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All alone in Azerbaijan



Zebra’s star ‘lonely but safe’

As the country nears the end of its first week in lockdown, Botswana’s European footballing export, Mpho Rudolph Kgaswane is already halfway through his own confinement.

The 25-year-old attacking midfielder, who plies his trade for Azerbaijani Premier League side Zira FC, is holed up all alone in his small flat in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

The Eastern European nation went into a 28-day lockdown on Wednesday 25 March as part of the country’s efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

As of Tuesday the former Soviet republic, which boasts a population of just under ten million, had recorded 717 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including eight known fatalities.

For Kgaswane, the pain and loneliness of isolation thousands of miles from home has at least been eased by the comforts of modern technology.

In an exclusive interview with Voice Sport, the Mankgodi native, who joined Zira FC at the start of 2019 after four years with South African outfit Baroka FC, stressed he was ‘bored but safe’.

“I spend the whole day indoors playing games on my laptop, watching movies, listening to music and chatting with friends and family on social media. Thanks to the new technology, I am able to video chat with my relatives back home and it gives them hope that I am safe!” revealed the former Gaborone United starlet, who sounded in good spirits despite his predicament.

The Zebras regular admitted that the language barrier adds another layer to an already difficult situation.

Unable to speak the country’s official language, Azerbaijani, Kgaswane relies on a translator to explain all the Covid-19 messages from relevant authorities.

“I am still learning Arabic and it is not easy. I’m stuck here, far from home. My business is football and when there are no football activities I get bored to death. Mid last month we stopped playing football and now there is movement restriction, 28-days lockdown. I can’t risk going out to do roadwork, imagine if I meet soldiers on the street and they beat me! It’s so scary because we do not know how long this will last,” continued Kgaswane, his upbeat mood dipping as noticeably as one of his trademark freekicks.

The only time he leaves the four walls of his flat is to go shopping.

“Fortunately there is a shop right under my flat. If I need groceries I put on my protective clothing and go and buy.”

Agonizingly for Kgaswane, when it was first announced that Azerbaijan would go into lockdown, he considered coming home but quickly realised this was too dangerous.

“I could not risk it because there are no direct flights. For me to get back to Bots I would have had to travel through high-risk countries. Instead I decided to lock myself in and stay safe!”

Azerbaijan has since introduced stricter restrictions, with those wishing to leave their homes for essential trips having to get special permission via an SMS from a helpline.


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BTA to submit post COVID-19 roadmap



BTA to submit post COVID-19 roadmap

Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) President Oaitse Thipe has revealed to Voice Sport their intention to resume their calendar of events in an interview on Wednesday.

The president said they are in the process of submitting names for their skeletal staff permits with the sole aim of completing their sporting calendar.

Thipe told Voice Sport that once they shift their gears into motion, they’ll first turn their attention to local tournaments such as Gaborone Club Junior Open and Orapa Open.

“We’ll then move to international tournaments which we anticipate to host this coming October,” he said.

“In addition, the Advanced Course International Tennis Federation (ITF) Level 2 is also in the cards for the end of August,” said Thipe.

The BTA President who came into office last year September said one of their key targets is to increase participation in wheelchair and beach tennis.

“We are expecting a handful of donations such as wheelchairs, rackets and all the necessary beach tennis equipment from ITF this coming June, and that is surely aligned to our mandate,” explained Thipe, further stating that despite some success their nine months in office has not been smooth sailing.

“We’ve successfully hosted a number of courses in which over 16 officials have graduated. We also witnessed the remarkable rise of one of our young talents Denzel (Seetso) flexing his muscle in the continent and becoming the highest ranked African player,” he said proudly.

The president however lamented their lack of money which has hampered their intention to increase coaches across the country, a key component to having more players plying their trade in elite competitions across Europe and the United States of America.

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Daggers drawn for BFA top post



Daggers drawn for BFA top post

Uncertainty over the looming Botswana Football Association (BFA) elective congress was finally cleared this week when the Electoral Committee announced 8th of August as a date for the d-day.

The BFA elections were left in limbo since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent suspension of all football matters.

Briefing the media this week, board chairperson Moemedi Leina said since the elections will be held in the middle of a State of Emergency the elections board will be guided by the Covid 19 Task Force.

He said citizens aged between 30 and 75 years and without any criminal record can begin submitting their names for possible election starting on the 1st to the 12th of June.

Battle for the BFA’s top post promises to be a bare knuckled contest, with four prominent figures already looking set to throw their names into the hat.

Incumbent, Maclean Letshwiti will face stiff competition from former BFA president Tebogo Sebego, politician Boyce Sebetela and former BFA Chief Executive Officer Ookeditse Malesu.

The four potential candidates are already canvasing for votes across regions, and attempting to sway delegates to their sides.

While few have publicly stated their intention to stand for elections, Francistown Regional Football Association Chairperson Maokaneng Bontshetse has long declared his candidature for the Vice President 2 position.

Bontshetse, a shrewd sports administrator is one of the longest serving football servants in the country.

He prides himself as the founder of the Zebras Supporters Club.

Letina has however advised potential candidates that there are certain requirements they must meet in order to be eligible.

He said candidates should be active in football structures and not be insolvent.

“We’re also not going to allow people from other sports codes. The committee will vet from June 22-29 and publish candidates’ names on June 30,” he said.

Letina further said they will then allow for appeals or queries for the next two weeks before publishing the final list on 23rd July.

“During the appeals period, we’ll simultaneously compile and prepare a voters roll. This year there will be no elections in the regions after the General Assembly resolved that regional committees will run for four years, which means their terms ends in 2022,” said Letina.

Meanwhile the association Chief Executive Officer Mfolo Mfolo said their medical team is working round the clock to prepare for the return of football action.

Last week Ministry of Sports approved the resumption of football activities operations for the premier league and first division games from the 1st of June.

Mfolo said the medical team is to submit the final guidelines to the BFA National Executive Committee so that teams can start competitive football.

He said there are certain Covid-19 regulations they need to adhere to.

The league is left with 13 games to complete the season.

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