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Is Southgate beginning a bold new era?

Amid the euphoria of England's run to the World Cup semi-finals in the summer, one flaw remained evident throughout. Gareth Southgate's side were technically inferior to the world's elite teams, a truth exposed for all to see when Croatia eliminated them with a 2-1 win in the semi-finals in Moscow.

England's manager was fully aware of the deficiencies and, by selecting an even more youthful squad than usual for the behind-closed-doors Uefa Nations League game against the same opponents in Rijeka on Friday, it appears he is seeking solutions to his side's major problems. With the manager emboldened by a new contract which runs until after the 2022 World Cup, is this a significant moment in England's evolution under Southgate?

Southgate's first post-World Cup squad for the Nations League meeting with Spain at Wembley and the friendly with Switzerland at Leicester brought disappointment in some quarters as it was a safe selection showing loyalty to those who served England so well in Russia, injecting little fresh young blood.

There has been no such show of conservatism this time around, though, as Southgate's squad contains six uncapped players, including 19-year-old Mason Mount – on loan at Derby County from Chelsea – and Borussia Dortmund's 18-year-old former Manchester City attacker Jadon Sancho.

The selections of Mount and Sancho stand out – evidence that Southgate now believes he must cast a wider net; a reflection on the paucity of English talent in the Premier League that has taken him into the Championship and the Bundesliga.
Mount, flourishing with regular football under Frank Lampard at Pride Park, edged out 22-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek, whose decision to stay at Chelsea after figuring at the World Cup following a fine loan spell at Crystal Palace looks increasingly flawed.

Southgate showed self-confidence and assuredness when making these selections. And he currently makes decisions from a position of huge strength after signing a new contract that will take him through to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Southgate has also bought himself precious time for experimentation – a word he rails against but there is surely an element of truth in it – after building a formidable fund of personal popularity in Russia, not simply because England reached the last four but also because of his own demeanour.

It is much easier for Southgate to risk the odd poor result after reaching England's first World Cup semi-final for 28 years than if they had flopped in Russia – judgements and verdicts may not have been so kind and patience not in such generous supply then. Southgate's selection also came after two very average performances in defeat by Spain at Wembley and in the narrow win against the Swiss – old failings such as lack of midfield creation were still in evidence and he has decided to act.

Southgate attacks England's Achilles heel

As England arrived in Rijeka accompanied by a glorious Croatian sunset, this new-age squad looks increasingly like a new dawn, an attempt by Southgate to solve his biggest problem. England cannot escape the brutal truth that they were badly exposed in the key midfield area when losing twice to Belgium and in the semi-final against Friday's opponents in Russia.

Southgate's England were game but uninspired, lacking in creativity in those games. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who had an excellent World Cup, and Tottenham's Eric Dier are honest journeymen at the highest international level but not creators among the elite. It is with this in mind that Southgate has grasped at the opportunity given to him by Ross Barkley's new, although admittedly brief, lease of life at Chelsea.

Barkley last played for England against Australia in May 2016 and figured in only four games last season after struggling with injury and failing to establish himself under Antonio Conte at Chelsea. He was ignored by Roy Hodgson despite being in his Euro 2016 squad, was not considered by Sam Allardyce and Southgate has steered clear until now.

Barkley's biggest faults have been decision-making and a habit of conceding possession in dangerous areas. For all the plaudits he received after scoring in Chelsea's 3-0 win at Southampton, his carelessness after coming on as substitute helped Liverpool snatch a draw at Stamford Bridge.

He is now 24 and entering the crucial phase of his career. Barkley is unquestionably capable of the creation England need – now he must take advantage of Southgate's so far fruitless search for that X-factor. Leicester City's James Maddison, uncapped and only 21, falls into the same category after an impressive start to the season following his £20m move from Norwich City, while Southgate has also taken advantage of Harry Winks' return to fitness at Spurs as another option after impressing on his debut in a World Cup qualifier in Lithuania two years ago. With Mount also in the mix, the manager has real alternatives to the old order. These are a very important few days for England's potential midfield creators of the future.

(BBC)

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Is Rollers-Gunners still a blockbuster affair?

25th October 2021

The 2021-22 football season has finally arrived. It does not come at a better time than this one after two years of no action.  With the tune changing around football circles, a game between Township Rollers and Extension Gunners will never go unnoticed in the calendar of Botswana football.

The two teams, which enjoy the largest following in Botswana, are billed to headline the start of the season. The fixture, however, comes after almost two years without playing football, and it is still unknown if they still carry the same significance and meaning in the future of Botswana football. With many followers ready to quench their football thirst, all eyes, however, will be on rather what happens than who wins the match.

Forget about the comparison that continuously stirs followers` minds about which player is better than the other. While Rollers speedy winger Edwin Moalosi and Extension Gunner’s pacey recruit, Lesego Lubinda, are likely to determine the game’s outcome, the instrumental men happen to be in the midst of the park. The two teams are about to embark on a story where Rollers have already been labelled as potential league champions because of their massive recruitment. At the same time, Gunners are relegation candidates following a lacklustre performance in the transfer market.

The Peleng outfit started preparation very late, with speculations of an absent chairman not inspiring confidence. The question is whether the fixture between the two sides is as prominent as it used to be? The fixture had the duo of former Rollers man Lawrence Majawa and Captain Maano Ditshupo ruling the midfield whenever Kenny Pilatwe and Lesego Molemogi faced them. Yet, there is striking mutual respect between them and a similarity that, for all the focus on goalscorers, may make them the central actors in the drama expected to unfold next weekend at the National Stadium.

Many new faces have come out. Rollers still have Ditshupo, Segolame Boy and Lemponye Tshireletso, while Gunners will enter the field with recruits but have veteran player Dirang Moloi in their mix. These are the players who used to face each other in the heart of midfield, the men entrusted with bringing an identity to their teams, whose job it is not just to play better; and make others play well.

Rollers Captain Maano Ditshupo is likely to continue his dominance to bring out the team’s ideologue — bright, opinionated and analytical, the man; former Rollers head coach Nicola Kavazovic once said of him: “I cannot imagine Popa without him.” On the other side, Gunners’ Moloi is the man who will do the bidding on the pitch for Gunners – intelligent, communicative, quietly authoritative, bringing calm to a team that plays at breakneck speed.

Both groups of midfielders from these teams are undoubtedly natural talents: insightful and passionate about the game, awe at the passion it provokes and assured how it can be played. They are teammates and former fellow travellers for the Zebras.  During the past season, Rollers coaches said Segolame Boy, another instrumental midfielder, was his best player of the campaign. And Gunners coaches, on the other hand, have merely avoided rotations on, but when big games come, it is Moloi he seeks to protect first.

For Maano and Rollers, it is a matter of beginning a new formula in a new revolution in his role. As he embraced it, he had not failed it. Moloi might seem fatigued, but his dangerous moves on the last third of Rollers might still haunt the Gaborone West giants. Boy will be key in orchestrating final passes to the top man, but even if he is not there, Lemponye Tshireletso can equally put up with the role. The question then is whose role will prosper.

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BNSC grants BFL P4million  

25th October 2021

Botswana Football League (BFL) has successfully secured a P4 million grant from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) in a move aimed at kicking start the elite league by next week. As early as last week, BFL new board started knocking on the doors of BNSC, applying for a P4 million grant as the struggle to bring football from the edges of death continues.

Sources who spoke to this publication indicate that the newly assembled board of the league, led by Nicolas Zakhem, has managed to convince the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development to play a pivotal role in nurturing and cultivating football in financial terms. However, there is an expected backlash from BNSC as other sporting codes would want the same treatment in the future.

It is reported that BFL is not expected to pay back the money as it comes as a grant. The BFL has also successfully lobbied Botswana Football Association (BFA) to source a loan of equal amount from FIFA. The thinking inside the BFL board is that FIFA loan must be repaid with the grant from the BNSC to avoid running a company with debts just from the beginning.

The BFL board met on Wednesday to ask for P1 million advancement from BFA to put in place logistics surrounding the return of the league. It is further reported that the money will be paid as soon as available sponsors transact their part to the BFL.  The anticipation finally is enormous after the board approved fixtures to kick start the league by the 29th of October, a few days after all players take their jab.

According to the Sport Ministry and other stakeholders, part of the impetus for vaccinating players is that sport events are quick spreaders; hence players could unknowingly spread the virus to other people. However, observers now believe that the country has gone one step further combating the virus through vaccination. Testing is no longer a major problem. Zakhem, the chairman of BFL, explained that it was necessary to delay the commencement of the league until all players were vaccinated and when all stakeholders were on the same page with developments surrounding football.

“You will see that it was wise to wait a bit to bring everyone on board; all players need to be vaccinated, even supporters have to come back to make a perfect advertisement for football in the eyes of the sponsors,” said Zakhem. The domestic league was halted in April 2019, and a decision was taken to crown the team that occupied first place, Jwaneng Galaxy.

Furthermore, three teams lying at the bottom of the table were relegated, and clubs in pole positions from Debswana First Division North and South saw themselves gaining promotion to the elite league. By all accounts, the association felt it was a controversial option to undertake but also fairer for the sake of progress.

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Sport

Sebego challenges BFA constitution

13th October 2021
Tebogo Sebego

Botswana Football Association (BFA) constitution appears to be under heavy scrutiny as Tebogo Sebego, the president of Notwane Sporting club, questions its authenticity, with strong indications that several clauses were removed and others added without the input of the General Assembly.

Sebego, who vied for the BFA presidency in October 2020, feels Notwane is a bonafide member of BFA and has been participating in the past three BFA assemblies but cannot be part of the mess that the club and others did not create. On 13th September 2021, Notwane forwarded a complaint letter to the football association’s chief executive officer (CEO), challenging how two constitutions were amended.

The club says a constitution dated 25th June 2021 and the other bearing a stamp of 10th December 2020 were amended under fraudulent circumstances and want an explanation on how it transpired. “We have recently received a constitution dated 25th June 2021 stamped by the registrar of societies. The said constitution carries some changes that were never discussed and voted upon at the BFA general assembly.

Of particular interest, we have noted that the following new amendments, Article 33 of the 2016 constitution, is replaced by article 30. The procedure has been reduced, but the principles remain the same. The relevance of this is to restate the constitutional culture and mandatory powers of the General Assembly as the sole body responsible for constitutional amendments,” part of the letter seen by this publication reads.

Article 33 that Sebego complains of reads thus, “The general assembly is responsible for amending the constitution and the standing orders of the general assembly.” Furthermore, Notwane argues that another article (22.1) of the 2021 constitution then wipes off the presence of 16 delegates from the Premier League clubs and eight representatives from the first division together with their voting rights.

The club believes that while the autonomy of the Botswana Football League (BFL) was approved in the 2020 General Assembly, the assembly never discussed, voted or approved the removal of delegates from the General Assembly. The team believes that the amendments are therefore unlawful for lack of authority from the General Assembly. This is the case because it has a significant impact on the landscape of the structure of the General Assembly, Notwane argues.

Moreover, Notwane’s shock is skyrocketing, especially when raising another equally screaming change in the constitution. In the letter state, the club states that article 33.4 of the 2021 constitution introduces a term limit for the president. The club speculates that the amendment seems to be carried from the 2019 version of the constitution, and whatever its genesis, the matter was never before the General Assembly.

“It is only the General Assembly that has powers, through the right constitutional channels to introduce a limitation on the term of the president and further to define the limitation based on the reasons presented to it,” the argument goes on. The old constitution was limited to at most two terms, but it seems the president can now enjoy the third term.

Sebego and Notwane argue that they have raised these articles to demonstrate that the constitution was amended without following due process in an unconstitutional, unlawful and somewhat fraudulent manner. They say this 2021 constitution and that of the 2019 version are, in their view, unlawful documents and should be reversed without delay.

The complaint letter was also copied to the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) desk and the registrar of societies — an organisation that issued a stamp on the constitutions in question. Notwane, in a parting shot, wants to be furnished with minutes that allowed the constitutional changes because, to their understanding, there was none.

It has come to the attention of this publication that Notwane had given the BFA head of secretariat seven days to have replied, but nothing has come out. However, neither party was available for comment as the paper was going to print.

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