Nikola under GU pressure
It has been a strange few seasons for Gaborone United Sporting Club. The Reds are used to playing second fiddle in their own city due to the success of neighbours Township Rollers – with the Blues having the upper hand on them in terms of league finishes and head-to-heads in the Premier League era.
But since the arrival of Nikholas Zakhem as the clubs major sponsor, ambitions have changed. The Lebanon businessman is edging towards owning the club legally and he wants to make GU a force again both domestically and continentally. It is observed that he has massive plans for the club, with a plan to build a new stadium right at the forefront of his mind and so far he has really put his money where his mouth is. The Reds have often been outspent by their Premier League rivals which has left them behind, but times have changed recently. GU have thrown around some massive sums of money in an attempt to climb up the table and close in on Rollers, but it is fair to say they have found life pretty difficult so far.
Since the arrival of Zakhem, a business guru, they have never won the league but finished comfortable on the top 8 bracket. Along the road, they have also won few top 8 cups under different administrations. However, this year looks like they could deliver almost the same finish yet under a head coach they saw transforming and winning the double with Rollers. Nikola Kavazovic’s arrival at GU was supposed to provide the boost they needed to be the 'best of the rest' and compete with the top 3.
However after just 7 games they're languishing down in 6th position, just 8 points above 12th placed Morupule Wanderes. Nikola is a man under pressure and their recent form makes a particularly damning reading, which really begs the question – how quickly will he catch up?
Nikola is the second permanent coach to take the reins following in the footsteps of Madinda Ndlovu and Philemon Makhwengwe.
GU spent significant time and resource in getting the former Rollers gaffer to make the move to the city center, along with upsetting Premier League rivals who were entertaining a second thought to re reappoint him. His appointment was seen as a bit of a statement, an experienced and vocal coach with a big reputation for attacking football – just what the passionate GU fans had been crying out for.
But what followed has been majorly disappointing to say the least. Sure, there has been flashes of just what they are capable of, but they have been no way near enough consistent on the whole. The remit going into the campaign would have been to finish 2nd, finishing as close to the top as possible but instead they find themselves stuttering despite bringing the best on the squad. Kavazovic said his team is very desperate for a win but if they continue creating chances (which they did not take), they will become a competitive.
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AFRICA’S RECOVERY: Sports as game changer
The year 2022 witnessed unprecedented phenomena. Several Africans- Gotytom Gebreslase, Sharon Lokedi, Victor Kiplangat, Tamarit Tola and many others- swept the World’s marathons records.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting control measures implemented in several countries, led to many high-level sports competitions being cancelled or shelved, the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games was moved to 2026.
Founder and Executive Chairman, African Sports and Creative Institute, Will Mabiakop, says the inability to hold traditional and amateur sports events have had a serious effect on public health overall, including mental health, sparking a revolution whereby athletes began to talk more openly about stress, mental overload and performance anxiety.
“Africa is home to the fastest growing economies before the crisis, no longer on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). COVID-19 deepened interdependence between SDGs, making them harder to achieve, especially SDG 10 (reducing inequality) and SDG 5 (gender equality_ as the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on poorer countries, and heavier burdens (such as care work) fell to women.”
Mabiakop stresses that as policymakers contemplate actions to speed up recovery and build resilience, they must argue that sports and creative businesses should play a central feature in this effort.
“The sports economy worldwide is estimated at 5% of GDP, but only 0.5% in Africa. If exploited, Africa’s sports and creative industries can offer policymakers innovative solutions. Especially, as regards job creation, and providing employment to the 15 million people entering the job market annually.”
HOW CAN THE INDUSTRY DO THIS?
By leveraging the two-for-one concept: past studies shown that a 1% growth in the economy delivers a 2% job increment in this sector (these ratios are calculated using data from 48 African countries and adjusted to the reality of the sports economy in Africa by the authors). There are between 30 and 50 job types, in sports and creative industries, respectively. These jobs do not fade away with the first major shock.
Mabiakop indicated that policymakers can use these industries to tackle multiple crises- jobs, poverty, and climate risks. Sports diplomacy- defined as communication, representation and negotiation in or through the prism of sports- has proven effective in building inclusive and cohesive societies. Moreover, sports and the creative industry can support better mental health and well-being, both important for productivity.
“Policymakers can also be true to the game by leveraging culture and tradition to celebrate identity and reap commercial value in sports, textiles and jewelry. Creative sectors allow deeper connection with culture, are not easily copied and provide great economic potential.”
He said supporting grassroots sports has powerful distributional effects. “Fortunately, technology has made reaching wide audiences easier, generating higher rates of success when talent is discovered.”
However, Mabiakop held that potential pitfalls must be highlighted. “First avoid build it and they will come policies with infrastructures denuded from the rest of the ecosystem. Like the many sports stadiums left largely unused.”
“Policymakers must remain mindful of how these sectors move the needle in human capital development. Also, align the requisite public policies needed for progress from grassroots participation to professional sports, and even to international sporting events. They should also support investment instruments to render these sectors performant.”