His first love in sports was boxing but when he was beaten up black and blue he vowed never to set foot in a boxing ring. He then set his sights in karate, a sport which saw him becoming a household name. Today Solly Reikeletseng is the man in charge of the Botswana National Sports Council but the road of his sporting career has not been smooth sailing.
He has won tournaments and hailed as a hero, he has lost and labeled a loser, he has cried tears of joy and sorrow but as he tells Sinqoe Tessa in this interview, sport and karate to be precise has taught him discipline and has made him resilient. And these have also helped him not only in sports but in running his business, Itekanele Health Scheme.
For the love of the games
You were recently announced the chairman of the Botswana National Sports Council, how does it feel?
I am still in shock, trying to come to terms with my new position because I was somehow caught by surprise.
So you didn’t see this coming, but you have been in the sports field for years now, sure you somehow wished to occupy such a seat?
Not at all, for me it’s not about positions but about developing sports in Botswana and making a difference in people lives through sports.
There is talk that you got this position because you are friends with people in higher offices, your take on that?
(Laughs) Knew that question was coming, the perception out there is that I am friends with the Minister of Sports and Culture, Shaw Kgathi, the Vice President and the President himself but tell you what, those are baseless allegation. My profile speaks volumes about what I have done in as far sports is concerned in this country so really I find it rather funny that there are some people who think I was favoured. And one thing that people have to understand is that my appointment was not done by one person, it’s a process that starts with recommendations from a departmental level until it’s approved by cabinet. My experience in sports is more than my age.
What are the challenges that lying ahead?
I have three main challenges, one-the fact that my predecessors are successful people who achieved a lot hence have to make sure that I maintain and even up the standards. Secondly, sport has grown in Botswana, we are now on the global map and hence we are now competing with the world and that comes with a lot of expectation. And remember we are talking about 32 sporting codes which are all affiliated to BNSC. Lastly, gone are the days when people were taken for granted in terms of sports information. Batswana are now so well informed about sports that one can never afford to wish wash them and say this has been done when it has not been.
What immediate changes are we likely to see at BNSC and sports fields in general?
It’s too early to say because we haven’t even met as a committee but what I can say is that by the time I clock my 100th day in office you will be able to judge me by the things I would have done.
Now that you are at the helm of BNSC, what legacy do you want to leave when you finally decide you have done your part?
I want to leave Botswana sports in a completely different level, a level that will changes lives for better. When I have long left I want to meet strangers who will come up and say thank you for the job I would have done. Nothing will ever make me happy than knowing that I touched many lives through developing sports. Sports is one thing where people go beyond their capabilities, where everyone involved is treated equally despite their background and would thus want to make sure that even those people who come from the most remote areas of Botswana get to realize their dreams if they are into sports.
What type of a leader are you?
People say I am a dictator and that I tend to believe that it’s my way or no way but I don’t think that is true. I believe in giving everyone a voice and chance and in listening to different views.
Football is dominating over other codes and it appears as there it’s the only sport in Botswana, what will you do to promote other codes?
Unfortunately that is the case not only here in Botswana but the world over but I will try my best to make sure other codes get the attention they deserve. Will work hand in hand with people involved and I am sure together we will get other codes out there to the people.
Botswana is faced with serious stadia problems, how do you think this can be best addressed?
This is a serious concern and we will sit down with the people involved to find out what the problem is exactly. It is only when I am fully aware of the issues that we can chart the way forward.
What has been the highlight of your sporting career?
They are quite a number but to mention just a few, when Botswana successful held Africa Junior Championships, I was the chairman of the local organizing committee and putting things together just put a big smile on my face. Seeing people that I trained, young people who passed through my hands becoming successful in their careers also gives me great joy.
And the lowest point?
When I lost the presidency of Botswana National Olympic Committee, I had worked so hard towards landing that position and I thought I had all the energy to be the main person but that was never to be. I was also the coach of the karate team that performed very badly during the world cup in Mexico, thinking about that brings tears to my eyes. But with all these setbacks I have become stronger and resilient.
Do you have any regrets?
I have so many which I am not willing to talk about but the greatest of them all is that I regret not spending quality time with my family. A lot of time is taken by sporting career and my business so in the end I have very little time for my wife and kids but I hope things will change for the better one day.
Talking of business, how is it doing?
Can’t complain, we are having our share in the market though things could be better.
With your new position, how will you juggle between your job as a Managing Director and Chairman of BNSC?
My position at BNSC is non-executive so it will not interfere with my running the business.
Full names: Solly Reikeletseng
Date of birth: 19 July 1974
Place of birth: Serowe
Marital status: Married with two children
Mentor: His father Sylvester
Car driving: Mercedes Benz
Favourite food: Any dish prepared by his wife
Favourite drink: Glenfidich whisky
Pasttime: Watching movies, listening to music and reading
Favourite artist: The late Michael Jackson, locally Vee Wamampela and anything produced by Ramco
Book currently reading: Outliers-The story of success by Malcom Gladwell
Last time he cried: During the recent Palapye meeting where he was announced as chairman of BNSC
Three words that best describe him: Passionate, dedicated and go getter