Dinaletsana go again

Baitshepi Sekgweng
FOND MEMORIES: Dinaletsana captivated the nation back in 2017

U/21 netball team dreaming of Gibraltar

Although it is still 19 months away, the quest to qualify for next year’s Netball World Youth Cup in Gibraltar has started.

Botswana have assembled a 20-player provisional squad, which will be whittled down to 15 as they prepare for the African qualifiers, set for Pretoria, South Africa from 17 – 24 March.

Over the weekend, the brains trust of: Kagisano Mawela, Boitumelo Gabaseme and Neo Dema held selections in Gaborone, picking 20 players from a field of 71 hopefuls.

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The team is scheduled to have its first training camp this weekend (24 – 25), with several more to follow until they depart for SA.

The U/21 girls have big boots to fill following Dinaletsana’s heroics on home soil back in 2017, when they finished 11th out of 20 teams.

The WC has not been held since, with the 2021 edition, which was meant to be played in Fiji, cancelled due to Covid-19.

Having qualified automatically as hosts seven years ago, this time BW will have to do it the hard way, overcoming the continent’s best.

Speaking to Voice Sport through the week, Head Coach Mawela admitted they were behind schedule but was confident they would be ready in time.

“I won’t say the team is up to the standard I want because we just finished the selections and now we will be heading into the training camps. It is only during the camp that I can be able to identify how they link up and see where we are lacking. Of course, we started our preparations late because of unavailability of funds, so it was difficult to bring athletes for selection while we don’t have money to accommodate, feed and transport them,” she said.

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Highlighting other humps on the road to success, Mawela said, “The absence of school sports has affected us because now we rely on teams in the league for junior players. But it is not every team in the national league which have junior structures because teams are not given grants so it’s expensive to have senior to junior teams. However, other programmes such as Centre of Excellence and Re Ba Bona Ha have helped with players.”

Mawela added the on-going domestic league has been a blessing as it has kept some of her young stars match fit.

“In terms of match fitness it is better since we have four to seven players who have tasted the court this season. We have a lot of work to do in order to beat those countries above us and we can achieve that if we have this camps until then,” she said, adding they hope to incorporate Australian-based, Botlhe Lekgare, into the team.

Eight nations are expected to take part in the African qualifiers, with Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Uganda, Malawi, and Kenya all joining BW in SA.

Four teams will qualify for Gibraltar, all will fancy their chances.

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In the history of the tournament, Botswana has qualified three times for the tournament: in 2017 as hosts, 2005 in USA where they finished 9th and Cook Islands in 2009, when they came 18th.

The Netball World Youth Cup is the pinnacle of netball for U/21 players and is held every four years since 1988.


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