The return of scud

Portia Mlilo

After 13 years away, Tsoseletso Tsosi Magang has returned to take her place at the helm of the Botswana Volleyball Federation (BVF).

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The experienced sports administrator stood unopposed at last week’s elections following the late withdrawal of the two candidates expected to compete against her for the Presidency.

Magang, affectionately known as ‘Scud’, a nickname that dates back to her teen years when she represented the nation on the running track, is desperate to breathe renewed life into a sport she says is dead.

With a background steeped in sports, the Hukuntsi native is adamant she is the right person to revive volleyball’s fading fortunes – and as she points out in this interview, when the missile sets her sights on something, she normally hits her target.

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You previously served as BVF President from 2007 to 2009 but did not seek re-election when your term ended – why?

I felt I had done my part.

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So, what’s changed?

I came back because volleyball is dead and, as a responsible volleyballer and somebody who is passionate about sport, I couldn’t let that happen under my watch.

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I had to do something about it and I made up my mind that I contest.

Why do you say volleyball is dead?

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When was the last time we had a league? [*It was early 2019!].

This is a competitive sport not a social club. We cannot only have tournaments without the league.

There has to be competitions, if not, sport is dead!

Initially, there were two others who expressed interest in standing for the Presidency. However, in the end, you stood unopposed; what does that mean for you?

To me, it is unfortunate because it means we haven’t developed our people enough for them to be firm and have confidence to contest for leadership positions.

They had shown interest and, when they heard I put my name [forward], they withdrew. It motivates me to develop our administrators to be leaders. It doesn’t reflect well!

Going forward, what will your priority areas be?

Having a Volleyball League; increasing visibility of volleyball through programmes and participation.

We are meeting this week with my committee to set targets for our first 100 days in office.

The aim is to secure a league sponsor within six months. We have to start the league because that is where we develop our players.

Coaches have a chance to field different players until they get the winning combination.

Tournament competition is knock-out, those who lose are out until we are left with the last two teams for the finals.

During your campaign, you talked of commercialisation and improving the finances – how are you going to make the sport more appealing to potential sponsors?

We are lucky that we have ‘two in one’. We have court and beach volleyball and it allows us to package two products under one federation.

One way of packaging a sport product is having the right people in the structures to run the organisation.

Like with the current tournament of Back to Play, we should be able to run and market it well to attract sponsors.

Even during the games, we have to be professional and avoid inconvenience for clubs, like changing venues at the last minute.

Botswana will host the Beach Volleyball Zone 6 tournament at the end of May, how ready are we for this?

We have to hit the ground running. Time is not on our side. It is definitely challenging.

There hasn’t been much done on the ground and we should have a strong local organising committee.

We are putting together a team which we believe will be able to deliver the games.

It is a tournament that will give our players exposure, it will help in sports tourism and we also have the potential to make money as a federation.

I would really like to see at least 10 countries coming here. Our advantage as a country is that Botswana is central and most countries are able to just drive in and not have to travel through other countries.

What is your budget for the tournament?

We haven’t set a budget. We are engaging people who are going to assist us. The organising committee is on that.

Please take our readers back to your playing days, how did you get the name Scud?

My sport is athletics; volleyball was my second sport and I played it in the off-season. I got the name when I was 19.

I had two weeks at UB doing my pre-entry science. I was sent to Lesotho to represent the university in athletics competition and won 100 and 200m.

It was during the Iran-Iraq war when Saddam Hussein was using scud missiles.

Batswana students said my speed was like that of a scud missile.

In my third year, I was active in volleyball and they continued calling me Scud.

How did you become involved in sports administration?

When I was doing first year at UB and being one of the top athletes, BNSC used to appoint me to join their committees.

That’s how I started. When I was doing third year, I was the chair of the Referees Commission of Athletics and an athlete at the same time.

During meetings with elders, I was actively participating because I had experience on the ground, so I was the voice of athletes.

I campaigned for the Minister of Sport position for SRC – the same thing happened, other contenders withdrew.

I was unopposed. I was the first woman at UB to hold that position.

HELM: Magang

You recently served as a Botswana Football Association (BFA) National Executive Committee (NEC) member representing women. How did you cope in a sport that you had no previous experience of?

Football is a big sport. I have grown in sport and I trust myself and sport leadership abilities.

When the current President, Maclean Letshwiti, recruited me to run women football, I did not hesitate because I have always had an ambition to manage football.

When it comes to sport, I am not afraid of a challenge. I can fit in any code. In any sporting code, you have player, coach, referee and administrator.

It actually did hurt me when I was not voted in the past elections because I really felt I could have contributed a lot to women football.

I am happy that I had developed a strategic plan which gives direction.

The first four years were focused on building the foundation for Women’s football.

I was able to bring sponsors for the league. Even though I lost, I was at the same time happy that I had delivered the things that I knew were key in running sport.

What is the most challenging thing about being a local athlete?

Lack of support. The support is haphazard, with divisions and a lot of sabotage.

As an athlete, you can’t complain, otherwise you can be sabotaged.

When we get into positions, we forget that we are there to serve athletes and whatever plans we put in place, the beneficiary should be an athlete.

What you do should be holistic and benefit all of them.

I have been an athlete, those things happened and discouraged me a lot.

You are one of the directors of Sport Management Agency (SMA) – tell us a bit about its mandate?

I co-own the agency with Game Mothibi. We had identified a gap that people who run sport in this country are not capacitated and we do not have companies that can do that.

We had already facilitated sport programmes with other organisations outside Botswana and we decided to bring it home.

We realised we had a common ambition and we decided to start this agency to address the gap.

Coaching in Botswana focuses mostly on training coaches, referees and athletes.

What is SMA currently up to?

We train sport leaders on leadership and sport management. We have run programmes like gender concepts and approaches, safe guarding.

We are going to continue increasing and improving our programmes. Our ambition is to establish an institution that will teach sport programmes.

And what has the agency achieved to date?

The current programme we are running of safeguarding. We partnered with Uganda Mempro and applied for funding at African Women Development Fund.

This partnership came after the requirement was that our agency was supposed to be in existence for at least three years and that time we were three months old.

We have trained different stakeholders like media and leaders of sport associations.

We have only picked 12 associations because we did not have enough funds.

We are going to do an Athletes Summit soon.

Finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

I have been running around a lot, working on a big project for SMA to be delivered at the beginning of June so it will just be work and rest.

I am hoping to host friends for a braai.

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