There is no way to escape the Botswana Chess Federation’s mesmerizing organizational prowess and of course the smart performances recorded by chess players. Like a true Knight, the Chess Federation has become a special code at the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Awards.
In the three of the last five years, one of the best organized sport codes in the country has seen three of its administrators bestowed with the Best Sports Administrator Award at the prestigious BNSC Awards. One thing about Chess is that it is a very small community which generally has individuals of high or impeccable profiles. According to former Chess Federation president, Tshenolo Maruatona, the latest conquer in the Administrator of the Year award, “All the former and current chess players wield very impressive academic and professional profiles and these are individuals who generally are never lost to the game.”
It was a spectacular weekend for the Chess body, it started with one of their former president, Tshepo Sitale being elected as Senior Vice President of the highly contested Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC). Sitale is one of the pioneer administrators of chess who propelled the Federation to recognition, his election this past weekend as BNOC Senior Vice President was a crowning moment of hard work and meticulous organisation.
Currently the chess elders who are the guide to the committee among others include Dr Marape Marape (former chess player and father to Naledi Marape), Dr Jerome Mafeni (the Chief Executive Officer of ACHAP); Mr Mboki Chilisa who is a practicing lawyer and a passionate chess player; Tshepo Sitale, a former Chess president and chess player. According to Maruatona, the list of advisors is endless. “In my opinion, these parents to a larger extent attribute their academic achievements and discipline to chess and they all want to see their kids following on their tracks. Hence their full involvement in the game. In the past 4 years, Botswana Chess Federation has managed to raise over P250 000 coming as sponsorships only from chess adults,” observed Maruatona.
Maruatona further observes that Chess players cannot imagine their life outside chess. He opines that it is a very intriguing game, very addictive and all they want to do is play chess. “So in essence chess players or enthusiasts will never engage in any activity that can put the game into disrepute. They have their differences but they protect the game at all cost. This is very important for any code. Chess players always want to see the game being played and the guard it with everything,” said the BNSC Administrator of the Year.
Just like in the chess game there is a Desperado, where a piece is captured anyway so it can "sacrifice" itself at the highest cost, chess players sacrifice their personal interests for the good of the game. If there is to be a Woodpusher among the chess family, that is a duffer or weak chess player, the team players will always support that person in the interest of the sport. Therefore, Maruatona shares that the success at chess is not automatic, there is a method to their madness.
The BNSC Administrator of the Year further observes that the chess sport has all the intellectual resources within own pool. “For instance, the chess strategy was crafted by a former national team chess player, Mr Tefo Mogasha; our website was designed and made by our chess players; our life broadcast of games in Botswana was initiated and is being technically supported by our national team player, Phemelo Khetho.” As he cites this examples, Maruatona punctuates his rhyming examples with this statement: “So clearly there is a lot at stake and imagine the calibre of these individuals, they all want to see everything succeed. This is a select group of "nerds" like some people want to say, though we don’t think we are nerds. So in that context, the bar is not at mediocre level.”
According to Maruatona, Chess has been very successful to some extent in getting sponsorships and maintaining the existing ones. He says this could be attributed to how they have successfully packaged chess and how the benefits of playing chess have helped them position it as a game. “It is a known fact that all strong chess players are whizz kids or were at school. In the history of Botswana Chess, there has never been any chess player who made it into the national team and was not an A student. Never ever.
That alone is a distinctively selling value and sets us apart from other codes. It is the desire of every parent to see their kids excel at school. We always emphasize this distinctive advantage when we engage prospective Sponsors,” observes Maruatona. He quips, “Tell me one very good chess player you know in Botswana who was not a top student, I will pay you if u do!”
Every time the Chess Federation approaches a sponsor, it pitches the level very high and where need be, “we pull in some of the parents relevant in the line of business of the sponsor we are approaching. We don’t come through as just sports persons, but we sell our code on value and sponsors find that very impressive. I can exhaust all the typing characters on facebook when I talk about chess. That is how every chess player lovers it,” shares Maruatona.
To cap the glorious chess year, Onkemetse Francis scooped the Sports Woman of the Year award which was sponsored by Debswana for the first time this year to the tune of P40 000. Debswana has taken a deliberate decision to support women within and outside of the organisation in areas such as sports, entrepreneurship and academics. “This is part of our concerted drive to empower women, one of our focus areas in our corporate social investment space,” said Head of Corporate Affairs, Esther Kanaimba-Senai. Chess looks set to dominate other sports codes because of the level of seriousness and organisation they put into their work at the Botswana Chess Federation. It is evident that there is a method to the madness hence it could be prudent for other sports codes to benchmark with chess fides and masters.
A section of troubled First Division South outfit, Mochudi Centre Chiefs are said to pulling out all stops to ensure that the club finally transitions into a company amid reports of instability and divisions.
According to a leaked letter from founders who are represented by Sexton Kowa and Ramocha Tsieng, the society has taken a decision to request Thapelo Tsheole who is currently the chairman, to hand over the team back to the society.
” Following the resolution passed by the members of the Mochudi Centre Chiefs Sporting Club(society) at its annual(AGM) held on the 18th August 2019 at Ntefo Conference facility in Mochudi to convert the society to a company limited by shares and with consent of the society, a company was duly incorporated on the 21st February 2020 being Mochudi Centre Chiefs (Proprietary) Limited, (the company) by six founders of the Society namely, Messrs, Aaron Ramosako, Molefi Sexton Kowa, Joel Mpete, Archie Aphiri, Rejoice Tlhowe, and Tshepo Aphiri (herein “The Funders” ), represented by Mr Molefi Sexton Kowa and Mr Ramocha Tsieng. The AGM further resolved that once the company was formed, the affairs of the society will be handed over to the company to manage,” reads the part of the missive written to Tsheole.
Contacted for comment, Mochudi Centre Chiefs President, Thapelo Tsheole stated that he is yet to officially receive the letter but has seen it from a friend who has seen it circulating on social media. “I cannot comment on the issue further because it was shown to me by a friend who saw it circulating on social media; but we will give it the attention it deserves and I plead with Centre Chiefs faithful to be calm,” he said.
The club president intends to keep his eyes on the ball: “We will handle the issue with the utmost respect because at the end of the day Mochudi Centre Chiefs brand should be the winner and this should always be our aim.” Tsheole has been leading the side and was tasked with reviving the team and bringing them back to the elite league.
The circulating letter is a culmination of power struggle between Tsheole and the so-called founders of the club. Sources speaking with WeekendSport state that Tsheole wanted both Directors to cede 75 percent of their shares to society as he believes the transitional route from society to a company has been bypassed.
Tsheole officially raised his hand for the first time this year, in an attempt to bring an end to more than a decade of controversy over Chiefs’ ownership, and appeared to have pinned his hopes on reaching an agreement with both Kowa and Ramotlhwa because of their status and good standing as former Chiefs’ administrators.
However, those close to developments believed that Tsheole, who also leads Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), was wasting his time trying to negotiate with the duo, who were already determined to resist all efforts. This follows unsuccessful negotiations where both Directors were alleged to have been left in utter shock concerning the approach and presentation of the Chairman.
While the two Directors would not be drawn to comment, it is said they are both hamstrung to divulge deeper details to Tsheole because of his ambition to transform the club. While Tsheole thought he was jumping off the hoops for the club, the two directors seem not to appreciate his efforts.
Tsheole, was reportedly surprised when he tried to register a commercial footballing company on behalf of Mochudi Centre Chiefs. He deliberately chose the ‘Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ name because of its popularity as it remains a brand country wide.He found out that the company name already exists and is under the directorship of both Kowa and Ramotsha.
While Mochudi Center Chiefs PTY LTD was registered sometime in February of this year, there was another company, Centre Chiefs PTY LTD, associated with the club which has been in existence since the early 1990s. This is the same company that acquired a 7 hector piece of land in Mochudi.
The company had 7 directors namely Victor Kowa as the Executive Chairman, Ezekiel Mooki who was appointed the Technical Director, Serake Mfolwe holding the post of director of Marketing and Public Relations, Simon Mmopi coming as Director of Development, MacLean Letshwiti holding the fort as Director of Finance, Sexton Kowa who was Youth Development Director, and Kgafela Kgafela who occupied the post of Director of Legal Affairs and Board Secreta.
Zebras midfielder, Mothusi Cooper is set to be one of the top paid players at his new club, Lusaka Dynamos, following his move from Township Rollers on a two-year deal with an option to extend by a year.
The 23 year-old who joined Township Rollers from Extension Gunners in 2018 has proved to be one of the best midfielders in the country. Cooper’s new contract will see him smile all the way to the bank as he is expected to earn US$ 2500 monthly (about P25 000) with a winning bonus of US$ 350 (about P3 500) per game. The Tsabong-born player is said to have already received P250 000.00 signing-on fee from the club.
“At Rollers he was getting around P13 000 and with COVID-19 effects his pay had went down so he could not resist such an offer. He also had ambitions to play abroad so with such opportunities sometimes you have to take them because they may come once in a lifetime since football is a short career,” said a source at Rollers.
Cooper, who was recently unveiled by Lusaka Dynamos has agreed personal terms with the club, but negotiations between the two clubs are yet to be completed. “Cooper is on his way to Zambia but we are yet to sign the final documents with Dynamos as we been negotiating with them. We are hopefully that everything will be signed any moment but we have agreed to let the player go since he agreed terms with the team,” said Township Rollers club President, Jagdish Shah.
Lusaka Dynamos owner and director, Hanif Adams revealed that the deal is done and they will do everything to finalise pending matters. “We expect Cooper to be here this Friday and it will be up to the coach whether to play him or not when we face Green Eagles this weekend,” revealed Hanif Adams who is a respected businessman in Zambia.
Zambian sports journalist, Puncherello Chama has cautioned Cooper that he will have to fight his way to be on the first eleven of his new side. “Cooper is an exciting player and he has impressed Zambians during our two games against Zebras and already fans this side are looking forward to see him in action but he will have to fight for a starting place in Patrick Phiri led team,” he said.
“And should Cooper perform well this side I believe it will open more doors for other Botswana players to come this side, people should not undermine the Zambian league as it is ranked 7th in Africa and it has exported players all over the world in the past years.”
Lusaka Dynamos who are nicknamed The Elite, are currently on 10th position in Zambian MTN Super League table and have lost their last game to Prison Leopards 4-2 but the club hopes to redeem itself this year when they take on Green Eagles Saturday (today).
The current crop of Zebras strikers is arguably apocryphal, and the vicissitude engulfing the national team has rendered them to a ‘milk and water’ status – very weak! Zebras is currently playing AFCON qualifiers and the team has scored a mere two goals in four matches!
Don’t be fooled by the 1-0 win against Zambia recently, it’s just an eye wash, win and loss in football are like Kith and Kin – the bottom-line is that our strikers are evidently gentlemen at large! This damning conclusion on the senior men National Team is deduced from the lethargic performances since the maiden appearance at the AFCON 2012. It is a fact that the frontline attack has grown toothless since returning from their maiden AFCON cup qualifiers in February of 2012.
This is not just a squawk about Zebras strike force without basis. To steer clear of any assumed malice, here is why every firm football fan could be steamed up right now – ever since the disappearance of striker Jerome Jay Jay Ramatlhakwane, none of the selected strikers is hitting the net consistently as he once did! They have all literally failed to step into JJ shoes.
Between the 2015 and 2019 AFOCN Qualifiers, it has been uninspiring performances from the Zebras men in front of the goals. The strikers have played nine (9) rounds of games and they have scored only twice. While we could be stirring up a hornet’s nest with this matter of fact write-up, we are prepared to stick to our guns – the current crop of strikers is failing the national team.
It shouldn’t appear we trying to stretch the truth. Let’s look at the 2012 qualifying rounds, Zebras played eight (8) games and scored seven (7) times. Striker Jay Jay alone found the net five (5) times hence ascending to the summit of the top scorers’ list in Africa alongside deadly Senegalese striker, Mamadou Niang. At a personal level, this was a wonderful, hard-earned moment of sporting grace for the monstrous built striker whose body built suited his Zebras role to a T. His scoring ability remains unmatched up to now.
For far too long, The Zebras players, strikers to be more precise, have become little more than spectators in any African Cup of Nations qualifying scoring race. By extension, the future of scoring players mirrors a tomorrow that may never come. Ever since the remarkable and buccaneering record set during the wonderful seasons of striker Jerome Ramatlhakwane in 2011, The Zebras striking force has been nothing but a blunt knife – this is for the record.
Here is the sum and substance of our situation at the Zebras – four (4) AFCON finals passed without anybody hitting the net consistently. Other than trying and experimenting with a handful of strikers, our tiny land locked country struggled to find its way out of a mediocre zone.
But along the visible lines of pedestrian performances, the name of Jerome Ramatlhakwane remains popular in this country and by extension, Southern Africa. Believe it or not, Jay-Jay as he is popularly known, has built a legacy for himself that is unrivalled.
He is arguably one of the most highly acclaimed footballers this country has birthed, albeit with little success due to lack of exposure and many other obstacles the robust player has experienced in his football career. Ramatlhakwane has been both the darling and the villain in the media and in the country for the display he provides on the field of play.
With the senior national team failing to score goals, one wonders how Jay-Jay used to find the back of the net with such ease. Records are here for everyone to see but as Mark Twain argued, ‘facts are stubborn and statistics are pliable.’
With a career spanning from 2006 till date, Jay-Jay is Botswana’s all-time leading goal scorer, having found the back of the net on 21 occasions, with 53 caps under his belt and counting. Jay-Jay’s skill as a box striker is second to none; the striker is a marvel to watch on the field of play. His agility and sheer love of the game gives him an aura of a warrior on the battlefield.
That is why it is hard to comprehend why Jay-Jay is still a local player, why scouts haven’t scooped him up. A player of his calibre and the skill he possess as a finisher makes it obvious that he could be destined for greater things. Jay-Jay would make for a pronounced addition to any international club.
Hot on his heels is Botswana’s poster boy, Diphetogo Selolwane who hanged his boots post the 2012 AFCON showpiece. He has 18 goals from 68 caps in a football career that kick started in 1998. In terms of play, Selolwane and Tshepiso Molwantwa, the famous jersey number 9 owner, are better than Jay-Jay but when it comes to statistics, Jay-Jay has the upper hand, this leaves one to ponder; is this what Mark Twain meant when he argued that statistics can be bent?
It’s a shock to learn that Molwantwa has won himself 44 international caps but only 8 recognized goals. We take a dim view of Molwantwa when it comes to goals scored but take heart in his selfless maneuvers on the field of play.
In modern Botswana football, Omaatla Kebatho of Orapa United and the late Oliver Phikati have all failed to rise to the occasion and with coaches not willing to give Teenage Orebonye enough opportunities, the Zebras’ striking situation has been a well-documented issue that portrays how and why The Zebras have failed to move up in the world rankings. JJ should have shown some of these players the ropes.
There seems to be no striker who will soon surpass Jay-Jay. The likes of Jomo Moatlhaping and Joel Mogorosi who have practically retired may have given the dominant striker a run for his money. Mogorosi is sitting third on the rankings with 14 goals from 79 appearances.
Only Onkabetse Makgantai can turn the tide on Jay-Jay’s story, should he come to the party. Onkabetse stands at 12 international caps with 5 goals, a far cry from what Jay-Jay resume reads. But in a squad that is losing its renowned defensive stability, Jerome can still score top marks in all aspects of the game, especially when he is working with a crafty midfielder.
Looking back at that goal reel, if ever there is one, in among the bullet headers, the tap-ins, the dinks and spins, there is a sense of man constructing a monument for himself. For Jay-Jay, the 2012 AFCON showpiece may have been the last significant mark to pass. One that may not, all things considered, be surpassed. All the hope we have on the current crop of strikers – just a shot in the dark!