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GU: The shrinking giant

Founded in 1967, Gaborone United Sporting Club is undoubtedly one of the oldest teams in football history. In its maiden season at its formative stages, the club nicknamed ‘Moyagoleele’ won the Botswana Premier League title, wrestling it from the hands of Notwane FC.


Records show that from its toddler stages, the club whose colours are red and white was on course to write their own story on the landscape of home football. It is augured that the team was formed by stalwarts of the country’s longest ruling party, BDP. No wonder, the club inherited the party’s red and white colours.


Formed two years after Township Rollers came to life, Gaborone United, observers say, chose red and white to depict a new life on the football spectrum. Politically, red represents radicalism and revolt, and while it not indicated anyway in history that United ‘s formation came from Rollers, it is more safer to believe that, their colours painted a picture of a new life and, of course boldness.


This boldness was soon to be transformed into dominance as the team won both coca- cola cups and league title in early 60s, 70s and 80s. To date, GU has won the FA cup 6 times, and repeated the same number when clinching league titles- dominance. Their last league title was in 2009, the years during which Botswana football was in its transformation phase. It was during the same period that multi-million Lebanese business man, Nikholas Zakhem came in as the club‘s financier.


However, throughout the last couple of years that followed, the red and white regalia of GU shirts no longer represented dominance and life. In the eight years since winning their 6th premier league title in 2009, they have gone through 11 coaches, and finished behind champions Township Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs.


It is not difficult to identify what precisely has gone wrong, though the causes are so manifold they are easier to locate with grapeshot than with a pinpoint. The club relied heavily on the genius of prolonging veteran players’ careers. Amongst the winning team, they were Bashin Modisaotsile, Wellengton Maposa and Kenny Ledikwe, all veterans of the game. But when they were ditched by Sithole’s successor, Manfred Chabinga, it was clear that succession plan was tinkered with. A winning coach was not allowed to lead the team in CAF competitions.


It is certainly not only the trophies that are missed at the team that was famously known to be emanating from Ditakaneng-a long standing location of Gaborone in Naledi , but also Sithole's character and personality. He had a strong and intimate relationship with the players, and it left them feeling empty when he parted ways with them for BMC. When lifting up his silverware during United’s glory days, the late Joseph Phetogo (May his soul rest in peace) who captained the side said Sithole was the best coach ever. And indeed, he was, should it be remembered that he drove Centre Chiefs to its first league trophy in its many years without registering a defeat, a year before he landed his post with Gaborone United.


Undoubtedly one could not underestimate the impact he had on both G.U and Chiefs’ players, and this has made life virtually impossible for every man who has succeeded him. If the Sithole effect has definitely been a contributing factor to G.U’s demise, most of the blame still has to go to its committee as a whole. A series of mistakes in hiring and axing coaches as well as signing players have led “The Reds” down a dark path which will be difficult to escape from.


While the team managed to win the Mascom Top 8 competition in 2013, the same problems still prevailed. They started selling their best assets– Tebogo Sembowa, Noah Maposa, Moemedi Moatlhaping and Ronald Chikomo – and tried to mask their strategy by signing big name players with only a few miles left on the clock and no re-sale value, among them Gaopatwe Seosenyeng, Kgololo Kgogobi and Alphonso Modisaotsile. Despite a huge churn of players, systemic reform at youth and academy level, the hard work of elite development and fostering club culture, was avoided in preference for the quick fix.


Another cup glory- the Coca Cola cup was achieved through the same spells of firing and hiring of new coaches. At this time, it was Philemon Makhwengwe who was at its helm. On a positive note though, the club was the first to traverse the road of professionalism. A committee that comprised of Dr Nkomazana, Tymon Katholo, and Herbert Letsebe among others were responsible for helping the team traverse the evasive route.


Fast forward to now; the club is bruised and caught up in identity crisis tussles. The gleaming trophy rooms are now but a constant reminder of failure and the desperate need for a fresh start. There are unconfirmed reports that the team, deeply troubled by lack of finances, is sponsored by a ghost company that has occupied a large share of the shirt space. This season is no different, the team is slowly moving towards the end of another trophy less run while Argentinean coach Rudolph Zapata’s journey with the team nears an end.

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Sport

BFA appoints first ever female CEO

1st April 2021
New BFA Boss

Botswana Football Association (BFA) National Executive Committee (NEC) has appointed Goabaone Taylor as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) — replacing Mfolo Mfolo who was sacked last year following Botswana under 17 boys’ team scandal.

The under-17 team was kicked out of the regional COSAFA competition after they failed the Magnetic Resonance Imaging test (MRI) which led to his sacking ultimately.
The new BFA boss has signed three-year contract with BFA and she will resume her new position from April 5th 2021 taking a reign from Thabiso Kebotsamang who has been acting as CEO of the local governing body.

Taylor joins BFA joins with more than 18 years of corporate and commercial professional experience backed by a distinguished track record of identifying the uniqueness of brands, accentuating their appeal, taking them to market, and maximizing their value. Talyor brings a unique set of skills, perspectives, and relationships to lead the BFA into the future.

“Building on what the BFA has already accomplished, under her leadership, the Association hopes to hone its strategic direction, grow, and develop, as well as strengthen its partnerships and build new relationships,” reads press statement from Lekidi.

Taylor has previously served as Country Manager of Econet Media, she also led the commercialization of the Pay-Tv and Free-to-Air content platforms, implementing go-to-market strategy, driving brand awareness, partner and customer acquisition as well as enhancing customer experience.

Prior to Econet Media, she worked in the Wholesale Business arm of BTCL, spearheading business development efforts, managing complex international relationships with strategic business partners within the framework of an international body charged with maintaining practices and standards; a similar arrangement to that which exists in football, with both FIFA and UEFA.

Her previous roles have also required reaching down into grassroots organizations to encourage the development of local capability.  The new BFA female boss holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in marketing from the University of Botswana (UB), including an array of professional courses in the areas of Digital Marketing with the University of Cape Town (UCT), Senior Development Program with USB-Ed and Enterprise Risk Management with Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) among others.

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Sport

AFCON 2021 was always a fallacy

30th March 2021
Zebras

In a country that places sport at the bottom of its priorities, Botswana Senior national team’s dream of qualifying to the 33rd edition of the African prestigious tournament was a misconception right from the beginning.

With Adel Amrouche, recruited and paid a staggering P 250 000 to embody the future of the Zebras squad, his buoyance and pragmatic style of coaching appeared to confuse different ideologies of the game.

Botswana’s elite league has been in chains for over a year now. Players’ fitness, without doubt took a nose dive because majority of them had never kicked the ball in a competitive game. Dangling bigger carrots by the Government of Botswana at a very crucial stage was never going to help the situation.

These stories of a disjointed association and league point rather wearily to the basic obstacle on Botswana’s own path to Cameroon games. A Premier League that refused to restart the games and many published Government Gazette that closed out sport have edged Botswana’s national team concerns to the fringes. Players are not allowed to play at club level but are expected to kick the ball and win on the international stage.

Football for a very long time has been feeding from crumps. There is no clear budget for sport and even 11th hour incentives cannot help turn the corner, only thorough preparations can.

For far too long, Botswana has become a little more than a spectator in an African Cup of Nations qualifying race. The future of this footballing nation now mirrors a tomorrow that may never come. It does not come by fluke…like many aspects of life, even in football, there are no short cuts. There is no easy way to the top. It tells a story that we are jumbling preparations of the game, no wonder we could not juggle the ball better than Zimbabwe.

But all these things come from afar. When Amrouche was employed, like many of his predecessors, he was asked to take the team to AFCON finals, but this never materialized because there is no clear road map. Some of the stories are of course his own doing. The reported fall out he had with some players and members of the technical team meant that he earned himself many enemies.

Many loved his tough nosed approach to disciplinary issues. When he came in he put his foot on the ground and immediately suspended about four players for disobeying his laid down camp rules.

Amrouche is not a man who trusts easily. He fired almost everyone he feels sabotaged him. He ultimately surrounded himself with few faces new to the game. Unfortunately, it turned out that he was doing it too much…running the show all by himself.

His prize tag was justifiable enough to qualify the team to the African show piece but little did he know that he had many enemies who prayed day and night that he does not make it.

Statistically, his coaching resume in the country does not inspire confidence. He played a total of 8 games. He won 1 game and lost 5, the other two games ended in a stalemate. This is from a man who smiles all the way to the bank to withdraw P250 000 every month.

With Amrouche, Botswana was expected to take some pride from Cape Verde of 2010 and Madagascar of 2019; they can’t just leave with crossed arms, and so followers thought this was going to be a one-on-one match.

But as fate finally proved it, Botswana is not organized in doing their things, no wonder their success, both in the region and the continent is not highly merited. A coach given blank administration duties slowly became a rolling stone.

He is allowed to recruit players and negotiate contracts for them with oversea clubs. While some see it as a good gesture, to others is a direct conflict of interest. It means players would not be picked on merit, but in line of favouritism.  This explains why Tshepo Maikano, the Zebras trusted right back, was benched because he had a fallout with the coach mid-way through the preparations. He was replaced with Gape Gaogane who was being trialled in the position.

This is the reason players like Kobamelo Kebaikanye played the entire game simply because he is in good books with the coach.

Without doubt, and by his own admission, Amrouche has failed. He has sabotaged the country and he too has been sabotaged.

Striker Teenage Orebonye and midfielder Kabelo Seakanyeng could have played the Zimbabwe affair, but it turns out that some within the federation sit until the last hour to process their visas, consequently spoiling Amrouche’s plans.

These are the two players Amrouche personally ensured that they play in oversea games but he now knows that AFCON 2021 failure cannot be accepted.

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Sport

FUB spells reasons on football return

30th March 2021
Letsholo

There is a critical amount of public debate unfolding on when and how the football industry should return to play amid the ravaging coronavirus pandemic.

The discussions are spearheaded by the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB), who in a short period of time, have earned an abrasive response from the local football body, Botswana Football Association (BFA).

FUB whose primary mandate is to stand for the welfare of players in the country, are not satisfied with the state of football affairs in the country. The body has thus far sent a 16 page document to BFA, spelling out reasons why football has to return with immediate effect.

“The primary reason to return to play is economic; entertainment comes as an afterthought at this situation. Football pays players,” the document reads.

The union is steadfast on its insistency that players and members of technical staff are no longer coping without the game. It is their hope that all involved stakeholders must come together and iron out differences for the betterment of the game.

“In recent past, we engaged in several discussions with our members and the overwhelming feedback from these conversations is that players are not only concerned about their own health and safety but predominantly about their family members,” FUB argues.

The union further contends that football must return because players are slowly losing interest in the game.

According to their survey, there is an overwhelming feeling that many players would not return to the game if it takes too long to lift restrictions.

“The game is already down on its knees, some players are contemplating on quitting and by the time we return they will be no clubs to form competitive leagues, the sooner we come back to the game the better,” the union states.

The union continues to exert pressure on the association to put all modalities in place for safe return. There is a massive concern about the readiness of clubs even when circumstances are too much to overcome.

The union is worried about the readiness of the club’s medical staff to protect players and avail necessary tools in the context of COVID-19.

FUB further notes that there are problems on both sides of football. Played or halted. The union had previously conducted a survey and the results are not pleasing.

The number of professional footballers reporting anxiety and depression symptoms has risen sharply upon football career retirement, a survey by FIFPRO and Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) has found.

Notably, the percentage of professional footballers reporting symptoms of depression has doubled. Until today, FUB conducted an extensive research on their affiliated player associations and surveyed more than 1 500 professional footballers both retired and who are still active.

It was found out that 95% of players hold BGCSE qualification, 12% have gone up to tertiary level while the remaining have only Junior Certificate as their academic achievement. This fed to the long standing doubt why players fail to make it from playing football.

This study is in consistent with the other one conducted recently after corona virus forced football to shut down where players started to fret about their future.

Twenty-two percent of female players and 13 percent of men players reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of depression. Eighteen percent of the women and 16 percent of the men reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of generalized anxiety. (In most scientific research, a higher number of women than men report symptoms of depression and anxiety.)

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