Tebogo LebotseSebego (PCH) netball story epitomizes a race well run. She took over as the presidency of the Botswana Netball Association (BONA) in 2007, at a challenging time for Netball with the sport code considered to be the delinquent child of the then Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) now Commission.
LebotseSebego steps down ten years later, and almost every sport person looks at Netball with envy – administratively sound and there are results to that effect. In her own words, the now former President of BONA, LebotseSebego says, “Fast forward to 2017 and Netball is that model child who brought Botswana its very first world event. So definitely my time with Netball has been successful.” One could apply the analogy that when she ascended to BONA presidency, LebotseSebego applied the Harrison Hoist move – in netball it when a one defender lifts another to get more elevation during a jump. It was named after defender Anna Harrison who pulled off the move in Australia 2012.
A number of those who have worked with LebotseSebego point to her team effort approach, she motivated the help of those around her to elevate the Netball sport. They point out that as soon as netball found its footing, she held firm onto the holding position and directed the sport’s proceeding like a netball player will dictate the passing game from the centre court. LebotseSebego started playing netball in 1984 and her first call up for national team was for Under 21 in 1995. She only stopped playing the sport she loves in 2003 and became BONA President in 2007.
During her reign as President of BONA the sport has recorded key achievements including hosting of the Netball World Youth Championships in 2017 where team Botswana got position 9;
During the leadership of LebotseSebego BONA has managed seven players under Zebra Elite Scholarship; she masterminded the attainment of the SPAR partnership; Over 500 Technical Officials trained on international standards during her leadership; and 20 coaches and 10 umpires internationally graded.
According to the former BONA president, other codes can learn a lot from netball, “they can learn that it is important to retain and support leaders who is delivering beyond the 1st term of office to ensure successful execution of initiates started. From me personally they could learn to stay away from the sports politics, be firm, frank and fair.”
Speaking directly to her decision to step down, Madam President as she was affectionately known in some quarters points out that, “this was a decision made in 2013 when my 2nd term started. One of the things we did in 2009 was to revise the Constitution of BONA to have a defined term of office to 2 terms of 4 years. I believe that it was time for me to step forward and for someone with a different focus to come and take netball to the next level,” she said. Interestingly LebotseSebego’s time to step down coincided with the Botswana Olympic committee (BNOC) elections where she launched a serious campaign for Presidency. In the end she was not successful, but she says she is very glad that she put up her hand.
She had assembled an all-woman team for the BNOC elections, of which she says, “I am even more pleased that I went in with a women only team #BokgoniFela. We forced a conversation on the gender skewed leadership, not just in sport but in other spheres. Personally I learnt that sports leaders are NOT ready for female leaders who do not conform or sort of become “honorary men” or play “the game” to be elected into office. I am speaking of me personally and how I felt and this is not meant to imply that any of the women who raised their hands and were elected into office conformed. We managed to get into office 3 very capable women and I wish that we had managed to get at least one more into the more senior positions.”
Despite her unsuccessful bid at the BNOC, LebotseSebego says she is definitely not lost to sport. “Locally I will support as much as I can all codes in areas I am able to influence. I am still the President of Africa Netball and also a Board Director for the International Netball Federation.” The President of the Republic, Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama bestowed LebotseSebego with a Presidential Certificate of Honour (PCH). She is very proud of this recognition, a personal achievement she treasures: “Becoming Tebogo LebotseSebego PCH will remain something I will treasure forever. I am grateful to His Excellency for having bestowed that honor on me.”
With such an honour to her name, what if the Minister of Sport Youth and Culture could decide to appoint her the BNSC chairperson, “Perhaps I would be a bit uneasy if the Minister would hand pick me to lead sport after sports leaders did not vote me in for an important role in sports. However, I would accept the appointment, because sports is a public institution and it is for all people in Botswana and not just the privilege or right of sports leaders. So if the Minister considered me capable for a key role to lead sports, I would accept that role and give it my best.”
One of LebotseSebego’s concerns is that as a country Botswana still relies too much on volunteers to administer sports. “We need more people working full time for sports and for the sports leaders to bring in the strategic knowledge and expertise. With the way we are structured at present, I am of the opinion that we will be delayed to reach our full potential as a sporting nation.”
Madam President’s partying shot is straight to the point: “As is Government is the biggest contributor to sports. The private sector contribution is growing but we need to make it conducive for the private sector to increase its contribution. Also as sporting codes we need to profile and position such that the private sector sees value and want partnerships with sports.”
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is running without a substantive Technical Director since parting ways with South African native, Serame Letsoaka, who jumped ship midway through his contract in 2019.
This glaring revelation has left the Technical Department of the association hamstrung to fully operate by the book hence a plethora of problems protruding on the very nose of it.
This is the reason it took long for the association to take stern action against Zebras gaffer, Adel Amrouche. His departure was sanctioned at the eleventh hour when players’ patience had long wilted, threatening to leave the camp.
Pundits will therefore observe that it is the absence of a Technical Director that has caused all hell to break loose at Lekidi Football Centre.Since the departure of Letsoaka, the TD position has been more or less vacant as it has been manned by unqualified and somewhat incompetent administrators to date.
The TD position requires a CAF A-License qualification as well as a Diploma in Secondary Education as minimum qualifications. Among the specific duties of TD is; training and development of coaches, including design and updating of coaches manuals, facilitating licensing courses, developing a coaches Code of Conduct, arranging for expert and specialist coaches to deliver training clinics, education on rules of the game and creating and maintaining a library of resources including books, videos and articles for coaches to access.
The responsibility also include establishing and delivering a comprehensive and nationwide Grassroots programme at both the community level, in schools, and in the schools through clubs through strategic partnerships within the communities and with various government ministries and agencies.
TD also advices BFA on all matters related to the effective development of football in Botswana and is accountable for the development of a strategy and policy for the performance of football programmes.
Other duties include working with Youth National teams and coaches through development programmes in order to enable BFA to attain its goals within CAF and FIFA, including putting in place clear systems and processes for identifying and developing talented players.
After Letsoaka left, BFA reached out to Wire Kaelo, a Gaborone United legend currently holding the position of assistant coach at Security System FC, but eventually he was not appointed to the post.
Despite rumours to the effect that BFA had agreed terms with Kaelo to this day, the Association has not come out as to what happened to the alleged marriage.
BFA subsequently appointed one Dr Carolin Braun, on secondment from the German Olympic organisation, a move that left the association rooted in abrasive factionalism.
In particular, local coaches and the general football fanatics have always cried foul claiming that Dr Braun is not fit to hold the position of TD especially in a growing football environment like Botswana.
There is growing concern that Dr Braun does not have the pre-requisite credentials to be appointed for this plum post as she has never held any significant position within the football fraternity, not even at amateur level.
“It was a first in the history of Botswana football to see a TD doubling up as assistant coach to the senior national team and there has been no tangible coaching courses since the departure of Serame Letsoaka and this has been attributable to the vacant position of TD,” a source remarked.
BFA is currently failing to communicate CAF’s decision that the ill-fated CAF “B” and “C” courses held during Serame’s last days were not sanctioned and therefore attendants will not be certificated.
Over 50 local coaches participated in the courses and last year, most of those coaching in the Premier League had to be given waivers by the BFA Technical Committee before they could be accredited.
CAF has since indicated that the issue of waivers by national associations will not be entertained, something which might throw local games into disarray.BFA is still failing to come up with a coaching philosophy despite Serame having started groundwork before his departure.
Other countries such as Zambia have since resumed CAF coaching courses whilst in Botswana is still business as usual despite the impending challenges caused by indiscretion and lack of foresight.
Despite BFA having advertised the position of TD and subsequently holding interviews where recommendations were done by the Technical and Development Committee, the BFA NEC has refused to endorse the recommendation for reasons only best known to them.
Yet, there is a lingering fact that the NEC is clueless when it comes to technical matters. There is not even a single individual in the NEC who holds any coaching qualification including the Chairman of the member responsible for technical and development matters, Masego Ntshingane.
When asked about the position of the TD, Ntshingane said the association is well aware of the matter and will son fill the post. “Yes, it is true the association has not appointed a TD after Letsoaka’s departure, but we are working around the clock to hire capable people,” he said.
However, local coaches believe that it’s a travesty of justice to expect non-technical people to make meaningful contributions on technical matters to the extent that they can veto recommendations from a committee of renowned technical experts.
It is not business as usual in the operations manual of African football. Ever since the ascendency of Dr. Patrice Motsepe to the CAF plum post, the African football governing body is ringing changes to satisfy the demands and governance standards of the modern game.
However, it appears that what is coming out from the high offices of the game is a bitter pill to swallow for local clubs, some of which are touted to be the best in the land.
Connectedly, CAF has issued a circular to the effect that only coaches holding the CAF “A” education license will be permitted to sit on the technical dugout during the upcoming inter club competitions. This communication has been sent to all 54 CAF member associations in May 2021.
However, it seems local clubs have not been appraised on this development even though both Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United have shown desire to represent the country in the CAF competitions.
It comes to the fore now that the two clubs can successfully represent the country if they engage coaches with the pre-requisite qualifications which is now an insurmountable task due to the COVID-19 impact on club finances.
Both clubs have hired coaches who attended the ill-fated BFA conducted CAF “B” and “A” coaching courses which were held in Lobatse almost two years ago.
To date the coaches await the completion of the courses and certificates while CAF has made it clear that the courses were not sanctioned as they were held during the era that coaching licenses were suspended, a situation that BFA was well aware of and has since accepted the consequences.
The BFA is still at sixes and sevens on how to break the issue to the affected coaches as it is likely to cause a huge public embarrassment and backlash from the coaching fraternity.
“We all know about the problem, BFA is promising to come to the bottom of the matter as we continue to engage them,” says Botswana Football Coaches Association (BFCA) interim President, Daniel Nare.
CAF has also made it clear that this time there will be no waiver for coaches without the pre-requisite qualification because the Confederation has been too lenient in the past. During the last CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, both Galaxy and Orapa United coaches were given a reprieve by CAF Technical Department as they did not even have the CAF “B” license.
When approached for clarity, the Spokesperson for Galaxy, Tankiso Morake said they are playing a waiting game when it comes to CAF issues especially that BFA is yet to reply to their letter. “Honestly, there is nothing concrete I can share because no one is certain about anything. We are waiting to be replied by the association so that we can finalize everything,” he said.
While United was not available for comment, it is clear that both clubs will need to hire coaches with the needed qualifications otherwise playing in this year’s edition of African football mirrors a tomorrow that may never come.
A recent study shows that Township Rollers is not only popular within the perimeters of Botswana, but has also made significant steps within the digital football platforms in Africa.
Out of the 70 African football clubs ranked on the African football digital benchmark, Township Rollers comes on the 35th position backed by a massive social media following. The club website records more than 399 000 followers and is seen as the most interactive in the local game.
This is consistent with the recent study conducted by FIFA- world football governing body- that Rollers is the only team locally that makes use of its digital platforms.
Notably, it comes out that the gap between Township Rollers and the rest of the 15 Premier League clubs is abysmal, this therefore works against creating a strong BPL brand value.
Rollers is the only club with more than 50 000 followers on Facebook, more than 20 000 followers on Twitter while its Instagram platform stands strong at 27 800 followers.
However, it is found out that much of the BPL brand value is killed by some social Facebook football fan accounts. They have stood long and have thus attracted more followers than the official accounts. Pages like Killers Pass and Botswana Football have consequently seen more than 100 000 following. Both of the accounts give 24 hour on-going updates of football’s latest news, transfers, results, video and live updates.
FIFA has therefore come to a conclusion that the two social media pages have grown interactive since they incite followers to answer and present their impressions about local football.
It comes into the open that 70 percent of domestic premier league clubs do not have official websites. This according to FIFA, kills the brand and visibility of clubs hence failure to attract lucrative sponsors by the clubs. FIFA also found out that the remaining 30 percent of clubs with websites are lacklustre and found wanting when it comes to their online presence. But in this regard, Rollers is on pole position.