Conquering the world

Local sports reporter gains international success

Already a household name countrywide for his sports reporting exploits, Leatile Mmutle is fast making his mark on the international stage.

The 31-year-old Duma FM presenter recently received a Certificate of Achievement at the AIPS Sport Media Awards, the highest international accolade in the sports media industry.

He was ranked second in Africa in the audio category for his moving podcast ‘The sad but inspiring story of Phiona Mutesi’.

Indeed, his telling of the Ugandan chess star’s story was good enough for the Sefhare native to finish in the top 10 internationally.

It is the latest recognition in a career decorated with awards.

Mmutle, who also serves as President of the Sports Writers Association of Botswana (SWABO), was voted the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) Electronic Journalist of the Year in 2016 and has also received Private Tertiary Institutions Association and Botho University Sports awards.

Other arrows that fit into his considerable bow include serving as a correspondent for Confederation of African Football (CAF) and working for an Australian company as a news correspondent.

The Voice’s Portia Mlilo caught up with Mmutle to discuss his international recognition, Botswana sports in general and his experience in the world of sports.

Q. What does this award mean to you?

A. It means a lot of things.

I lost my mother in 2009 and my father never played any role in my life.

When I get this kind of recognition, I look back at that time and remain humble and thankful to my late single mother for the important role she played.

This is also an inspiration to a lot of people who share the same path of life.

This is a motivation and it shows it is not only locally that my work is recognised but even internationally.

Q. What were some of the requirements for entering these awards?

A. It was quite stringent.

You have to be a sports reporter and share a piece that you feel has had an impact.

I sent my best work from IWG Conference last year.

The story was about the Ugandan lady who was part of the Conference’s panelists, The Queen of Katwe, Phiona Mutesi.

I managed to capture the story and made it a Podcast, which I am proud of because I am one of the few on radio locally who have the skills to produce Podcasts.

I produced it myself, from story line to soundtrack!

Q. For those who don’t know, what is AIPS?

A. It is an International Sports Association founded in 1924.

It organises Sports Reporters around the world to serve their interest.

It is a big body and this was their inaugural awards to recognise the best talent.

Q. You were ranked among the top 10 in the world, how do you feel about it?

A. I was shocked for days.

After receiving the news I kept it a secret because I was digesting it.

I received an email just before I knocked off.

The first person I notified was my boss, Donald Seberane through an email.

This means a lot.

My aim is not to excel locally but conquer the world.

It gives a lot of mileage.

I got a lot of offers from international media requesting my service.

Q. Why did you choose to become a sports journalist?

A. Naturally I am a sports person so it was just a transition. Growing up, I loved radio and I was following a lot of sports reporters, both print and electronic.

I told myself that when I finished school I would report sports.

I joined radio in 2012 under the mentorship of Chillyboy Rakgare.

He was really patient and I thank him for the support.

Q. Changing direction slightly, what is SWABO’s mandate?

A. The association’s core mandate is to organise Botswana sports reporters and have professionalised journalism.

So far we have secured scholarships for our members, organised refresher courses and training for them.

We once had a journalist from Uganda in Gaborone to train us on how to be the best in the international space and prepare for the industrial revolution of technology.

We hope to continue making strides in our career development.

In some countries the most valuable assets in the media industry are sports reporters; but here it’s like we are not valued much or maybe it’s because even our sports articles are on the back page.

Q. What are some of the challenges faced by local sports reporters?

A. I am worried by the number of sports reporters who lose their jobs because their contracts are not renewed, which is a loss to an industry.

We also lack resources. This industry is all about travelling to games, attending press conferences and events around the country and it is difficult because we need resources.

Q. What opportunities are there for the industry’s growth in Botswana?

A. We have a lot of opportunities.

If the sports bodies can realise the importance of full time Public Relations Officer we will get jobs and we will continue lobbying for that.

A lot of sports codes, including Botswana National Sports Commission do not update their websites and people struggle to find information on athletes and associations.

We also have an opportunity to explore digital media as the owners not employees.

Q. Is the country doing enough in terms of sports development?

A. We are not doing well. Sport codes that have been doing well but not getting recognition are Karate and Chess.

They are doing well in terms of development, I don’t know if it’s because parents are also investing to support their kids.

I think it’s high time other codes learn from them.

Generally most codes do not think long term, they only think of winning or qualifying for tournaments, which is impossible when you take short cuts.

The worst part is that administrators do not develop themselves; athletes’ development grows faster than administrators’.

We have Nijel Amos, who is an international athlete yet we do not have administrators of international repute.

When an athlete encounters a problem we blame them not looking at their developers.

Q. A lot of resources are put into football yet the National Team have struggled recently. What needs to be done?

A. Again, the biggest problem is administration, it just cuts across!

I read a story of how Germany became World Champions, what triggered it and how they did it and what are they doing to remain at that level.

Germany copied their model from France and followed the programme for years.

We can’t have athletes who can compete at international level if we do not have international administrators.

I know they always complain of money but they can find ways of raising funds.

We also need to protect the integrity of sport; we can’t have teams not having printed tickets at their games!

It kills the quality of the brand, people will be taking pictures of those small pieces of papers with the club stamp sold as tickets and circulate them on social media.

Maybe we should just admit that we are amateurs!

Q. Do you think the Botswana Football Association (BFA) made the right decision by firing Major David Bright?

A. That was the worst decision. Bright and his technical team were not the problem.

To be honest, that man faced lots of challenges. There were issues of discipline among players.

We saw a picture of senior players leaving a liquor shop with bottles of beer.

Another player was caught by CCTV drinking alcohol on camp – yet we expect them to perform! Firing Bright will not solve our problems; he was just used as a scapegoat.

There is a lot work to be done.

The Technical Director is training coaches so I think the next Zebras coach should be a Motswana.

If we do not hire a local, it suggests they do not believe in his products.

Let’s see BFA showing confidence in Serame Letsoaka’s abilities.

Q. What does it take to be a good sports reporter?

A. You should have an eye and ear for news that is news worthy.

You have to like reading and carrying out research so that you do not remain behind on current affairs.

Make sure that you do not compile ‘normal’ stories that others do, try your best to investigate and tell a different story.

It is all about being creative and having passion.

When everything is against you, passion will drive you because when you write and expose the wrong doings you create a lot of enemies who will try by all means to bring you down.

The important thing is to think global because Botswana is small so you have to strive to be international players.

It will help you to grow further.

Q. Any other advice for aspiring sports reporters?

A. If you want to stay in this industry for long you have to be humble and accept criticism.

You need to think in the line of modern journalism.

Develop websites, blogs and not only focus on looking for a job.

Think global, Botswana is global!

Q. Who is your inspiration?

A. Robert Marawa (Metro FM and Super Sport).

My mother was also my inspiration because she raised me well, alone.

She taught me that everything is possible for as long as you breathe!

Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are you plans for the weekend?

A. I will be in Francistown covering the Mascom Top 8 final.