Badman’s sad end

Portia Mlilo

Makwala’s national team retirement leaves sour taste

Having provided the nation with countless golden moments in the last 15 years, one of the country’s greatest ever athletes, Isaac ‘Badman” Makwala, retires from national team duties disillusioned and sad.

The Tutume titan, who turns 37 next month, was named as one of Botswana’s 34 athletes scheduled to take part in the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

However, on Sunday night, BNOC issued a Press Release announcing Makwala’s withdrawal from the Games and subsequent retirement for Team BW.

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It is rumoured Makwala, a two-time Commonwealth gold medalist, had been willing to take part providing he was reimbursed by the BNOC for the months he was out of the country participating in the Diamond League at his own expense.

It seems Makwala felt that as the rest of his teammates had their training camp covered by government in the build-up to the Games, he was entitled to some kind of compensation having paid for his preparations from his own pocket.

When no agreement was forthcoming, the 400m man decided to call it quits, choosing to chase one last payday in the lucrative Diamond League instead.

Explaining why they were within their rights to break the news of Makwala’s retirement from national team activities, BNOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Botho Bayendi said simply, “We made an official statement because he was named in the national team that went to Birmingham during the send off ceremony.”

Insisting she was unaware the sprinter had made any demands for reimbursement, Bayendi added, “It is my first to hear about the alleged ultimatum.

“Makwala wrote a letter to us asking to be released from the camp and that he is retiring from the national team. He mentioned that his welfare is his priority and that he wants to make money from the Diamond [League].”

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It brings the curtain down on a rocky relationship that took a turn for the worst back in June, when Makwala found himself in hot soup over a Facebook post.

Coming in for social media criticism, with followers feeling a 6th placed finish in Rabat, Morocco, was a sign the Badman should hang up his spikes, Makwala hit back in typical defiant fashion.

Never one to beat about the bush, the athlete explained he was there at his own expense and did not get a single Thebe in financial support from the Ministry, the BNOC or the BNSC.

Unimpressed, the two sporting bodies reportedly responded by writing to the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) complaining about the ‘divisive and destructive’ tone of Makwala’s post.

“From the nature and the tone of the said post, it is clear that Mr Makwala has directly implicated the government through his reference to the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Gender and Culture (MYSGC), BNSC and BNOC and the perceived lack of support towards his career and the various endeavors he undertakes. It is therefore apparent from the said post that the support that has been afforded to the athlete over the duration of his career has gone unappreciated, and that he has taken to the court of public opinion to voice this lack of appreciation,” reads part of the letter, dated 10 June.

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The letter, seemingly signed by BNSC CEO, Tuelo Serufho and then acting BNOC CEO, Baboni Kupe, goes on to ask BAA what course of action it intends to take in response to these ‘unfounded and scurrilous allegations made towards the Botswana government’.

Although the matter was meant to be dealt with internally and not for public consumption, the letter was leaked to Voice Sport by a highly-placed source.

When asked for his reaction to the letter, Makwala stressed his post had been misunderstood and was not meant as an attack on anyone.

“I was not targeting anyone but stating the facts. For the Diamonds, athletes participate at their own expenses. I was not on national duty hence I said it is a personal competition,” he reiterated.

Meanwhile, he will miss out on the chance to defend his 400m Commonwealth title won at the Gold Coast four years ago. Hopefully, he gets the fitting end in the Diamond League his career deserves after years of sweat and toil putting Botswana athletics on the map.

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