Mafefe – Man Behind Nijel Amos’ Success [interview]

| May 29, 2015

Until the 35th Botswana National Sport Council Awards on May 23, 2015, little was known about Kereleng Mafefe. When he rose to join Nijel Amos who had just received the Sports Person of the Year Award, it was not only to relish the moment together on stage but to show the world the man who made him.

“This award makes me look back to where it all started. For me to be rubbing shoulders with the world’s best in 800m, I owe it to this man. He took a risk on me. He said, Nijel you are quitting 5 000 and 3 000m. You are focussing on 800m. Now this is the future,” said Nijel to a deafening applause as for the first time many saw the man who gave Batswana the gift in Nijel Amos.

BOPA reporter, Anastacia Sibanda caught up with Mafefe just to know who he was and his interaction with one of the best athletes in the world.

Who is Mafefe?

I am Kereleng Mafefe, born and bred in Nkange in 1976. I did my secondary education in Tutume McConnell where I am currently teaching. I then went for my National Service at Letsholathebe next to Masunga. University of Botswana was my next port of call where I did B.A Humanities and PGDE to qualify as a teacher. I then started my teaching profession in 2002 at Dukwi Junior Secondary and was transferred to McConnell in 2006 teaching Geography.

How and where did you grow up?

I grew up an ordinary village boy heading goats for my parents in Nkange until I went for boarding school at Tutume. During those days, we spent a good part of the school holidays at the lands.

During your formative years, what was your favourite sport?

Football was my favourite sport but my small physical stature did not allow me to play it. After all that was the only sport available for us in a rural area.

During your school days what were your main occupations besides school work?

I was very good in table tennis, which I played at schools and won gold medals at national finals. I was very passionate about it.

How did you get involved in sport?

Like I said I played table tennis at high school, I was always a sports person. When I joined teaching, I immediately got involved in coaching athletics which I realised I had the potential. The love for it made me to get involved though I was never an athlete myself.

How did you meet Nijel?

I first saw him in competitions during his junior school days at Shangano (Sebina). He looked a good athlete. I usually look for such athletes while they are still at junior school so that on their arrival at senior school I know where to start. When he came to McConnell, I took him to the track straight away though he did three races – 5000m, steeple chase and 1500m. He was a g character and won all the races. He had a poor running style which I had to change to make him a proper athlete. He wanted to play football which I totally said no to it.

Where did you usually meet to strategise for competitions?

Mafefe: We met at the sport field for training and we would stop and talk. Our training sessions were scheduled after lessons. Training also continued over weekends.

What struck you about him?

His commitment and passion made me like him. Whatever I wanted him to do, he would go for it without complaining. He was dedicated to training.

Why and when did you convert him to 800 metres?

After the BISA 2010 national finals, I realised he was faster than I thought and I forced him to quit all the long distance races to concentrate on 800m. That made wonders because he was very fast. I took him for BAA competitions where he beat those we thought were better than him. He was impressive and there was no turning back.

When you first met, did it ever occur to you that he would one day be a world star?

When I first met him I never doubted him. After converting him to 800m, everything opened up. He was picked for the national youth team. From that point on, it was a matter of time and I believed he could. I never had any doubt.

When he achieved that status, what went through your mind?

It was out of this world because I had made a star. He is my making and was so proud to have contributed to the achievement. I had not only contributed to his life on track but socially.

Where do you see Nijel in the next five years?

He is still going to dominate the world. I am saying this because he loves his job and he is committed to it. He has a very g heart and does not like losing. He is still going to be a champion.

Are you always in touch with Nijel, if so, how do you keep contact with each other?

We are always in contact no matter where he is in the world. Whenever he is competing, we talk to motivate and give tips on what to do. We win races and lose them together.

When you are together, how do you relate teacher and student or just colleagues?

He is my son. When we are together it’s a father and son relationship. I always want to see progress in his life.

During the recent BNSC awards, Nijel spoke highly about you, how did you feel?

I always saw it coming because I made him what he is today. In our contact he has shown that he is thankful of what I have done for him. He has never turned his back against me. I felt great because the whole country now knows that I made a star for Botswana. I thank him so much because it was brave of him to do that, which is a sign of maturity.

Did it ever occur to you that a school such as McConnell would produce a world star?

That was always coming because a lot of star athletes are produced by me and McConnell. The likes of Daniel Lagamang, Oarabile Babolai, Yateya Kambepera, Mmilili Dube, Boipelo Vike and many others are products of McConnell.

What challenges do you have coaching athletes and how did you overcome them?

There are many challenges I face because we are a school and funds are limited. It is not easy to buy training equipment for athletes because money is a scarce resource. The training ground is also of very low standards. Athletics is also seasonal in schools and students do not like training without going for competitions. That poses a problem to retain them for continuous training. Sometimes we go for a year without BISA due to lack of funds it is the case this year.

What is it that you feel you would have done differently and why?

It is difficult because nothing can happen when there is no money. But I am still continuing with training of athletes.

What are your future plans?

To continue doing sports and producing star athletes for my country.

What is your overall observation about sport in Botswana?

Mafefe: It is growing though at a snail’s pace and again sports development is based in schools and if more funds can be channelled towards schools, it can help in the growth of sports. Coaching courses have to be conducted in schools to enhance skills teachers have.

Thanks Rre Mafefe for your time

Sure Stazo.

Source : BOPA

Source : Botswana Daily News

Category: Sports

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