Allegations of favouritism ahead of UFAK Championships
Trouble is brewing within the Botswana Karate team ahead of this weekend’s Union Federation of African Karate (UFAK) Championships.
On the eve of the biggest karate competition the country has ever hosted, reports reaching Voice Sport indicate there are serious divisions within the team.
Much of the anger seems to be directed at Senior Team Head Coach, Christopher Ponatshego, who has been accused of favouritism after selecting his younger brother, Tlotlang Ponatshego for team Kumite.
Tlotlang’s call-up came despite a 5th place finish in the individual selection games – a decision that raised eyebrows as the criteria for selection was a top two finish.
It has also emerged that Coach Ponatshego does not have the required coaching certificates for major events. He is said to have failed his Region 5 Coaching Course and this Wednesday was reportedly in class attempting his UFAK Coaching Course.
According to a source within the camp, unlike other coaches who had to go through an interview process, Ponatshego was appointed without being interviewed.
His assistant is Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Coach of the Year nominee, Sensei Peter Molefe, who has a UFAK Coaching Certificate.
“There is lots of favouritism in Karate. Ponatshego is BOKA President, Tshepo Bathai’s friend. The camp is divided and Coach is paying much attention on Kumite team while individuals are trained by the assistant coach. Team Kumite even have their own kit that is different from other players,” revealed one of the coaches.
“Tlotlang did not qualify, his brother favoured him. During Zone 6 games in Namibia he did not even play, he was a reserve in the team,” continued the disgruntled source, adding that some of the qualifying players, like Mpho Bosenakitso and Gofaone Mosupiemang, who got silver in the Africa Championships, are not part of the Kumite team.
The outspoken official said Coach Molefe was not happy with the criteria used in team selection.
He further claimed Ponatshego and another assistant coach, Keone Kgorotlhe, have written to President Bathai complaining that Molefe is disrupting the camp.
“Molefe is likely not to go with the team to next month’s Africa Games in Morocco because he is questioning a lot of technical things,” added the source.
Voice Sport has also learnt that a number of senior team players are refusing to sleep at the Athletes Village in University of Botswana (UB) – this after their complaints of uncomfortable beds and no hot water went ignored.
When reached for a comment, Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) President Bathai said the team regularly camps at UB, noting that other sports codes use the venue too. He said he was unaware of any problems concerning the venue.
He further claimed he had not received any complaints concerning the team manager or coach.
Addressing, the issue of Ponathsego’s lack of qualifications, Bathai said it was not the first time Team BW was coached by someone without a UFAK certificate.
He revealed that at last year’s UFAK Championships in Rwanda, Molefe was part of the coaching set-up yet did not have the required qualifications at that point.
Meanwhile, to add to Team BW’s woes, star player Lame Hetanang is yet to recover from a hamstring injury she picked up at the senior team’s training camp in South Africa last week.
With the BNSC physio away on leave, Hetanang, who is in contention to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games, has had to seek out and pay for her own medical assistance.
It is the latest setback in a build-up dominated by controversy.
One chink of light amidst the gloom is the return of Team Captain, Oratile Caiphus. Having been dropped from the team, Caiphus wrote a complaint letter to BNSC, whose board ordered BOKA to reinstate him. He reported for camp last Friday, two days before the team went for training camp in South Africa.
With the Championships commencing today (Friday 12 July), hopefully the host’s can overcome their problems, live up to their potential and deliver a performance to be proud of.