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.
Amid the confusion surrounding the date of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) elections, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, met with three presidential candidates on Thursday morning to discuss a plethora of problems bedevilling the domestic game.
The candidates are Maclean Letshwiti, the current President, Tebogo Sebego, the firm challenger of the BFA throne, together with Ookeditse Malesu who enters the race for the first time in his sporting career. There were other two unnamed officials who are said to be representatives from the sport ministry.
The Sport minister is said to have adopted a hard-nosed approach to register his disappointment and worry that the uncertainty of the upcoming elections have injured the administration of the local game.
Highly placed sources at the Sport ministry say that the minister’s ‘no gloves barred’ approach comes at the behest of the BFA’s constant negative headlines regarding their leadership style as of going into the elections.
It is said that Rakgare was also worried that the current administration is keeping the other two camps in the dark regarding the planning and processes bordering on election issues. This, he said has led to unnecessary speculations and back biting that is not needed to lift the game at a time when it is on its knees.
He was to rattle a few feathers at one incident when he called all the three leaders of the game to put their houses in order. As if that was not enough, the minister called on the three lobby groups to desist from serving personal interests but put focus on developing the game.
Interestingly, sources point out that the minister was livid but urged both Letshwiti and Sebego groups to refrain from tarnishing the good image of the ministry. This, he said in response to wide ranging allegations that he is taking sides as campaigns are ongoing.
The Sebego group accuses him of de campaigning Sebego and having a soft spot for Team Letshwiti while the same Letshwiti group is saying the same thing about the minister as having taking curious interest in Sebego camp.
The minister is alleged to have told the leaders that if they do not change their leadership style of protecting those looting public funds, his ministry would intervene even if it means attracting the wrath of FIFA, which is known for its notorious sanctions when countries do not toe the line. He urges BFA to be accountable at all the times they will cut the annual subventions that goes to them, sources claim.
This is not for the first time that the BFA was lectured on good governance. At one incident in 2015, former Minster of Sport Thapelo Olopeng dressed down the then Tebogo Sebego leadership regarding good governance.
BFA was at the time closely monitored by the ministry. Instead of the usual transactions that normally go through BFA, national team players received their allowances straight from government in the form of cheques. To demonstrate that government has taken a firm stand against BFA, players’ allowances were no longer routed through the association.
Nobody from the said meeting will address this publication enquiry all indicating that the consultation is never meant for public consumption.
If everything goes according to plan, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will hold its annual general assembly next month through a virtual conference.
There has been much uncertainty as to how and when the congress will be held seeing as how COVID-19 protocols remain stringent on gatherings.
Sources speaking with this publication say the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association has agreed to hold the congress within COVID-19 zones, consequently dispelling all the lingering doubts surrounding the life and soul of the assembly.
As it stands, there are nine COVID -19 zones in Botswana. The association is therefore contemplating to rely within four zones where live streaming will take centre stage for the first time in the history of BFA elections.
The congress was first billed for August 8th but was postponed to August 22nd. However, the second date could not see the light of the day as the country recorded a second rise of coronavirus cases that promptly led to greater Gaborone going into yet another lockdown.
The association has been procrastinating over the virtual congress idea with the election agenda remaining a sticky issue. Many advices came flooding that the association is free to make any decision about the congress but should be very careful not to compromise the integrity of the vote.
Sources indicate to this paper that the association is likely to rely on four COVID-19 zones, namely Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng and Palapye. The need to plant the meeting on virtual technologies hinges on the fact that the COVID -19 health protocols do not permit people to cross zones to hold meetings.
Information gleaned from various sources is that the association is looking to rely on four zones primarily because of the limited number of personnel under the electoral board. There are five members consisting of this committee and by the look of things; the association will not be allowed to outsource more election overseers at the eleventh hour. Sources argue that the whole cautious exercise is meant to avoid complaints that may arise after elections are held.
The virtual meeting comes after many failed attempts by the association to convince the Kereng Masupu led Task Force to give out a special dispensation. On many occasions, the Task Force refused to allow for the assembly to go on saying “football is not a priority.”
The assembly is expected to be held next month but the exact date still remains a subject of speculation. In the end, Tebogo Sebego will stand again for the second time to unseat Maclean Letshwiti while Ookeditse Malesu is standing for the first time to try and wrestle for BFA power.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.
The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.
Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.
The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.
The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.
“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.
In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.
He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.
When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.