The incongruent messages from key IAAF personnel validates the suspicions surrounding Isaac Makwala’s shambolic barring from the 400m final at the London Stadium on frivolous ‘medical grounds’.
The most ridiculous claim from London was the suggestion that Makwala experienced the forceful expulsion of the contents of his stomach and part of the small intestines through the mouth for 18 hours! Surely he would have died! This day dreaming smacks of cowardly chicanery. The decision to block Makwala from competing in his favoured race smacks of sabotage and fraud. Pundits were shocked at the level of poor communication by the IAAF officials after they delivered a fraudulent verdict on Botswana 400m sprint icon’s medical condition.
Rightly so, the Botswana Government is incensed and has instructed a team of lawyers to confront the IAAF on the ‘unfair’ treatment of Makwala. The actions of the IAAF have been found wanting and rickety, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng told Parliament that Government lawyers are busy drafting protest papers directed at the IAAF following the unfair treatment of Makwala. In fact it could have been more pain for Makwala, the 400m sprint icon was sabotaged and blocked from participating in the 200m heats as well – the 400m final came after he missed the 200m heats.
Allegations were flying thick and fast to the effect that this was a calculated move designed to favour the IAAF preferred athlete, a poster boy of some sort, Wayde van Niekerk in the wake of Usain Bolt's retirement. IAAF feared that Makwala was going to embarrass their chosen would-be winner according to pundits. Minister Olopeng has indicated that IAAF officials rejected Botswana delegation's medical report and violently barred Makwala from even entering the stadium in London because of an assumed 'medical condition'.
Pundits have dismissed the IAAF's 'ridiculous' grounds for barring Makwala and it is very likely that the Botswana Government will push this matter to the last stage. There is no doubt that the IAAF medical delegation’s poisonous move almost scattered Makwala and team Botswana's chance to a podium finish. The psychology of the team was negatively affected by the irrational decision by the IAAF. But the resolve of Makwala and his team mates and a goodwill support from the crowds and social media cheered the team.
For his account Makwala, after IAAF officials cooked up another statement claiming elapse of a 48hour quarantine for the 400m athlete, he was allowed to race against a time of 20.53seconds in order to qualify for the semi-finals of the 200m race. He blistered his way through the wet surface and powered across the finish line in 20.20 seconds. Makwala further shamed the IAAF conspirators in the semi-finals, clocking an impressive 20.14 seconds to qualify for the finals.
But in a final showdown, a nation full of hope watched in shock as Makwala succumbed under immense pressure while 400m gold winner Wayde van Niekerk gave him a torrid time. But it was Turkish sprinter Ramil Guliyev who gate-crushed the finals becoming the global king of the 200m race- scooping a gold medal. Clearly the local lad was always going to find it difficult to break boundaries. In a space of two days he ran three races recording contrasting times. Unbelievably, Makwala clocked an awful time on the finals- 20:44.
Pundits point out that fatigue, conspiracies and mounting pressure are factors that might have played a disappointing role that saw Makwala losing out in the last minute. At some point there were attempts by the IAAF head of medical delegation, Dr Venning: She explained: “He had taken a history, examined him, pulse, respiratory and the history from this gentleman is clear that he had symptoms similar to all the other athletes classified as having this gastro-intestinal disease.” Makwala and the Botswana delegation have denied all these made up statements. Makwala insists he was never medically examined by the IAAF doctors. At some point it was claimed that Makwala vomited for more than 18 hours, a ridiculous suggestion that would have sent Makwala straight to grave because of loss of body fluids.
Venning’s explanations, fell short because she could not even tell whether Makwala’s symptoms “could be attributed to any other reason as opposed to making the assumption that it is norovirus”. The IAAF doctor claimed the decision to bar Makwala was meant to protect other athletes in the stadium – where as he was set aside purely on assumption. Social media came to Makwala’s rescue, it has to be stated. Michael Johnson and other former athletes followed Makwala’s case through and through and regularly updated on it. Batswana joined the fray in their numbers and indeed the IAAF was shamed and it ordered a time trial race for the ‘Badman’.
Makwala rewarded with P 100,000
At the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) meeting on Thursday, President Lt Gen Ian Khama hailed the tremendous determination and spirit that was displayed by Isaac Makwala in the face of his "unfair" barring by the IAAF from running in the 400m final and 200m qualifier this week. The President informed the meeting that it had been decided to reward Makwala with the P 100,000 gold medal incentive that he would have been otherwise entitled to if he had won the race. Government position is that Makwala was denied a chance to compete for the prize hence the decision to reward him.
The President also thanked the domestic and international media, officials and members of public for their support which had been rewarded with last night's special run. The President also announced that a special day will be scheduled in the near future to honour Makwala. Meanwhile interviewed and quoted elsewhere, the IAAF World Athletics Championships 2017, Wayde van Niekerk said wished he could give 400m gold to Isaac Makwala.
"I really wish him a speedy recovery. On Monday, I saw him just before the 200m heats and the only thing I could think of was wrapping my arms around him and saying get well soon because I wouldn’t wish that on anyone," van Niekerk was quoted as saying by The Guardian. "It is such a massive pity. Obviously, there are a lot of fingers that are being pointed right now. I would allow him to have his fair opportunity. I wish he could have run. I wish I could give him my medal to be honest. But this is sport. We all have disappointments, we all have tough times – we just have to fight back even harder,” he added.
The Botswana Football League (BFL) house has never known peace since its establishment in 2020. The company’s directors and shareholders, built to professionalise the elite league, are seemingly in a wild goose chase, leaving footballers’ dreams to shatter amid ‘man-made’ sporting adversity.
The BFL titanic has hit an iceberg, and the stewards and captains of this ship are struggling to bring it to calmer waters. This infighting and militancy have attracted the eye and wrath of the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, whom sources say is readying himself to prepare a tell-all meeting with the 16 premier league clubs chairpersons in the next coming weeks.
It is said that the Minister is concerned by the lack of progress at the league that should be ordinarily a flagship of Botswana football. As the Minister of Sports, Rakgare is disappointed by the crusade of blames and figure pointing at the boardrooms while essential issues like sponsorship and safe return to play are not adequately addressed.
It is said that the Minister has silently observed that the league house is moving in circles, and time wasted never returns. He is shocked that these chairpersons are incurring unnecessary costs paying players, yet they delay the return of football. When approached for clarity, the Minister could only say he is on leave and will only talk about sports matters when he resumes duty.
“I am not going to comment on anything concerning sport; for now, I am currently on my leave days to charge my batteries; talk to me after two weeks or so,” he briefly commented via a telephone interview. To this date, the BFL board has had two chairmen in as a space of seven months. Township Rollers boss Jagdish Shah was its maiden chairman during its formative stage, and Nicholas Zakhem assisted him.
It said significant progress was made to source sponsors, but what later led to factions and divisions inside the board is not adequately established. When Shah was removed, Aryl Ralobala was installed as the second chairman, but his stay has been rocky right from the beginning.
He was confronted with taxing sponsorship and broadcasting deals but what would later complicate his tenure is the burning issue of a mooted loan agreement with the Botswana Football Association(BFA). All these combined were complicated by the inability of the previous board to proceed with a smooth handover.
The BFL structure was first established in August 2020. One of its mandates was to divorce itself from the football association and negotiate key sponsorships for itself. This autonomous idea was rubber-stamped at the previous BFA general assembly.
Once the BFL fully gained independence, BFA was to give it a playing licence, and the FA will have a minor share of the profits made within a football calendar. In this company, all the 16 premier league clubs have equal shares. But at the end of every season, relegated clubs transfer their shares to newly-promoted clubs.
The spirit of brotherhood at Lekidi Football Centre has indeed fallen apart. Evidence of this development emanated at the recent National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting where the Botswana Football Association (BFA) is reported to have repeatedly fluffed lines to bring football’s most shrewd schemer, Nicolas Zakhem, to book for what they term ‘undermining leadership.’
The association is said to have noted with utmost concern that Zakhem, the chief investor at Gaborone United, has on several accounts, poured scorn over BFA leadership for failing football and went on to call for their resignation as things continue to fall apart.
Moreover, the Lebanese business mogul has come out from the shell and punched holes on the administrative head of the newly formed establishment, Botswana Football League (BFL), arguing that, they too, have fallen by the wayside while attempting to professionalize the local football.
Wary of these continuous onslaughts by the Zakhem, BFA feels the man is out of order and ought to be hauled before red burning coals for undermining leadership. Sources say the association wants the ethics committee to apply its mind over Zakhem’s previous uttering and tame him for good.
Zakhem, whom football observers agree was the kingmaker as MacLean Letshwiti, and his troops triumphed over Tebogo Sebego’s allies at BFA general election held in October 2020, is believed to have fallen out of favour with the Letshwiti regime. The proof of the pudding was when he ate up Letshwiti administration during an interview on Gabz FM roughly two weeks back.
However, the association’s NEC is said to be torn apart as relationships continue to decay. Reports suggest that quite a handful of them are not entertaining the idea of reprimanding Zakhem, and even if push comes to shove, it is not the mandate of the NEC to spell a final determination on him. At the same time, judicial bodies of the association are available and functioning.
The Zakhem issue, burning as it is, saw Letshwiti’s troops coming face to face with him for the first time since assuming office. Sources claim that the members were not coy about calling a spade a spade that the BFA boss is also out of his mandate by ruling with an iron fist and should try by all means to uphold the constitution of the association. Indications are that the members are not impressed by the current state of football affairs and want a plethora of issues to address other than tailing and chastising other football administrators in the name of ill-discipline.
However, sources say there is strong determination to bring Zakhem to book by hook or crook. Meanwhile, the BFA has allowed their legal advisor to study the matter and advise on the way forward. When approached for comment, BFA legal advisor Pako Moakofi said he was not able to speak as he was still attending to his health issues.
The issue of Zakhem is also said to have lifted the lid off another NEC member’s matter. Last year, Carlos Sebina, former Tafic Chairman, was relieved of his duties after being accused of conniving with the enemy to betray and sabotage the association. The decision came when Botswana was preparing to play a crucial tie against Zimbabwe in AFCON 2021 qualifiers. Sebina was the medical committee chairman and had previously won the NEC seat as the only member from Sebego’s side.
Zakhem himself is out of the country and cannot be reached to provide further clarity, but sources close to him told WeekendSport that he is fully aware of the ongoing matter. It is no longer in doubt that BFA elephants are fighting, and it is the football grass that will suffer the most.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) contends that football is an industry that employs everyone from different sectors of the economy and will argue this point until the COVID-19 Task Force fully comprehends it.
The move comes to the fore after the association, this week, held an emergency meeting with Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) to deliberate on possibilities of allowing footballers to resume training. At the same time, sporting activities remain suspended as a COVID-19 containment measure.
The BFA, BNSC held a meeting to establish the impact of suspending sporting activities on football. The BFA argues that considerable effort was initiated to return to play. Although sources say it was the first phase of deliberations, another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday with the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport, and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, to further find a common understanding.
Sources contend that although the atmosphere was a bit tense at the beginning, discussions were fruitful, with the Ministry of Sport promising to discuss the matter with the Coordinator of the Task Force, Dr. Kereng Masupu.
The uptight mood cascaded when Rakgare complained about the leakage of confidential information to third parties, especially the media. It will seem the minister was not happy at how the BFA meeting together with theirs was to be known by outside parties before a conclusion is reached. The ministry expressed its frustration concerning the slow progress of BFA as far as the resumption of football was concerned.
A senior administrator in the ministry complained that BFA was dilly-dallying even before the government suspended sporting activities. When asked to give clarity, the BFA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Goabaone Taylor said it would be remiss of her to talk about the details of the meeting, especially when the time was not right.
“Even the ministry had to gag us because we find our confidential information littered everywhere. I am afraid that is not right, and should it persist, it can damage the confidence and the talks we are having with our partners,” she said when asked about her presence during the Wednesday meeting.
BFA, in the meantime, says their position paper does not change. They have argued that football is the only code that employs masses, and the continuation of sports ban hampers and jeopardizes contracts with various stakeholders, including players and sponsorships. Moreover, BFA says companies are reluctant to commit to football because the ban brings much confusion on the way forward.
Furthermore, the association argues that football is the biggest revenue spinner, estimated to be around P55 million. They say the game employs over 3 000 people directly and provides over 9 000 indirect jobs countrywide. Over the years, when football was in full flight, the game raked about P 26 000 000,00 in sponsorships while 4 000 000,00 came from broadcasting deals.
BFA will therefore play a waiting game while the suspension comes to an end in a week and will hope the game will never be clamped down again, which will allow the 2021-22 season to commence.