Botswana Football Association (BFA) through its president, MacLean Letshwiti is believed to have staged a more spirited and emotive debate at the on-going Confederation of African Football (CAF) congress to convince other African states to change old-standing policies of the body.
The congress which is held at Morocco finds the African football body battling to change a litany of old practices, and the dates of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament have been moved from January/February to June/ July as a result.
BFA and other African federations have successfully sold the idea which is expected to bring a new dawn for Africa football, particularly its image. Letshwiti along with other 22 African football federation presidents believe that the tournament was not given the seriousness and latitude it deserves in the entire world, hence it’s consistent decline in appeal.
Many nations across the African continent, particularly those who were instrumental in the removal of long serving CAF president, Issa Hayatou in March, believe it is the right time to revive the once popular tournament. It is their collective view that the tournament should now be staged in the months of June and July. When qualifying their points, BFA and other African football bodies that are endeared to the newly elected CAF president Ahmad, say these are two perfect months to hold a tournament because most of the league games of various countries will be on season break. Besides that, World Cup football games and European matches are held in similar months, they further assert.
Over the years, the world-wide appeal of the African game dwindled down drastically because of the timing of the tournament, they argue. European teams, they say, more often than not, refuse to release players to participate because of their engagement during the season. But even if players are released by their European clubs commitment has always been found wanting in the field of play- some fearing to plunge themselves into untimely injuries, while others voice concerns of carelessness by their home countries as far as incentives are concerned.
European clubs have had a hard time hiding just how much they need African stars playing for their clubs through their refusal to release them at the time the tournament is ongoing. Manchester City in 2012, when Zambia won the tournament, sent a private jet to fly back Yaya Toure and his brother Kole Toure (who played for Ivory Coast) to England, just a day after the tournament came to an end. In the last edition of the show piece, Liverpool applied the same plan with Sadio Mane of Senegal.
“These are more of the reasons we badly want the dates to be changed,” Letshwiti was quoted as saying.
The nations, including Botswana believe that the former CAF president was a puppet of European states who wanted nothing, but to see African football dilapidating in status. Also seriously contested was the issue of the number of participating nations. These countries have pushed for participating teams to increase teams from 16 to 24. This, according to various nations will give others ample time to prepare for qualification for the once glittering show-piece. Other states had wanted the tournament to be held after every four years, but this idea appears to have been discarded. Those denouncing it feel it is pushed by Hayatou sympathisers for the tournament to ever remain dull. Currently, the AFCON tourney is held after every two odd years.
With many being of the view that the state of football in Botswana has deteriorated significantly as it is no longer appealing to the business community, this was a good week for the football community. The Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership under the stewardship of MacLean Letshwiti secured sponsorship for a combined value of P19. 3 million for the FA Cup competition and the First Division league – both South and North.
Some disgruntled Botswana Football League (BFL) shareholders are planning to petition the BFL board led by Gaborone United director and chief financier Nicolas Zackhem and his treasurer Jagdish Shah. Furthermore, they want to challenge the Botswana football Association (BFA) leadership over the deteriorating status of football in the country.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is poised to benefit from FIFA’s forward development programme. The Association will receive over P80 million to be used during the course of the next four years, as the world football governing body is strengthens its commitment to building a stronger foundation and the growth of football.
The Forward 3.0 funds – to be accessed by all 54 CAF members for the next four years have seen an increase of USD 2 million compared to Forward 2.0 cycle and Forward 1.0 cycle when the programme was launched.
According to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, the third cycle of the programme will be launched this month and it will dedicate more financial resources than before to developing football nations as there is an overall increase of approximately 30% compared to Forward 2.0.
“It is vital that we are now strengthening our commitment to building a stronger foundation for the growth of football,” Infantino noted.
The 62 page report by FIFA-Forward-Development-Programme-Forward-3-0-regulations also reveals that for travel and equipment, each member association, subject to compliance with the regulations, will receive an additional USD 1 million to cover the cost of travel and accommodation for their national teams. It further states that the remaining funds may be used to cover the cost of travel and accommodation for domestic competitions organized by the member associations.
“A contribution of up to USD 200,000 for the four-year cycle (2023-2026) to cover the cost of any football equipment related to the training of players and organization of matches (e.g. full kits for the national teams, balls, mini goals, bibs, substitution boards and referees’ communication systems) for those member associations that are identified as needing the most assistance,” the report indicated.
FIFA President, Infantino and his team said the member association is identified as needing the most assistance, for the purpose of the contributions, where their annual revenues (excluding Forward Programme funds as well as funds from any other FIFA programme/ initiative) do not exceed USD 4 million as the figure shall be reflected in the latest annual statutory audit report submitted to the FIFA general secretariat within six months after the closing of the relevant financial year.
Nevertheless, the contributions for travel will be released in four equal installments of USD 250,000 each in January every year, whilst those for equipment will be released in four equal installments of USD 50,000 each in January every year provided that the member association has fulfilled the conditions.
For the specific projects – in the case of Botswana and Namibia – there is an ambition to host the AFCON 2027 and if the joint bid succeed, the two nations will need to build new stadium to meet the requirements of CAF as the Bid technical committee has alluded before; therefore the two associations could make an appeal for extra funds to FIFA.
The report further says where a member association uses funds allocated for specific projects to improve or build new football infrastructure for its direct benefit or for the benefit of another entity (e.g. regional associations or clubs), the member association shall also provide, as part of the supporting documents, the FIFA general secretariat with the relevant national land registry certificate or extract confirming that the member association or the other entity is the owner of the land or the agreements confirming the donation, transfer or other form of provision to, or use of land by the association.
When contacted for comment, local sports analyst, Jimmy George said; “Ours is more a lack of vision, than money to finance programs. Regrettably when you lack vision not even USD 8 million can bail you out. Its pity the funds might be used to pay for the past projects that have yielded very little success.”