes the closest experience to what they can experience in Japan,” he said.
Khama further assured BoKA and the LOC of government‘s commitment and support in ensuring that the games remains successful.
“We look forward to receiving the UFAK member countries in our home ground and pledge to provide the utmost hospitality we can and the best experience ever. Therefore the hope is that this team (LOC) will mobilise resources and most importantly create interest of the private sector towards making active participation in sports from now onwards. In addition I assure you my support, every challenge you face and help you need I’m available to help,” said Khama.
LOC chairperson Lebogang Gaobakwe accepted the challenge and promised to deliver a world class event together with her team.
“I believe this team is highly competitive to deliver an event of this magnitude and therefore with this kind of leadership of karate we will be able to succeed. So we are going out there to show the rest of Africa and the world what we are made of. We are going to give a tournament that is well organized; so we accept the challenge,”said Gaobakwe.