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.
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.