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Baitshepi Sekgweng
FOCUSED BUT FUNDLESS: Junior players to miss tournaments

Financial constraints spell ‘check mate’ for Chess

After a lack of Pula power put paid to their hopes of participating at last month’s African Junior Chess Championships in Algeria, Botswana’s youngsters will miss out on another continental competition.

Once again rearing its ugly head, financial constraints have spelt ‘check mate’ for Team BW’s hopes of taking part in the Africa Schools Individual Chess Championships, set for 10 – 18 December in Liberia.

Botswana have been a dominant force at the event in recent years, with the likes of WFMs Besa Masaiti, Naledi Marape, Laone Moshoboro, Natalie Banda and WCM Refilwe Gabatshwarwe earning valuable international experience.

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Confirming the bad news, Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) Secretary General, Mokwaledi Tingwane, admitted the coffers were depleted.

“We are just left with operational funds to keep the office running. Over the years, our grant has been declining which made matters worse. Way back we were able to attend as many events as possible because our grant was hovering around P500, 000.The commission long said we should be able to sustain ourselves with sponsors, but it has been difficult, though we are trying,” said Tingwane.

According to the SG, this year the BCF’s grant from Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) amounted to P200, 000 – which was spent on sending a team to the World Olympiad in India back in July.

“Already the grant was not enough to send us to the Olympiad so we topped up with the P150, 000 grant from FIDE [International Chess Federation]. In the past we were also lucky that most tournaments were played in Southern Africa so we were able to travel by road which is cheaper,” said Tingwane, who admitted missing out on international outings was a big setback for the sport locally.

“Without tournaments our players morale will be down but everything should start within our local structures; we should have local junior tournaments to develop our players” he said.

Tingwane further revealed the economic handcuffs were squeezing the seniors painfully as well, noting they will be unable to attend any tournaments until at least March next year.

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This includes the ongoing nine-day African Amateur Individual Chess Championships, currently taking place in Kenya.

Attempting to put a brave face on the dire situation, the SG told Voice Money, “We are trying to seek sponsors and partnerships for the future for local tournaments as well as international tournaments like this. Without sponsors we can’t succeed that much, so the aim is to bring old and new sponsors to our fold.”

In recent years, BCF have lost sponsorships for the Year Opener Tournament (last played in 2019) and the Gaborone Open, while Debswana’s backing of the national league came to an end earlier this year.

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