When Thabo Thamane announced he was standing for the Botswana Softball Association (BSA) Presidency, many dismissed his chances, writing him off as a no-hoper with little knowledge of sports.
However, not for the first time in his life, the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) proved he was up for the challenge.
Thamane defied the odds to romp home in the elections, easily defeating his nearest competitor by 17 votes to eight.
Indeed his campaign team almost completed a clean sweep, winning every position except for the Vice Presidency.
In his campaign, Thamane, who was a talented softballer in his youth, stressed the need for wholesale change in the sport.
His emphasis was on commercialising softball, making it a viable, full-time career for its players.
Voice reporter Portia Ngwako Mlilo caught up with the newly elected BSA President to discuss his new role and his plans for the development of the sport he loves.
Q. You enrolled for the elections on the last day of registration – what inspired you to stand for the BSA presidency?
A. Two years ago I was approached by clubs requesting that I stand for the elections.
My intention was to be part of softball but not in the committee.
I realised there is a lot to change and improve in softball’s structures.
As a former player, I realised softball has not progressed, especially in infrastructure development.
The interest in softball among youth has declined so our focus is to start it from primary level and have proper development structures.
Q. Sport Administration today seems to be plagued by infighting and backstabbings, especially when it comes to elections – is this also the case in softball?
A. We have met as the new executive committee just to lay the ground rules and one of the issues of concern was that after the elections there will be factions, even within the committee.
The Vice President was from the other team but we have a good working relation because at the end of the day we want what is best for the association.
The campaign is over and we are one team.
The previous committee will do the proper handing over next week and we will continue engaging them where we need help.
Q. What is at the top of your priority list?
A. There are a lot of things we are looking at like financial stability; we should not only rely on government for funding and take sport to the corporate world.
We must maintain high standards of ethical conduct and we need to account for money from our sponsors.
Our aim is also to improve and develop playing infrastructure in order to create a conducive environment for all stakeholders.
Q. Has the committee set itself a target?
A. Yes, we have schedule of our first 100 days on what we want to achieve.
We want to craft a softball strategy because the existing one has come to an end.
We also want to enhance governance so that all the documentations relate to the new strategy.
The committee is working on a business plan that will help us to raise money and help clubs solicit sponsorship.
Q. How are you going to address lack of sponsorship for clubs?
A. We need to look into clubs’ economic inequalities.
There are institutional teams like Police and BDF, who get financial support from the government.
Compared to other local teams from Tati, Serowe, who run without sponsors yet they travel great distances to honour their fixtures.
We must help such clubs to get sponsorship. First prize for the league is P100, 000; the last team gets P7, 000 but their budget for a year is not less than P200, 000!
We must be able to get technical and tournament sponsors.
Q. You talked about commercialising softball, how do you intend to do this?
A. For all these years people have been watching softball games for free.
We are planning to start a ‘donate a brick’ campaign.
We will then have community service days as softball family and we build a wall around our grounds so that people start paying to watch our games.
The gate takings will be used as teams’ grants and help in the running of the association.
Softball should be a career and it must be an alternative to formal employment!
Q. There have been rumours that the current sponsor, BOFINET, is likely to withdraw because of the change in BSA leadership. How are you going to ensure they stay?
A. Yes I heard of such a rumour during the campaign.
It is very regrettable that we become dirty and people want to own sponsors.
Proper systems do not work like that! I have had discussions with BOFINET and they are committed to continue sponsoring irrespective of who is in the leadership.
What they are interested in is accountability and benefit and value to them as a brand, which is what we are committing, just like the past committee.
More sponsors are still to come on board.
We have started fulfilling our promises; over the weekend during Masters Games, for the first time Medical Rescue was there to assist our players.
We are still negotiating for a possible partnership and we will share with the media as soon as we are done.
Q. What are you going to do to improve the sport’s infrastructure?
A. The good thing is that we have facilities in schools.
We need to have a strong relation with Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) and we have their representative with our National Executive Committee (NEC).
We will identify an infrastructure with the help of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and improve it so that we can use it for some of our elite league matches.
All the new stadiums to be built will have softball grounds.
In future we hope to have a stadium for softball.
Q. Take us back to when you were a player, what did you enjoy most on the pitch?
A. I used to be a softball player and during our times it was a big sport comparable to football.
I was at St Josephs, games between us and GSS used to be very tense and we had a huge following which was a motivation.
I was a catcher and very poor at batting.
After completing my studies I went to work in Sowa and there was no softball team.
I was not good enough on the field but here I am being the President of the association.
Usain Bolt’s manager was never a runner but he produced the best athlete in the world!
Q. What legacy would you hope to leave behind?
A. I want softball to be a career and our players to make a living out of it.
I want our sport to be financially stable then I would leave the office a happy man.
Q. Who is your inspiration?
A. Lebbeaus Peloewetse used to be a pitcher for Vikings and the national team.
He was the best player.
He was part of the national team that travelled to the United States for the first appearance at the World Softball Championships in 1984.
He inspired me because he was a very humble man despite of all his achievements in sport and he still attends softball games.
Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
A. Is been a hectic few weeks.
I may go to Khawa, CEDA has a stall there – and if I fail to attend, I will just be around, I need to rest!