SYLVESTER FINDS A CAUSE IN MAUN
BY ISAAC PHEKO
In the heart of Maun Village nestled in the Ngami District, lies the Maun Sports Complex, where under the blistering morning sun this past weekend, a budding sports hero with a rather unique background emerged at the recent Debswana
Re ba bona Ha sports development festival.
At the multi sports festival, a keen and enthusiastic figure, Mike Sylvester, a former amateur boxer from the UK, now residing in Botswana, showcased his coaching prowess with aspiring boxers as he continues to revive boxing in the Ngami area. Sylvester’s story unfolds post-COVID with the discovery of a dilapidated boxing club at Maun Technical College. Besides working as a boxing coach, Sylvester works full time in the thriving Maun Safari industry in Botswana’s tourism capital. Sylvester expressed his initial dismay upon discovering the neglected boxing gym facility, stating: “It was a disaster, no lights, no bags, it was quite sad, really.”
However, the UK native didn’t just lament the state of the club, he got into action.In the past year, Sylvester and his team have been working tirelessly to breathe life back into the club. Sylvester explains, “Every day of the week, we hold training sessions from 17:15 to 18:30.” Their efforts culminated in a successful local competition, showcasing the budding talent in Maun.
Sylvester’s journey to develop boxing in the region led him to the Re ba bona Ha sports festival after receiving a flyer of the event on social media. Intrigued, he seized the opportunity to give the kids in Maun a taste of boxing at the event, alongside Olympian and one of the country’s top amateur boxers, Mahommed Rajab Otukile. Otukile happened to an alumni of the Re Ba Bona Ha sports development festivals. “We held a demo,” he said, reflecting on the event. Sylvester was quick to note the challenges in Maun, emphasizing the lack of external motivation and financial support. In a passionate plea, Sylvester highlighted the untapped potential in Maun and Ngamiland, expressing disappointment in the limited government and private sector support. “We don’t have funding from the government or private sector. It’s all coming from my personal pocket and some guys at the club,” he revealed. Despite the challenges, Sylvester found hope in the sports festival.
“It gave me hope to see officials, shirts, tents up, and a variety of sports demonstrated on the day,” he said. However, he urged for continuous support, stressing the importance of sport beyond financial gains. “Sport isn’t in place for people to become wealthy or rich. It’s about providing grounding for young people, discipline, and stability,” Sylvester emphasized. He called for collaboration between the government, private sector, and individuals to harness the power of sports for personal and collective growth.Turning his attention to the private sector, Sylvester noted the lack of investment in his club. Drawing attention to the affluent safari industry in Maun, he proposed leveraging their support for localized sports initiatives, much like their recent involvement in village football games.Sylvester, with his background as an amateur boxer in the UK, spoke about the discipline and health benefits of the sport. Reflecting on coaching, he emphasized the importance of precision, even without formal qualifications, to ensure the right skills are imparted to aspiring boxers.As Sylvester navigates the challenges and triumphs of revitalizing boxing in Maun, his journey represents a beacon of hope for aspiring boxers in the region.
The quest for support and recognition may be ongoing, but Sylvester remains unwavering in his commitment to nurturing talent and promoting the transformative power of sports in the Maun and Ngami community.