Dr. Carolin Braun has been living in Botswana for two years, after moving to the southern African country as part of an "International Sports Promotion" project in cooperation with the German Foreign Office, the DOSB and the DFB. Since then, the 35-year-old sports scientist's tasks have grown and the challenges have become greater. In an interview with DFB.de, Carolin Braun explains why the DFB International Instructors Course (IIC), which began on Monday and will run until Friday, has come at just the right time for the participants from Botswana and Namibia.
DFB.de: Dr. Braun, what is the International Instructors Course about, which the DFB is running for the first time, together with the Botswana Football Association and the Namibia Football Association?
Dr. Carolin Braun: The IIC's main objectives are based on social, media and methodological skills. It's not about teaching participants footballing knowledge, like how they can improve on their 4-4-2 at their team, but rather how to become a better teacher. At the end of the course, they are much more knowledgeable about modern teaching methods, can create a positive learning atmosphere, understand the appreciative feedback culture and are skilled in the use of digital tools. In the course group, we have a mixture of referee instructors and coach instructors for grassroots and junior football. There are nine participants from Namibia and 16 from Botswana, so the IIC is also a great opportunity to bring the two football associations closer together. My only regret is that we only have one female participant from Botswana.
DFB.de: Digital learning is on the rise everywhere. Why is that so important right now, and especially in Botswana?
Dr. Braun: The coronavirus has driven digitalisation all over the world. Especially for Botswana, this also creates an opportunity. We are a very large, sparsely populated country, some places are very difficult to access and a lot of routes cannot be travelled on after dark. Online meetings and digital conferences are therefore helpful and, above all, cost-effective. However, we've also been experiencing the realities of Botswana since Monday.
DFB.de: What do they look like?
Dr. Braun: On the first two days before the workshop began, I had to spend two hours on the phone with some of the participants who couldn't log in. Some have difficulty navigating a digital learning platform or have never used Zoom before. Or they simply don't know how to change a password. In addition, of course, connection is difficult in some regions of the country near the Kalahari Desert, or even in the capital, Gaborone, there are often power cuts.
DFB.de: You have had two employers since spring 2019, the German Olympic Sports Confederation and the Botswana Football Association. How did that come about?
Dr. Braun: Since the 1960s, international sports promotion has been a permanent feature of the German Foreign Office's cultural and educational policy. Since then, we have been able to work with numerous countries in Africa and around the world. The DOSB sends long-term experts to these projects, and the DFB is an important partner. My project has been ongoing for two years now and could be extended for another year or two. I started as a consultant for the Botswana Football Association with the aim of implementing a sustainable coach education system. It didn't stop there, a lot more tasks came my way. (laughs)
DFB.de: You're also part of the coaching staff of the "Zebras," the men's national team.
Dr. Braun: Exactly. The national team hired a new head coach a few months after my arrival and he then approached me directly. We didn't know each other before, but after we exchanged ideas, he wanted me to be involved with his team on the coaching staff. The next tournament is the COSAFA Cup, which is a tournament for countries in southern Africa. We have already played in Egypt. Of course, the fact that I was a part of the coaching staff was a big deal in the media, but it's not about me at all. However, my work here might be able to make it more possible to have women involved in Botswanan football in the future. I was also promoted to the position of Technical Director of the BFA, which is a place within the sporting management of the Botswana FA and since then I have been responsible for its entire sporting development; from grassroots tournaments to coach education and have ten colleagues working in my department. The long-term project is designed to be sustainable, so a handover of tasks to local counterparts is being prepared and is already underway.
DFB.de: Can you speak Setswana?
Dr. Braun: English is the administrative language. I make an effort to gain a basic understanding of Setswana. It is the mother tongue of the people here, and 90 percent of the country speak it. But it is difficult. It is more important to learn about the culture and mentality of the people. We don't implement a carbon copy of what we learned at the DFB or in other countries. Projects have to be tailored to each specific country. When you arrive, you should observe, analyse and appreciate the structures and mentality.
DFB.de: Botswana has experienced good development. Since 1970, the average life expectancy has risen from 52 to 69. But the numbers of people infected with HIV are still alarming. How do you experience social life in the country?
Dr. Braun: Also something like the corruption index, for example, is also remarkably positive. Botswana is a model country in many respects. There is no longer a public discourse about the high HIV figures. The issue is no longer seen as a crisis, although thankfully, there are centres that offer support and advice. Botswana also has some really beautiful spots. It has some great landscapes, such as the Okavango Delta or the Kalahari Desert, which stretches out into the middle of the country and sometimes makes it difficult just to get from A to B. Covid-19 has made the situation in the country much tenser, and crime is also on the up. You have to remember that tourism has been almost non-existent for over a year now.
DFB.de: How many people have been vaccinated so far?
Dr. Braun: 120,000 people from a population of 2.5 million, so less than five percent.
DFB.de: Back to the IIC: What experience did you gain in the first two days of the course?
Dr. Braun: I am very pleased. Football has been at a standstill for over a year now and only the national teams are playing. Since then, however, we have been pushing on at many different levels. We are doing everything that is needed for the return of football. Education and training through multipliers is a very important thing in this regard. The participants are enthusiastic. Sometimes you also have to be calm and patient. Why does something take half an hour longer than expected? You have to empathise. In a course like this, you have to find a balance while making sure not to lose the necessary discipline. A managing director of the BFA (Botswana Football Association) once asked me after a meeting with an international partner why the Europeans were always so strict during phone calls or e-mails. I am sometimes in the role of translator and can mediate between both sides. We always learn from each other and the course instructor also learns from the participants. That's what makes the work so exciting.
DFB.de: What do you hope will be the outcome of the DFB IIC when the course ends on Friday?
Dr. Braun: I hope that every participant takes something away with them from every field of knowledge and that they will be able to spread the feeling of euphoria that I feel every day on the course. Over time, there has been curfews, families were not allowed to meet, alcohol was banned, churches were closed and poverty was on the rise. Now, as the pandemic looks to be coming to an end, we are all a bit down, maybe not only in Botswana. That's where football can really help out.